Carolina Herrera (born 8 January 1939) is a Venezuelan-American fashion designer known for exceptional personal style, and for dressing various First Ladies, including Jacqueline Onassis, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, and Melania Trump.
María Carolina Josefina Pacanins y Niño was born on 8 January 1939, in Caracas, Venezuela, to Guillermo Pacanins Acevedo, an air force officer and former governor of Caracas, and María Cristina Niño Passios. Her socialite grandmother introduced her to the world of fashion, taking young Carolina to shows by Cristobal Balenciaga.
In 1957, at the age of 18, Carolina married Guillermo Behrens Tello, a Venezuelan landowner. They became the parents of two daughters: Mercedes Behrens-Pacanins; Ana Luisa Behrens-Pacanins(who married developer Luis Paraud-Carpena, the son of Maj. Gen. Fernando Paraud of Madrid, in 1989).
In 1964, Carolina and her husband divorced.
In 1965, Carolina began her career working as a publicist for Emilio Pucci, an Italian fashion designer and Florentine Marquis and a close family friend. She began working at Pucci's Caracas boutique, and moved to New York in 1980.
Frequently associating with Mick and Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol, at Studio 54, Carolina became well known for her dramatic style.
In 1968, in Caracas, Carolina married Reinaldo Herrera Guevara, the host of Buenos Días, a Venezuelan morning-television news program and later special-projects editor of Vanity Fair magazine.
Reinaldo was the elder son of Don Reinaldo Herrera Uslar, 4th Marquis of Torre Casa, a prominent Venezuelan sugarcane plantation owner, aristocrat and art collector. Upon his father's death in 1962, Reinaldo had inherited the Spanish title The 5th Marquis of Torre Casa
Therefore, by marriage, Carolina held the title The Marquise consort of Torre Casa, until it was retracted in 1992, as Reinaldo had issued no son. Together, they have two daughters: Carolina Adriana Herrera-Pacanins (b. 1969), and Patricia Cristina Herrera-Pacanins.
Carolina first appeared on the International Best Dressed List in 1972, then was elected to its Hall of Fame in 1980.
In 1981, her friend Diana Vreeland, then Editor-in-Chief of Vogue suggested that Carolina design a clothing line. She did so, having samples made in Caracas, and debuted her collection at Manhattan's Metropolitan Club to critical acclaim. A well known Park Avenue boutique, Martha's, agreed to showcase her clothing in their prominent windows. Upon this initial success, she returned to Caracas and raised capital to fund a more formal launch.
Her brand received recognition from several key publications that same year, including Women's Wear Daily and Tatler, with particular early attention to her well designed sleeves. A few of her most notable clients have included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who asked her to design the dress for her daughter Caroline's wedding; Diana, Duchess of Cadaval, who asked her to design the dress for her marriage with Prince Charles-Philippe of Orléans, Duke of Anjou; and actress Renée Zellweger.
In the late 1980s, Spanish fragrance company Puig licensed the Carolina Herrera name to develop and market a line of perfumes.
In 1995, the firm acquired the Carolina Herrera fashion business, retaining her as Creative Director.
In 2008, they launched a ready-to-wear brand called CH Carolina Herrera.
Since 1999 Herrera has been on the board of the Council of Fashion Designers of America(CFDA). In 2004, Herrera was awarded "Womenswear Designer of the Year" and in 2008 the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award from the CFDA.
In 2009, Herrera became a naturalized United States citizen.
As of 2011, her daughters Carolina Jr. and Patricia Lansing participated in the creative direction and design.
As of 2012, there were 18 Carolina Herrera and CH Carolina Herrera boutiques in the world, and her lines were carried in 280 stores in 104 countries.
That same year, she received the Fashion Group International Superstar Award, the Style Awards Designer of the Year.
In 2014, she earned the 2014 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion.
In 2015, the first advertising for the brand was released, featuring models Elisabeth Erm and Joséphine Le Tutour.
In February 2016, it was reported by WWD that the fragrance side of the business had more than 25,000 points of sale across the globe while the CH brand included 129 freestanding stores.
In July 2016, Herrera announced the release of her new women's fragrance to be available for purchase in September, her biggest fragrance launch in 14 years. The scent is called 'Good Girl' and Karlie Kloss is the face of the fragrance.
In 2018, Herrera showed her last line for her eponymous brand and handed creative directorship of the brand over to Wes Gordon.