“The brand was built from my mother’s enthusiasm and effort. She’s convinced that elegance, beauty, and luxury can be conveyed through optimism and alegría de vivir — the joy of living,” Venezuelan-born founder Carolina Herrera says, of her feisty, buoyant and girlie eponymous label.
These concepts are what defines the brand, whose creations — from fashion to fragrance — are entrenched in emotions, familial bonds, memory, and love. That exuberance for life, to live it to one’s fullest, is sewed in every seam and stitch; even as creative director Wes Gordon took over the reins.
In a time of social emergency and global crisis, fashion admittedly isn’t at the top of well, anyone’s minds. Yet, both Herrera and Gordon firmly believe that fashion — and as a fashion brand who’s in position to give — should stand together with the community in solidarity, to promote optimism and hope. It goes beyond the latest trends or the hottest drops, but rather, what can a brand do with their fashion expertise to make a positive impact. After all, “beauty and creativity gives [people] the ability to see the world from a more luminous and positive perspective,” Herrera adds.
With the idea of giving back in mind, the Carolina Herrera Heart For Hope is born. It’s a charitable call-to-action that donates 10 per cent of sales on all bags, leather goods and accessories to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Covid-19 relief initiatives around the world. “We see it as a collaboration with our clientele,” Herrera says. “It’s an invitation for them to contribute in the relief of complications caused by the pandemic.” Granted, it’s a simple gesture, but see it this way — fashion now has a new meaning in these troubled times.
In an exclusive interview with ELLE Singapore, Herrera and Gordon discuss the Heart For Hope campaign, alongside craftsmanship, empathy, and the future of fashion.
You mentioned the values of beauty and joy. What do they represent in these troubled times?
Carolina Herrera (CH): We are undoubtedly going through a difficult time. This pandemic has taken its toll on those most in need. There are thousands of people who are giving their best every day to relieve the situation and make it easier on the rest of us. Healthcare workers, caregivers, security forces, the workforce, entrepreneurs––we are all facing this pandemic. And we, as a brand, want to shed warmth and togetherness in these times. Joy and hope are part of our DNA, they are present in the little things and details. The act of getting dressed, for example, is an act of hope in itself––an expression that brings colour and beauty to our daily lives. We want to share this belief with a larger audience while helping those who need it the most.
What did this crisis teach you about the role of a fashion brand in today’s society?
Wes Gordon (WG): Fashion is about community, optimism and hope. While this may be a challenging time for the industry as a whole, it is our job to reach out, listen and think of ways that we can support our communities in every possible way to make positive impact.
How would you describe Carolina Herrera’s charitable and social commitment? Why is this initiative special?
CH: The brand has collaborated over the past decade with different initiatives like the fight against Breast Cancer, children’s welfare and access to education for development. This new project responds to a very urgent matter, a situation impossible to have imagined only months ago. In regard to this pandemic, we decided to analyse the situation and respond quickly and coherently but not too soon. That is why we have created a project that goes beyond a one-shot initiative: the first phase of this action will go on until 31 Dec 2020.
It is a very ambitious plan, but we have been lucky to find the perfect partner to work with as there are few non-profits with the knowledge and experience of the Red Cross––an organization that focuses COVID-19 relief efforts in the contention of the pandemic and the attention to those most vulnerable. We are proud to collaborate with their global teams on this initiative, and Carolina Herrera Heart for Hope is born with the desire to endure. In the future we would love to collaborate with other organisations that share our same values.
You’ve decided to build this initiative around handbags. What do they mean to the brand?
WG: Handbags are a very important pillar of our brand at Carolina Herrera, handmade in Spain by the best artisans with the utmost attention, care and skill. Our leather goods are a representation of who we are – quality, integrity and the ability to stand the test of time. It is these values that are reflected in the founding of the Heart for Hope project.
What role does craftsmanship play in this project?
CH: Our Leather Atelier in Spain is one of the most magical landmarks for the brand. It is there that every design goes through the filter of tradition, artisanal work and a demand for quality alien to trends or time. We create pieces with names of their own: Andy, Matrioshka, Bimba and the most recent additions to the family: Insignia, Metropolitan, Initials and Doma. All of these hold immense importance and value to us and we want to put them at the service of those in need. It makes me truly happy to know that in the upcoming months, when someone decides to purchase a Carolina Herrera handbag, they acquire not only a beautiful and lasting object, but also one that represents the courage, empathy and generosity that we can give as a community. A handbag as a symbol of hope.
What role did solidarity and empathy play in your upbringing, and how are you applying it to aid a global pandemic?
CH: When someone enjoys certain privileges they have the obligation to give something back to society. This is something that has always been present in our home; my parents brought us up with this principle. We always try to lend a helping hand with initiatives where we can make change in a significant and coherent manner. Solidarity, empathy and love are values that I would want to define us as a brand.
For example, our CH PINK initiative has been helping the fight against breast cancer for the past eleven years. The 212 Urban Run has taken place in Argentina for the past seven years with proceeds going to the Fundación Garrahan, dedicated to giving homes to children who have to be in Buenos Aires for medical treatment. Last year we launched our collaboration with As Valquirias in Brazil, a project that helps women and children in the less developed favelas. Now, we won’t give up in the relief of the COVID-19 crisis.