Carolina Herrera’s Joyful Journey

by Dena Silver

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This year’s recipient of the FIT Couture Council’s Artistry of Fashion Award has the work-life balance down pat. Carolina Herrera’s secret? Lots of laughs, boundless passion, and a witty partner to share it with.

You’re always smiling when we see you. Discuss!
I think fashion should be happy and fun and not so serious. I love people with a sense of humor! I adore. There are many situations in life that make you laugh—the unexpected ones—and somehow you find yourself on the floor. I don’t see that enough.

Does food make you happy?
No! It’s not that important, except for chocolate. That makes me very happy. My family makes me happy. My husband makes me happy, because we laugh a lot. We have a good relationship because of our sense of humor. I like people who have a sense of humor about themselves. Sometimes people have a sense of humor about others, but not themselves.

How would you describe your husband Reinaldo’s sense of humor?
He’s very witty! He’s one of those people who has the right answer always. I admire that a lot.

Are there places that make you happy?
My house makes me happy! I love to go to Patmos, Greece, which we did this summer. We stayed with a very close friend, John Stefanidis, the interior designer. It’s divine. That island gives me peace.

What do you do there?
We go on the boat, swim, walk, talk, and read.

What was on your reading list?
The Alexander Trilogy by Mary Renault and The Heir Apparent by Jane Ridley. I was rereading them. I’m a great admirer of Alexander the Great, and Reinaldo gave me the trilogy. Do you realize he died when he wasn’t even 30? He owned the world at one point. [Laughs] No pressure whatsoever.

Who do you consider the happiest people in fashion?
Glenda Bailey and her Bazaar team! They are always so optimistic and so full of life and fun. They always seem to be having a ball.

You and Glenda still write handwritten notes!
Absolutely! The human touch is so important. I know everybody is e-mailing, but I don’t know how to do that. Writing is a human touch that shouldn’t disappear.

What are we missing by avoiding handwriting?
Romance! It’s those human touches. The books are now being read on a machine. I can’t. I need to have my pages go back and forth. You can still have the machines, but hands…

Do you use the Internet at all?
I don’t. I have an iPad where I watch Netflix. That’s fantastic. I believe in social media for a company. It’s very important. People want to know what’s going on. My Instagram is for my company. The most important thing in fashion is what’s new. I don’t believe in Instagram or Facebook for private use. Your life is your life, and there has to be privacy. There has to be a little bit of mystery. You can’t be an open book all day long. Everybody knowing what you do? No! I was not brought up that way.

Thoughts on selfies?
I hate them. Everybody looks terrible, because the camera is too close. You have to be a certain age to do a selfie. No selfies, and no arms around me. I love to be asked to have my photograph taken with someone, because that means I’m doing something right. It’s very flattering and I’m delighted! Sometimes people come and put their arm around me without knowing me. Photograph, yes. Arm around me, no!

Where are you asked for photographs?
Everywhere. Even on the plane, and I have to say, “Why don’t we wait until we arrive?” But I never refuse. I don’t understand why some stars get so angry when they are photographed—that’s their job. They belong to the public.

Any backstage moments that have made you laugh?
One time I asked a model if she could please smile and not look so angry. I said, “Smile! You won’t look so angry!” She looked at me like I was asking her something unbelievably difficult. She said, “If I smile, I can’t walk!” So I said, “Forget it. Don’t smile! Walk!”

Assuming you never used her again!
We did, because she was actually great!

Do you wish models could smile in shows?
They should be a little happier. Sometimes people ask me, “Why were the models so angry?” and I say, “They’re not angry! They’re doing their job, and that’s the way it is.” But if you have a model who is happy, the dress looks better, non?

Who would you rate as your favorite models of all time?
Dianne DeWitt and Mounia are two. They were around when I started. You have to look at them. Mounia was Yves Saint Laurent’s favorite too. Absolutely fabulous.

You’re also making costumes for the New York City Ballet this month.
I’m doing the costumes for Peter MartinsMorgen. Come and see it.

Do you go to the theater a lot?
Yes! This summer I’ve been going with my grandchildren. I saw Aladdin, Matilda, and The Lion King for the seventh time.

Do you still cry when Simba’s dad dies?
[Laughs] I don’t cry anymore! I know all the lines by now. Still, it’s fabulous. Full of fantasy—the costumes, the music, and the faces of the children in the theater.

Favorite comedian?
Seth Meyers, and my all-time favorite is Lucille Ball. She was fantastic. My children used to call me Lucy. They’d say, “Everything you do is like Lucy!” I loved it!

What’s on the boob tube in the Herrera household?
I love Veep and Homeland. I was taken by it. I also love The Good Wife. Sometimes I see Julianna Margulies and I say, “When is the show coming back!?”

What’s your motto in life?
Always leave room for fantasy.

Congratulations on your Artistry of Fashion Award!
I’m so flattered. I’ve been a great admirer of them. Joyce Brown and Valerie Steele are incredible. It’s a great honor.

You’ll have to make a speech…
I’m right to the point and very short. People shouldn’t speak so long. I’m a fashion designer, not a speaker. I get right to the point and say thank you.

How do you still stay interested after doing collection after collection?
The more you do, the more you want to do. After you have a little bit of success like this, you want more. I have a passion for fashion. One of the things I love is putting the collection together, and I have a fantastic team.

Do you ever think about retiring?
Why? Why? Why?

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