Warm woods and red accents set off Herrera’s brightly toned collection

While discussing the optimum size for an evening bag, Carolina Herrera responds to my chief concern, the ability to fit not one but two mobile devices, by noting that such a prerequisite does not apply to her. “I never take my phone in the evening—ever—nor during the daytime when I go to lunch,” Herrera says. “How many dinners do you go to now where everyone is sitting at the table staring at their phones? What did we do before this? I really only carry a lipstick and handkerchief. Not everyone has to be in touch with you every hour of the day.”

Of course you expect Herrera to adopt such a civilized policy. Known as much for the crisp white blouses she sports for her runway bows as she is for crafting lush, sophisticated ball gowns favored equally by Hollywood and the society set, it’s easy to envision the ever-soignée designer as only possessing a highly polished set of manners. Her reasoning isn’t rooted solely in etiquette, however. “I think you have to maintain a little mystery and privacy in your life,” she says.

It’s a little easier to live a Herrera-inspired life in Miami these days, thanks to the opening of her CH Carolina Herrera boutique at Bal Harbour Shops, her second in the retail destination, where the posh space dedicated to her signature collection has been open since 2009. How does Herrera define the difference between her pair of labels? “CH is a continuation of Carolina Herrera New York,” she explains a few days before appearing at the store’s March 8 opening-night cocktail party, a benefit for the Jackson Memorial Foundation. “It’s a complete collection, women and children and men’s and accessories. But it’s not just clothes; it’s a lifestyle. Of course, there is a difference in the price, too. And if you walk into CH, you tend to stay there, because you keep discovering things.”

The 1,700-square-foot CH boutique differs markedly in its look from its signature-collection sister: Carolina Herrera New York is an eggshell-toned jewel box, featuring a boldly striped sofa flanked by party-ready dresses and gowns lining the walls, as well as shoes in matching fabrics, custom-designed for Herrera by friend and colleague Manolo Blahnik. At the nearby CH, you’ll find a mix of warm woods—gray oak, wenge, and walnut—accented with Herrera’s signature red, an effect that allows her brightly toned bags and cashmere sweaters for Spring/Summer 2012 to truly stand out. “The collection is perfect for the people of Miami,” Herrera says. “We have a lot of dresses—I like dresses a lot—in bright colors, which go so well in Miami, though there are wonderful pieces in whites and blacks as well. There are great white shirts and pretty skirts in different colors, and then the accessories work in very nicely. Miami is such a colorful city and so alive, so I’m thrilled this is the collection to open this new store.”

At CH, you’ll find a new bag Herrera launched for Spring/Summer 2012, a collaboration with her daughter, Carolina Herrera Baez, who has also creatively advised on the children’s line for CH. “It’s called the Matryoshka, like the dolls you get in Russia that fit inside of each other,” Herrera says. “When I did it, I did a very small one, because I like small bags; I think they’re very feminine and finish a look. And then we thought about how the smaller one goes into a slightly larger one, and then a larger one after that. We used all the colors I used in the collection, which was inspired by the Bauhaus movement, so that’s why you also see lines on the bags in different colors.”

Herrera likewise employed Bauhaus styling in her Spring/Summer 2012 signature collection, having been inspired by the modernist, linear forms during a visit to the Bauhaus Dessau Museum in Germany. “I bought almost every book in the shop,” she says with a laugh, knowing her reputation as a voracious reader. I instantly recall a favorite among the collection from its appearance on the runway, a brilliant red column gown featuring a graphic black and white embroidery descending almost waterfall- like down its front, and Herrera doesn’t hesitate. “That came from a cover of one of the books, those colors,” she says. “I loved the red and black with the bit of white and said, ‘Why don’t we translate this for an embroidery?’”

She’s quick to note that her intention for the two collections is that they work together. CH may be more affordable, but the Herrera DNA is decidedly present. “Carolina Herrera New York is the laboratory, and from there we go to the CH,” she says of her process. “We may do different ideas, but it’s the same family, and the Carolina Herrera woman can easily mix the two.”

Thirty-one years after founding her company, Herrera says she loves what she’s doing right now, because the discoveries she’s making while exploring the relationship between her two labels prove to be nothing less than thrilling. “One has to experience ideas that work well together,” she says. “Because fashion never ends; you have too many options, so many things to mix and create and see. But I love to investigate. For me, that’s the fun part.”

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