This Week's Style Icon: Carolina Herrera

Origin: Caracas, Venezuela
Style Legacy: Carolina Herrera exudes a natural-born sophistication and elegance that transcends into her designs. Judging by her pedigree, it's easy to understand why. Her father was a governor of Venezuela. Her mother and grandmother took her to see haute couture fashion shows from the age of 13. Constantly surrounded by graceful women from society's upper class, Herrera picked up on the elegance and style she saw with ease. But it wasn't until after she married Reinaldo Herrera, whose family was also part of a well-regarded Venezuelan family, and raised four daughters, that she decided to focus on a career in fashion.

Her decision to work was not common among upper-class Venezuelan women. In 1980, however, after receiving encouragement from friends like former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, Herrera took a risk to fulfill her passion. She borrowed the Park Avenue apartment of a friend to exhibit twenty dresses to buyers from upscale stores. At the time, fashion was all about layers and loose skirts, but Herrera brought a fitted, more figure-flattering design to the table. She incorporated the couture styles she saw growing up into her own designs, always accentuating the curves of a woman's body. With fresh looks that were in contrast to what was currently going on in the fashion world, Herrera immediately became a darling of store buyers and upper-class society women.

She relocated from Caracas to New York, created Carolina Herrera, Ltd. and became known for her classic, detailed feminine clothing. Her rich fabrics and elegant styles impressed the wealthy socialites of Manhattan and she became their best kept secret. In 1986, after working with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, she became the first Hispanic designer to have her clothing worn by the former first lady. It wasn't until she designed the wedding dress of Kennedy Onassis' daughter, that the public was made aware of Herrera, the designer.

Her business began to flourish. And Herrera had even more to offer the world of fashion. She introduced CH, her less expensive line, followed by Carolina Herrera Collection II. After the success of these two new lines she decided to expand her business and launch a fragrance line. Her first scent, "Carolina Herrera," debuted in 1988. As a business savvy risk-taker, she also launched a men's scent and has thriving sales in that department as well. Herrera's collections currently include a line of accessories and color cosmetics as well as a bridal collection. She has created one of the most successful businesses in the fashion industry and continuously brings women classic, feminine and timeless designs.

Making the international best-dressed list for an entire decade, before designing clothes, Herrera was first highly regarded for her personal taste and style. And her legacy continues as her designs help celebrities and other women all over the globe look their best -- the Herrera way. —Vanessa Rodriguez