August 13, 2009
So to stray away from our typical NY born designer, let’s talk about Venezuelan born Carolina Herrera. Born as Maria Carolina Josefine Pacanins y Nino on January 8, 1939 in Caracas, Venezuela. Her fashion life began at the tender age of 13 when she attended the Cristobal Balenciaga fashion show with her grandmother, her first of many.
Born into the traditional world of Latin American Aristocracy, she was one of four daughters in her family. Her father was the governor of Caracas and served as the country’s foreign affairs minister. Her mother and grandmother gave Carolina her fashion DNA, they traveled regularly to Europe to get their clothing made by prestigious design houses like Balenciaga and Lanvin.
Herrera grew up very privileged with a governess ( like Maria in sound of music 🙂 ) and lavish surroundings. She lived in a disciplined household that she remembers as being very organized. As she grew up she became interested in sewing clothing for dolls, but as she grew older she shifted her interests and became a skilled equestrienne ( horseback rider) and read a lot because her mother believed a woman had to be cultivated. She would become world traveled and socialize with the world’s royalty, but to her that wasn’t enough.
After being married at the tender age of 18 to Guillermo Behrens Tello, a wealthy Venezuelan family she had two daughters. Soon after the marriage because, it ended in divorce, the first in her family. She moved back with her parents and worked in her first fashion gig as a publicist for Emillio Pucci.
In 1968 she fell in love with Reinaldo Herrera( a Vanity Fair editor) and the got married, he too was from a wealthy Venezuelan family. They traveled in the social circles of the world’s elite and lived a romantic, high priced lifestyle. With Reinaldo she had two daughters.
It wasn’t until her 30’s when she began to pop up on the fashion radar. She was on the International Best Dressed lists. Feeling the fashion fever, her, her husband, and her children moved to New York in 1980 from their lavish estate in Carcas.
Almost 40, she decided to dip her toes into a fashion related business venture and began to think about fabric design. With friends in high places she was quickly talked out of designing fabric and talked into making a line. Acquaintance and fashion icon Diana Vreeland was supportive of her decision. However her mother in law and her husband were not so much. Her husband was most notably skeptical. He said “I was supportive because I thought this would last fifteen minutes,” Reinaldo Herrera told Town & Country‘s Tapert. “If she had said it would be fifteen years, I would have asked her, ‘Are you out of your mind?'”
Regardless, Carolina wanted to move forward. In fall of 1980 Herrera brought 20 dresses that she had made in Caracas by dressmakers. For her trunk show, she borrowed a friend’s Park Avenue apartment and invited everyone she knew. In attendance were buyers ready to by her whole line but it would be hard since she didn’t have a company at the time. Luckily she knew a publishing powerhouse, Armando de Armas who backed her business, Carolina Herrera Ltd. She opened a store on Seventh Avenue and her first full collection was shown in NY’s Metropolitan Club in 1981.
Once again her leveraged connections brought her success, her socialite friends got wind of her collection and became her best customers. Jacqueline Kenned Onassis became one of her first renowned clients. Caronline’s success was also because she was one of the first people to use padded shoulders because of the affect that big shoulders have on making a women’s waist look smaller. She used her knowledge of the effects of shapes on a women’s body to further her success.
Herrera’s company got really big after she made the wedding dress for Caroline Kennedy, Jackie O’s daughter, in 1986. This expanded her line from only ready to wear, to bridal and to a lower priced line called CH. In 1988 she launched a fragrance line inspired by the jasmine bush scents from her home in Venezuela, in 1991 she debuted her Men’s fragrance, and in 1994 she released her third scent.
She was then smart enough to get licensing deals for accessories, costume jewelry, and eyewear. In 1990 her wholesale business reached $20 million.
To celebrate, in 2000 she opened her first store, located at Madison Avenue and 75th Street in Manhattan and soon after she opened stores in Europe. Her first store outside of New York was in Madrid’s Salamanca district.
After dressing Jackie O for the last twelve years of her life she was inspired by her impeccable taste and her knowledge of what looked good on her. She also had the honor of dressing Nancy Reagan, Mrs. Bush, and every ones fav MICHELLE OBAMA.
Though she has built an empire on her own, she still maintains a regular lifestyle. She claims that she never works past 5 pm and makes sure that the line is drawn between work and home. She doesn’t want work to be her entire life, but merely a part of her life.
Another important part of her life is her charity work. She is a Goodwill Ambassador and a Facilitator for the Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition. I am not going to explain that to you because it is a little intense, but all you need to know is she does want to save lives and give back to children and she loves it.
Carolina Herrera has been and remained on international best dressed lists since her 30’s and here clothing has been critically acclaimed almost from day one. Her style is timeless and packed with class and elegance that one can not find in any other line. Her clothing is a direct reflection of Carolina as a woman and I have every reason to believe that she would wear EVERYTHING she makes. That is not something one can say for every designer.
What I like about Carolina Herrera is that she continuously works through any adversity. Her husband, mother-in-law and countless critics were not fans of her work( including Cathy Horyn who she banned from her shows for negative feedback), but she kept on going because she knew she was on to something. I also love how she leveraged her connections in order to succeed. There is nothing wrong with getting your friends, who already like you as a person, to support your dreams. True friends will do that for you.
However she does keep her affiliations to a minimum. She never likes to mention her clients names because she believes that “If you have to sell a dress because an important client is wearing it, then that means that the dress was not good,” and I could not agree more.
As a studio 54 regular and a close friend of Andy Warhol, Carolina has seen it all and everything she has seen she translates into her clothing. Compared to the likes of other fashion greats like Oscar de la Renta, she simply started her path to success with passion, hard work, and dedication.
I am definitely starting to believe that those traits, that cant’ be taught, can take you much further than a degree can take you. Think about it !
The International Center in New York’s Award of Excellence
2004 Women’s Designer of the Year
2008 lifetime achiever award by the Cosmetic Executive Women UK.
“Today, people want to be free to wear what they like, in any combination they like, to be confined by no rules, and to set their own standards – yet they all end up looking exactly the same.” – C.Herrera
July 1, 2009
Joe Zee, born in Hong Kong in 1968, is most known for his work as creative director at Elle Magazine. This not-so-camera-shy fashion powerhouse has been spotted in reality shows such as Project Runway Canada, The City, and Stylista as well as an episode in the series we all love, Ugly Betty. He even showed his humorous side by appearing in Zoolander.
Not only is his editorial career impressive, but he is also one of the industry’s top stylists. However, we would never know the magnitude of his success by talking to him due to his gracious and humble attitude. Who would have known he was the creative eye behind TV and print ad campaigns for DKNY, Perry Ellis, Kenneth Cole, Sean John, Banana Republic, H&M, Estée Lauder, M.A.C. Cosmetics, Chanel, and Coty, and many others. He also did the Gap (PRODUCT) RED charity advertisements with huge stars like Madonna and Missy Elliot.
Joe Zee is also the mastermind behind Justin Timberlake’s transition from awkward boy band member to the sexy man he is today. He has worked closely with Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Mariah and other huge names in the entertainment industry. How does he do that, you ask? Well he believes that he identifies with big personality women, he loves there style and he loves their careers.
Like most of the other people that have made it as far as he has in his career, he began his interest in fashion at an early age. After moving to Toronto at age one and living there through his teenage years, Joe Zee’s love for fashion and magazines engulfed him as a child. He worked at the only Club Monaco in Toronto when he was 16 and fell in love with the cutting edge fashion scene of his older co-workers. This passion led him to move to New York in 1990 at the age of 22. He registered at FIT to get a visa but he really wanted to get a magazine job in NY. He told Page Six magazine he jammed all his classes in 2 twelve hour days and spent the rest of his time begging to work for free for any magazine editor because that is how bad he wanted to succeed.
His hard work finally paid off in 1991 when he landed his first real job at Allure Mag, assisting creative director Polly Mellen ( who I will write about at a later date). He won the heart of an influential make up artist, the late Kevyn Aucoin, who had some pull at the magazine. Kevyn told the then editor-in-chief Linda Wells to let Joe do a photo shoot. Quicker than he can remember he was on a shoot with Roseanna Barr. He spent the next four years growing at Allure until he left to do freelance styling and as the fashion director of W and contributing editor at Details and Vanity Fair (in March 2006 he collaborated with Tom Ford on the Hollywood issue). And Finally, before his current position at Elle he worked as editor-in-chief of Vitals.
At Elle he is created with helping to recreate the style and look of the magazine that has surely caught our attention ( mainly evident because it hasn’t shut down yet). Though it is unimaginable that Joe would make mistakes, there have been some poor decisions made on his part and the part of his edit oral staff members. One of those poor decisions was loosing Project Runway and dropping Nina Garcia. Their stylist reality show didn’t do as hot as they thought so they need to find other ways to revive their brand which is sinking due to the economy.
Despite mistakes, Joe continues to bed a social butterfly hanging out with friends such as Michael Kors and Zac Posen, throwing parties with Gucci for Rihanna, and hanging out at high end specialty stores socializing with adoring fans. He is quiet popular among his colleagues and celebrities alike. He also has relationships with sports stars. I bet you didn’t know that Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley works at Elle under Joe Zee. After I read that he worked on photo shoots his second day and having lunch with Diane von Furstenberg, I couldn’t help but think he was getting special treatment.
Though Joe has submerged himself in the fashion world, he doesn’t act like normal fashion-ites. He eats normal food like french fries and burritos. Given his career choice, this seems like a sort of odd choice of diet, but I love it; diets are out, portion control is in. He enjoys cheap deli coffee with a half a package of splenda, quesadillas, and his secret weapon; WATER. He claims he could drink 3-5 liters a day and he wasn’t kidding. A detailed account of everything he ate in a 5 day period proved his claims, water with every meal, activity, and outing does the trick. He also adds a healthy spin to his highly caloric diet by doing hip hop classes at Equinox.
Back to his fashion influence 🙂
Joe Zee’s early interest in fashion and pop culture has given him an innate sense of style. He is able to transform the image of celebrities and give a face lit to a struggling magazine at the same time. His success is partially due to the leg work he put in when he first started out, calling editors and actively seeking to work for free to learn. His strong work ethic and ” I don’t take no for an answer” motto has gotten him to where he is today, in addition to no sleep, dedication, passion and loving what he does. He wants people to know that the job is not all glamour, as seen on television, its much more behind the scenes dirty work. For some, that is a turn off, but others are hungry for the opportunity.
BONUS: Here is a special treat, some trend forecasts from the man himself, Mr. Joe Zee! Just remember everything isn’t for everyone, try what works for you.
1) Influence of menswear: Tailored blazers, strong shoulders, feminine while androgynous.
2) Boho Chic: Pile it on, patterns, textures, colors, knits, fringe.
3) Berry Colored Trend: Berry tones in all textures.
4) Holiday Dressing: Embellished dresses, feathers, sequins, colored tights.