As the days get shorter and temperatures dip, people often reflect on aspirations for the year ahead. Carolina A. Herrera is not one of those people. Instead, the beauty creative director of Carolina Herrera (the design house founded by her mother in 1981) is constantly in pursuit of new discoveries.
“You never stop learning, whether it’s a new year, spring break, summer, or back to school,” she says when we meet in Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood. “I learn a lot from the people around me. I’m always asking, ‘What’s that? What’s that podcast?’ I’m super curious.
Herrera joins us in one of The Drake Hotel’s colourful, modern suites. Dressed in a black, midi skirt, a cream, crew-neck sweater and gold jewellery, she’s here to chat about the brand’s latest iterations of their Good Girl and Bad Boy fragrances. Both versions of the beloved scents—first launched in 2016 and 2019, respectively—are dubbed Gold Fantasy, for their special edition gilded bottles. Good Girl blends cocoa, tonka bean, almond, coffee, and jasmine, a signature of Carolina Herrera (the label and the woman herself). “It’s an iconic flower for the house,” Herrera tells us. “But I smell jasmine and I’m transported to my childhood.”
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Herrera studied science and hoped to become a doctor, but she ultimately decided to follow her creative impulses instead. More than 25 years later, she’s launched various fragrances as well as the brand’s debut makeup collection in 2020. “[My mother] never gives me advice…but I’ve learned so much from working alongside her, seeing her at home and out in the world.” One key lesson her mother instilled in her is not to derive all of her self-worth from work. “Your success is not enough to be the engine of your life,” says Herrera, herself a mother of three. “I always tell my kids that what defines you is what you have inside.”
Now based in Madrid, Herrera says that her job is as fulfilling as ever. “I think time is your best ally in everything,” she shares. “Time and knowing that you can’t be the same person you were at 20 when you’re 30 or 40. Over time, your instincts sharpen.” It’s a perspective she applies to her own beauty routine as well. While she admits to experimenting with maximalism in her twenties, she says, “The natural progression is [then] to get to know yourself…you get more secure with what you know looks good and feels good.” Today, she describes her approach as, “less is best.”
Similar to her, Herrera credits the company’s enduring success in the ever-evolving beauty space to staying true to its DNA. With that philosophy in mind, perhaps there’s no one better to lead the charge. Whether she’s testing fragrances, travelling, or planning with her team, she enjoys taking the foundation laid by her mother and ultimately creating something new. “There isn’t a clear path, but I love the road. I love working with the perfumist, the creatives. I never think anything I’ve done is the apex of perfection, so that keeps me going. There’s always something to do better and something to learn.”