On Monday night at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art, Carolina Herrera took her final bow as creative director of her eponymous brand. The NYC-based designer held her Autumn/Winter 2018 show at the Midtown museum, which was the final collection under her direction, as going forward she will be assuming the role of global ambassador for the company. “Just don’t say I am retiring,” she told the New York Times.
After a 37-year career at the forefront of fashion, and at 79 one of the last of the so-called establishment designers to step down, Carolina Herrera has appointed Wes Gordon as her successor. The American Central Saint Martins’ graduate, who launched his own brand in 2009 and was a two-time finalist for the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund, has served as Ms Herrera’s creative consultant for nearly a year. He will be taking over her responsibilities for both the runway line and bridal wear, the cornerstones of a business that according to company reports generates $1.4 billion in annual sales.
Venezuelan-born Carolina Herrera founded her brand back in 1981. Following a move to New York, and with encouragement from friend and the then Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland, she began creating her own designs. And today, the company, which includes fragrances and a range of accessories among its stable, as well as its signature ready-to-wear and bridal collection, is carried by over 280 stores across 105 countries.
Led by tradition rather than trends, Carolina Herrera’s elegant, refined clothes have graced the corridors of the White House as well as innumerable red carpets, worn by the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Michelle Obama and Renée Zellweger. And her own inherent sophistication has secured her place on several best-dressed lists during her decades-long career. “For me, fashion is about originality, sophistication and beauty,” she told the Washington Post. “I’m not in the fashion business; I’m in the beauty business”.
Looks in homage to Ms Herrera’s signature style - a crisp white shirt paired with a smart black skirt or pants – opened and closed her final show, which while nodding to the brand’s past also offered loyal customers something new. And the finale not only showcased the power of simplicity, but was a fitting tribute to the outgoing designer’s home country, with floor-sweeping taffeta skirts in contrasting Venezuelan colors.
Carolina Herrera was the first American designer to be awarded The Women’s Leadership Award at the Lincoln Center’s Corporate Fund Gala last year, and was also the first Venezuelan fashion designer to achieve global success. Indeed, Carmen credits Carolina with giving confidence to fellow Latino creatives. “She was the first one. She’s our inspiration and our trailblazer," Carmen has said.