Interview: Caroline Brown, President, Carolina Herrera


Sophie Doran | January 27, 2014

Caroline Brown, President of Carolina Herrera, takes us behind the scenes of a diversified modern luxury brand, retailing fashion & fragrance in over 100 countries

Caroline Brown, President of Carolina Herrera, takes us behind the scenes of a diversified modern luxury brand, retailing fashion & fragrance in over 100 countries.

Since the launch of a first capsule in New York in 1981, the Carolina Herrera business has grown to produce numerous collections of ready-to-wear and accessories for women, men and children, as well as bridal, eyewear and fragrances.

The brand is now available in 104 countries at 15,000 points of distribution including 103 CH Carolina Herrera and 4 Carolina Herrera New York retail locations.

In short, it’s big business, helmed by President Caroline Brown in partnership with founder, Carolina Herrera herself. Prior to her appointment at Herrera, Caroline served as CEO of Swiss luxury fashion house, Akris, Inc, after spending over a decade working for Giorgio Armani Corporation in several roles, including Senior Vice President of Communications & Marketing.

“I do remember when I joined the company, it was a great moment to discover so many talented and passionate people here who live the brand everyday,” explains the New York based CEO.

“The success of Herrera today is based on so many years of people who have been dedicated to its fashion and fragrance businesses. It was a great moment to discover this asset here both within the house and within our parent company PUIG.”

As the brand works toward the launch of yet another collection, and further pursues the global expansion of CH, we spoke with Caroline about the opportunities and challenges in running a global modern luxury brand.

“ Today Carolina Herrera is distributed in over 400 points of sale for fashion & 15,000 for fragrance ”

Can you talk us through the total Carolina Herrera business?

Carolina Herrera is a global luxury business, with fashion in over 50 countries and fragrance in over 100 so the reach is quite broad. Today the distribution of Carolina Herrera collections includes retail, wholesale and online channels with over 400 points of sale for fashion and 15,000 for fragrance.

The business began 30 years ago with one woman’s vision for fashion simply to make women look and feel more beautiful. All these years later and obviously with a big structure behind, this simple goal remains very alive in the vision of all we do.

CH seems to be in expansion mode. What are some of the factors driving this growth?

CH has great momentum at this moment as a concept and the growth has been phenomenal. CH is a full lifestyle collection so it offers the client a fantastic range of products – but all Herrera in an elegant and effortless way.

We have found a global desire for the bags and accessories in particular which really shine in every market. So yes, it is growing quickly and we will see this growth continuing in the coming years.

“ Modern style is not about a singular experience today for the customer ”

Why is it important in the modern luxury industry to have differentiated lines/positions?

Modern style is not about a singular experience today for the customer. It can be a spectacular gown one evening and a chic simple trouser and knit the next morning. We know our client wants the Herrera lifestyle – not just a piece of it —and we try our best to meet this demand. Brands today are bigger than just one segment of style and we embrace this idea for our collections.

And how do you protect the value/position of the Carolina Herrera line whilst still catering to more aspirational consumer segments?

With very careful balance and great attention to consistency across all areas. Great style is not dependent on price—this is a core belief for us — and a name can translate very well across multiple categories if it remains committed to its core principles.

CH Carolina Herrera Boutique Paris

Which market are you currently experiencing the strongest growth?

We are very happy today with our overall business in the Middle East which shows growth in all areas of the business. Latin America continues to be strong and North America is also a bright spot where we are focusing more efforts for growth.

Also very exciting is the first entry for CH Carolina Herrera into Asia and we look forward to supporting the business there which is just beginning today and off to a great start.

“ We are in the process of launching a very special collection that pulls from our incredible textile archive ”

What is the next major launch you can tell us more about?

We are in the process of launching a very special collection which pulls from the incredible textile archive we have at Herrera and combines iconic prints with a very modern spirit in fabrics and silhouette. The result is great daywear in a luxurious but casual way.

We call it ‘Archive’ and we just love it. This collection takes the best of Herrera heritage and looks at it in a very new way. We are all really excited about this one which will debut in the Spring.

What is the biggest challenge the brand will face in the coming years?

Like all brands, we have to keep evolving in an increasingly competitive industry – with a nod to the past heritage of the business but always looking forward. I don’t believe any name today can rest for even a moment believing the past successes will carry the business forward. In this environment, you have to earn that position with every single collection your produce and every campaign you create.

“ Our strategy in fact is only one word and this is grow! ”

What one word best describes your strategy?

Our strategy in fact is only one word and this is GROW! We use this everyday in our business and for us it breaks down to five basic areas all working towards that goal. Why? Well, there is still room and until this is saturated there are more people we can touch with Herrera everyday.

Our goal is to continue to move towards this and to remember all of our efforts, no matter which part of the business, are to please the client and move the company forward.

If you could change any aspect of the luxury industry what would it be?

There is such strong heritage in the luxury industry today and this is a great asset for companies. However, I am afraid sometimes it also can restrict businesses and our industry can learn from some others where reinvention is a matter of course each season.

It is so easy for a house with years behind it to fall into patterns and say “no” to new processes, opportunities and ideas. We have a mantra here that challenges this everyday with a simple yet powerful reply of ‘why not’? When we see great things happen in any industry, it’s often because someone said ‘why not’ and kept moving forward.

For more in our series of conversations with Luxury Leaders, please see our most recent editions as follows:

- In Conversation With Domenico de Sole, Chairman, Tom Ford
- In Conversation With Andrew Keith, President, Lane Crawford & Joyce Group
- In Conversation With Marc A. Hayek, Swatch Group