Monday, June 30, 2008

Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera

The Herreras have long been a fixture in social New York both as a couple and individually, even before they met and married more than two decades ago. If there were a very select list of the top socialites in New York, they would undoubtedly be on it. Their family backgrounds are authentically international society. Both of Spanish descent and native to Venezuela, they are familiar faces with many friends on both sides of the Atlantic as well as down South America way.

Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera
Living as they do in a rarefied world often inbred by its nature, they are very very well liked, almost uncommonly so. One often eventually hears something untoward (or downright gossipy) about those who travel in the highest circles. In the case of the Herreras, I have never heard an unkind word uttered.

Reinaldo, as he is known and referred to by his legions of friends all over the world, is a member of a noble Spanish family, and with an accompanying title of Marques de Torre Casa. His father was a prominent sugar planter in Venezuela and his mother, a writer (and translator of the Spanish version of the Rubiyat of Omar Khayam, was very involved in philanthropy both in America and in Venezuela, and was active for four decades with the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Reinaldo has an ebullient and instantly friendly personality. He has a natural elan and is always elegantly turned out in the style we have come to expect from European and South American aristocrats and members of the International Best Dressed List. There is nothing ostentatious or pretentious about this; it’s perfectly natural, a reflection of a culture and an upbringing.

Carolina, as she is known and referred to by her legions of friends from all over the world, has what appears to be a more measured personality on meeting. I read somewhere that she regards herself as a “very private person.” You could almost say “shy” although it is probably not true. Nevertheless she is gracious and attentive on meeting, yet intense. When you see her with her daughters, you see a proud mother. She too is always elegantly turned out. Of course, that’s her business, but her background, like her husband’s, is a lifetime of attention to self-presentation and place in the world.

These are people who have often dined and socialized (and indeed, grew up with) the royalty and aristocracy of their world. Their social backgrounds may have provided the avenues of interests and connections, but that said, they are also two of the most accessible personalities in New York, for they are friendly, curious and gracious.
Reinaldo works for Vanity Fair as a special projects editor. This “position” reflects the cache and connections that is part of his portfolio. He is also a reader. I was in a bookstore one afternoon several years ago when Reinaldo was buying a newly published three volume set of the Memoirs of Duc de Saint Simon. Suffice to say that Proust read Saint-Simon voraciously before he became a writer.

Carolina’s business would appear to be at the center of her life. In the fashion world, her antecedents, indeed her mother and grandmother’s couturiers were Balenciaga and Dior. However, as a working design in the world of Seventh Avenue, she is, like her most successful peers, out there in the world much of the time meeting her clients, promoting her books, her fragrances and her collections. She is indefatigable in her approach and maybe if you’ve seen her in one of her store appearances somewhere in America, she always looks fresh and impeccable. I’ve never seen her once, anywhere, when she didn’t. It’s a breath of fresh air. And chic too; that’s Carolina Herrera.