Style | The Aesthete

Carolina Herrera talks personal style: Part Two

More stylish revelations from the globe-spanning design guru.

March 18 2011
Maria Shollenbarger

My style icon is really a type of woman, rather than a single person. “Icon” is a very easy word to throw around and it is, a lot, these days. If someone’s photographed once and she’s in a magazine and she happens to look great that day – maybe because someone else got her dressed, no? – then she’s an icon. But how is she all the other days, every day? For me, it’s these women who really know their own style and make their identity in a lasting way. These women who know how to wear what they’re wearing – they look effortless and really elegant. And there are masses of them who aren’t on the pages of magazines.

An indulgence I would never forego is to spoil the people I love. I spoil my grandchildren terribly, for instance; if I know they like it, I give it to them. It could be travel, it could be a treat – it’s giving the unexpected thing to people that I love, the not telling them in advance, doing it as a surprise.

The last thing I bought and loved was a chocolate croissant. Seriously! There was the most delicious one in Paris – of course now I can’t remember the name of the patisserie; not a famous one, in any case – and I just enjoyed it so much. What can I say? I have to answer the question honestly.

The thing I’m eyeing next is a painting – a Picasso I saw at one of Larry Gagosian’s galleries here in New York. I know we’re not going to buy it; but it was a Picasso I’d never seen, green and black and graphic – absolutely, unbelievably beautiful. I was eyeing it all night. I’d love to have something like that.

The last meal that truly impressed me? I’m not really very impressed by food. What impresses me is a chef who creates simple perfection with the food. I’m talking about the cook in my house now, who does make utter magic, so it’s been “truly impressive” for 22 years. She’ll make me arepas, which are simple Venezuelan breads made with corn and filled with different things – meat or chicken, and onions and spices.

My favourite room is my bedroom. I start and finish the day there – and it’s adorable. It is cosy, the place where all my books are, and a telephone and a writing desk. It’s entirely papered in a 19th-century, rooster-motif toile de Jouy, and full of objects that mean a great deal to me. I have breakfast there and write at my desk every day, with my dog Gaspar.

The last music I downloaded was I Am... Sasha Fierce, the most recent Beyoncé album. And there’s another one, which is by Taylor Swift, who I think is great. I do try to follow the music today. Rihanna… I like her, but I think I prefer Beyoncé and Taylor.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Madison Avenue in New York. You can find whatever you like. I think literally anything you want. I investigate other cities deeply, but walking up and down Madison is still very exciting for me. Newer shops I especially love. There’s Solange Azagury-Partridge. She makes beautiful rings. I love the one with the red lips; I gave one to each of my daughters. Louboutin has a gorgeous shop up here. And on Madison in the 90s I love The Corner Bookstore – I am in there all the time. Christian Louboutin, 941 Madison Avenue, New York 10021 (+1212-396 1884; The Corner Bookstore, 1313 Madison Avenue, New York 10128 (+1212-831 3554). Solange Azagury-Partridge, 809 Madison Avenue, New York 10065 (+1212-879 9100;

The grooming staples I’m never without are my lipstick and nail varnish. The lipstick is called Plum Stain, by Bobbi Brown [now discontinued], and I’ve been using it for years. If I have lipstick on, or even in my bag, I feel like I’m ready to go. And the nail varnish is called Allure, by Essie. It’s a very sheer shell pink and just makes you look finished. Bobbi Brown, Essie, £9.50,

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Matisse. I love the colours; I love the stripes and the details and the boldness. I always did. The touches of black and the colour mixes – striking.

An object I would never part with is a very small pearl and diamond pin that I have had since I was a child. It was a gift from my grandmother. I don’t wear it all the time; I keep it in a little box. It reminds me instantly and totally of my childhood.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be Lady Gaga. Of course I would – wouldn’t you? What fun! She does absolutely whatever she likes and, on top of that, she has a genuinely fantastic voice. Endless creativity – and she looks totally, totally different from everyone else.

If I didn’t live in New York, the city I would live in is Venice. It’s the most mysterious city in the world. Every time I go and I’m on the vaporetto, I can feel the mystery of the arrival. And I would live in Paris also – the weather, the people. People say all sorts of negative things about Paris, of course; but the fact is you’re in a beautiful city and you’re one hour away from everywhere else – two at the most. I love the Plaza Athénée – and Le Meurice is lovely too. But I like New York. I’m accustomed to it now. I may be Venezuelan, but I’ve been here for a long, long time. Hôtel Plaza Athénée, 25 Avenue Montaigne, Paris 75008 (+331-5367 6665; Le Meurice, 228 Rue de Rivoli, Paris 75001 (+331-4458 1010;