My relationship with fashion dates back to the early childhood. Dressed in floral ensembles with glittery boots of matching colours, a tiny bow decorating the bob haircut I—to the horror of my mother—had insisted on getting, I daydreamed about becoming like the empowered, stylish woman that brought me up: always immaculately dressed with pastel-coloured pantsuits, sky-high heels, and long curls framing the beautiful smile that still manages to comfort me more than anything else in the world. The early ensembles were often replaced by full-skirted dresses for special occasions; later, and more permanently, by outfits made up of cropped tops, bell-bottom jeans, and 5-inch platforms; and eventually by pussy-bow shirts, culottes, and floral Gucci slippers. As I grew, the ways I fashioned myself changed, but one thing remained constant: the sense of empowerment that I give myself with clothes.
I met Bill Cunningham on the day I like to remember as the first day of my life as an art historian. After months of hard work trying to show the art-history world that I, an economist, with little formal training in the history of art, could be part of it, this was my first day as a researcher at The Met. So, in a typical winter day in New York—sunny but freezing—I walked out of my home, Chanel boots on my feet, books in my bag, and my favourite coat with a floral pattern, trying not to let the nerves consume me and hoping to survive my first day as a staff member at the museum I so much adore.
It turned out that this was also the day that my department opened its most important exhibitions this year: The Power of Prints: The Legacy of William M. Ivins and A. Hyatt Mayor, and Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger’s Drawings from the Collection of Ricky Jay. Still new to the world of drawings and prints, and determined to absorb as much information as I could during my time at The Met, I spent quite a long while trying to see everything before heading to the reception for a glass of wine. And while I was looking at some of Buchinger’s drawings with floral designs, a wonderful man, with the widest smile on his face, approached me commenting how beautifully the pattern on my coat combined with the patterns in the drawings I had spent so long carefully studying. It was Bill.
Born in Venezuela, Carolina Herrera, as only a few Latin American women from the first half of the past century did, had the privilege of growing up in contact with Europe and with the magical world of Parisian haute couture. It was, precisely, this contact with the world’s fashion capital, with the art of creative genii such as Cristóbal Balenciaga, what took Carolina Herrera to develop her fascinating sense of aesthetics, and which has managed to bewitch both men and women for the past few decades. In every single one of her creations, her personal history is reflected in the unique mix of elements that blend the Latin American cultural imaginary with the femininity and elegance of European haute couture, creating a uniquely wonderful conversation that continues to charm us throughout the years. These aesthetics, which can only but elevate the beauty of women, are the result of the eyes that, from a very young age, grew accustomed to seeing beautiful things, and of a brilliant mind, which knows how to combine, in a perfectly harmonious way, the beauty of two worlds that seem to be nothing but complete opposites.