Ahead of Geneva's Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels Part I and Part II sales, Sotheby's Andres White Correal visits his friend Carolina Herrera, Creative Director of Carolina Herrera Perfumes, to discuss her favourite pieces in the upcoming sales and her life over the past few months.
O ur meeting was meant to take place in London. A big full-on professional shoot with a star photographer and hair and make-up artists. Carolina Herrera and I were going to discuss her personal favourites from the forthcoming Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sales in Geneva, 16–24 June. The assignment was clear: an atmospheric union of the beautiful clothes of Herrera’s mother’s eponymous brand with Sotheby's extraordinary jewels. But, alas, it was not meant to be.
Lockdown was enforced around the world, which in this case proved to be a blessing. We met in Madrid instead, in the privacy of Carolina's new home, a haven of colour and light, where ease and comfort reign supreme. Her vast book and eclectic art collections served as a backdrop, with the lull of the trees and the heady jasmine scent of her lush sun-drenched garden completing the intimate setting for our conversation.
Carolina, where and how have you been spending this lockdown period?
I was extremely lucky. I have spent the lockdown with my three children in a new house here in Madrid. The first weeks really flew by as we were just settling in and unpacking. We also had the blessing of the garden where we could walk. It seems now to have been destiny. The house took us in; the timing was perfect. I’m very thankful.
In terms of creative influences, have you been returning to old favourites or discovering new inspirations?
I think a little bit of both. When you move, you thin out and you purge things and I believe it was also the right time for that. I found old things that I realized I still loved but, I also discovered a lot of new ones. I had time to read newspapers and magazines from A to Z. I looked at Instagram. I researched fascinating topics ranging from art to history, or places I had, or would like to visit. I followed Sotheby’s online auctions with a different eye; it’s been fascinating to see how active Sotheby’s has been. I subscribe to Business of Fashion which is brilliant for fashion news, analysis and business intelligence on the global fashion industry. It was very interesting to see the reactions of the markets to COVID-19.
I agree, Business of Fashion makes a compelling read. Particularly because one can extrapolate their in-depth fashion world reporting to other fields, such as jewelry, and understand global trends.
Fashion and jewelry both form part of a period’s aesthetics and, I think, ultimately, they go hand in hand. I see jewels as accessories, and accessories are the most important thing in fashion. They finish the look. Just as much, to paraphrase my mother, as perfume, which is the most important invisible accessory for a woman.
"Jewelry, like perfume, has a huge sentimental value. They take you back to a moment. Perfume and jewels are magical in this way. They are the ultimate accessories for a woman."
Indeed. I also think they share that exceptional and personal connection with the wearer. What I find fascinating with perfume, unlike jewelry, is its invisible quality.
Yes, jewelry is tangible. Both perfume and jewelry have strong vocabularies and can be used as powerful tools for a woman to present herself and, ultimately, to choose who she wants to be.
You normally travel a lot. Have you found comfort, motivation and inspiration at home?
Definitely. When you travel, aside from the physical movement from one place to the next, what inspires you is what you see and the imprint it leaves on your brain. In the same manner you can travel whilst staying at home, through memories, books, photographs, conversations, watching movies… I have watched a lot of old movies with my children. They have given me comfort, as have my two beloved dogs. There has been a lot of inspirational time travelling without actually having to move. We yearn for the places we have visited, but it wasn’t nostalgic.
As the Creative Director of one of the world’s leading fragrance houses, Carolina Herrera, you are used to constantly moving around the world; has the period of lockdown changed the way you work and communicate with your colleagues?
We have all become self-sufficient. With the help of a tripod, I film myself. Whereas before we would have produced a professional video, now it’s all homemade. We had to make up for lots of events that were cancelled. I realized that we needn’t travel so much. Obstacles and changes are good. I’m not being banal nor am I trying to say this was an ideal situation, but once you accept it, you find ways to accomplish things in innovative ways.
Carolina's Picks from Across the Sales
We experienced the same at Sotheby’s. I also believe we all were pushed to be more creative. One has to rise to the challenge and find ways to stay productive. Sotheby’s has been hosting online auctions which have proved to be resounding successes, attracting many new and younger clients. We have remained in very close contact with our clients and, probably, in a more personal way. Don’t you think, oddly, that we’re more connected having realized that many of us find joy in appreciating the same little things. What small daily pleasures do you have in your life?
Oh my goodness, I have so many. From having lunch with my children, who would normally be away in school, to watching television series. And I particularly loved the time I could dedicate to reading some of the books I keep outing in the ‘when I’m older and have more time’ pile. From organizing, eating well to dressing up – all those little things you take for granted under normal circumstances. For instance, I would wear for no reason that spectacular Van Cleef & Arpels emerald ring. Emeralds are by far my favourite stone.
Did you wear jewelry when you dressed up during lockdown?
I have. I love wearing jewelry in a very relaxed way, for myself. Take for example, those perfect square diamond earrings – so easy to wear, they go from morning to night. I don’t find you need to wear jewelry for others but for your own pleasure. It feels wonderful. I would wear, for example, my pyjamas with that amazing star tiara. Then I would remove the star brooches and wear them as a shower of diamond stars on a jersey or white T-shirt for lunch. So versatile. I also love the Belperron chalcedony and pearl brooch and torsade bracelet as well as the Cartier coral torsade bracelet and the Chimaera bangle. I love bold statements. Bracelets like these are so easy and fun to wear.
"I like the idea of discovering something incredible in an unexpected place. I love surrounding myself with things that I love, that mean something to me."
Most people like to display their most important works of art in the living room, on top of the fireplace. I like the idea of discovering something incredible in an unexpected place. I love surrounding myself with things that I love, that mean something to me. It can be anything: art, jewelry, dresses, furniture, books, perfumes… even those camellia trees in the garden. They may seem superficial, but they are not. They have an emotional link that create a memory and have a deeper meaning that goes beyond their initial apparent value. They are part of who you are.
Carolina Herrera Curates Magnificent and Noble Jewels
How do you create perfumes?
The starting point is usually a moment: a memory in my life, whether it is an ode to my mother Carolina, my childhood, or a colour that I love. Even if it is not the starting point, there is always a moment in creating this wonderful woman, or man, that is very real. From there we create a script. For Good Girl, our current best seller, the inspiration was my mother. It is a bit like those icy blond Hitchcock beauties. The beginning was that. Then she transformed into this powerful, feminine, sexy, dual go-getter of a woman, that can also be a little naughty. It’s a very personal image that will be then translated to a scent to which many women can relate. One should embrace one’s shadow, for the shadow is your true you, even if not obvious to the world.
I can see that perfectly. It’s very much the transition one sees in the wonderful Warhol polaroid of your mother. The epitome of beauty and femininity combined with determination and independence. I love that duality. I can associate very much with your description of creating a perfume because, with jewelry, it is very much the same. Women can, through their jewels, become whomever they want to be. The range of possibilities is infinite, and the transformation is immediate and empowering.
For me there are the jewels that I love for me, my taste, and would wear. Then there are the jewels that I like but are not really me. It’s those which I would particularly wear in an unconventional and irreverent manner. For example, that amazing yellow diamond. It’s not me at all but I love it. I would wear it not to a formal party but for an ordinary occasion.
Do you think it’s important to add glamour to your everyday routine?
Of course I think so, and I think that glamour is in the eyes of the beholder. There isn’t a universal glamour that we can all picture in the same way. Granted, old Hollywood stars exuded glamour which can’t be compared to what we see today. I think it’s a feeling. It is to feel important and valued. It’s an empowering touch. I’d love to wear, like they did back then, that wonderful Cartier Art Deco diamond bracelet stacked with others, as well as the Cartier dress clips.
"Glamour has got nothing to do with ticking off the boxes of what is stereotypically considered glamorous. It is the difference between empowerment and validation."
You have selected your favourite pieces from our June Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels sale, Part I and Part II in Geneva. How would you wear and style these once socializing is permitted again?
I would always dress them down. I like subtlety, and I like mystery. I love discovering things. Brooches, like the René Boivin, worn in less obvious places. I’d wear it as a belt buckle, perhaps. Big antique necklaces with a white t-shirt. Maybe even the big rings turned around like the 5.29 carat Fancy Grey-Blue diamond ring or the blue and white diamond duet ring. That to me is fun: breaking rules. Do the unexpected. Not to wait for an occasion to wear them but to indulge in the pleasure of wearing them simply 'because', such as the oversized Mauboussin bracelet, or the natural pearl drop earrings. It’s not superficial if it gives you joy. We should invest thoughtfully in fashion and jewelry.
Who is your style inspiration?
My style inspiration is a woman who looks natural. It’s an attitude. You just know when someone has style. They feel comfortable and not worn by their clothes or jewels. It’s when everything fits well. They are secure and they are not trying to be someone else. You notice them and they make you want to wear their clothes or jewels.
Do you have any signature jewelry pieces? Do you mix and match?
I do. Things that my parents have given me and a pair of earrings I bought with the first money I earned. I definitely mix and match. The power of a jewel to me is its beauty, its appeal, and the memory it evokes, and the way I feel when I wear it.
This has been so much fun Carolina. Thank you for having me to your beautiful new home, and for your very personal thoughts and new ideas of ways of wearing jewelry. I am sure they will inspire many.