Carolina and Renaldo Herrera in a gentle spoof of a family portrait, sit beneath the tall columns of trees that line the hacienda's entrance way.
Now considered the grande dame of American fashion, Carolina Herrera only began designing in 1980 at age 41 yet her deep love of fashion started much earlier. Born into Venezuelan high society, Carolina's grandmother took her as a child to Balenciaga's shows in Paris and dressed her in Dior and Lanvin. After her first marriage failed in the early 60s, she began working as a publicist for close friend Emilio Pucci—introducing his designs to the crème de la crème of South America; she also helped open his Caracas boutique. Following her marriage to Renaldo Herrera in 1968, the 29-year-old was now ensconced in the most important family in the country. As these images from a 1974 issue of Harper's Bazaar show they lived a charmed existence in his family 16th-century compound. Appearing to have sprung out of a Winterhalter portrait, as well as a Fitzgerald novel, Carolina quickly became known in the fashion world for her beauty and exemplary style. In 1972 she was included on the International Best-Dressed List for the first time. Her closets were filled with the best designs from all over the world, and she entertained many of the movers-and-shakers of fashion at their palatial home. WWD called her "Our Lady of the Sleeves" due to her penchant for dramatic sleeves; I also rather love that one of her favorite designers was the unconventional choice of Zandra Rhodes.
In 1980 the couple moved to New York and she launched her collection, following a suggestion from her good friend Diana Vreeland. Her S/S 1981 collection was just 24 looks (notable for their elaborate sleeves). At the time she explained her reasons for entering the design world to the New York Times: "Why? Because I want to make money. I'm not doing this for fun. If you are successful in New York, doors open for you everywhere. What I'm doing, I know, is very difficult. I know lots of people, but if my clothes are no good, if I really have no talent, then all the friends in the world can't help me." As we all know, she did have talent—last year she celebrated 35 years as a fashion designer.
Photos by Maria von Matthiessen for Harper's Bazaar, July 1974.
Carolina and Renaldo Herrera live with their four young daughters in a private, secluded world in the heart of Caracas, Venezuela—the legendary Hacienda La Vega. From the time it was built in the 16th century, the hacienda has been the residence of the Herrera family, opening its gates to the world-famous and the royal. Carolina Herrera carries on the tradition of hospitality, entertaining an almost constant stream of their friends from all over the world. A strikingly beautiful woman, with honey-blond hair and deep brown eyes, her life revolves around her children and her husband's active role in business. She also has a real and healthy interest in fashion, and for several years has been included on the list of the world's best-dressed women. She chooses clothes with a sure eye to what will work for her. Carolina's shopping is done in the Caracas boutiques that carry European imports, and on the Herreras' frequent trips to Europe and New York.
Renaldo Herrera has a fine collection of vintage cars. Here, Carolina with three of their young daughters, off for an afternoon drive in a classic Mercedes.
Carolina—in one of her favorite dresses by the English designer Zandra Rhodes—and her daughter Carolina pose in the garden that borders one side of Hacienda La Vega, an area filled with gentle noises - rustling palms and swishing poplars, tropical birds, butterflies fluttering about among the bright flowers.