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Herrera Finalizes New Team

NEW YORK — Femininity and subtle elegance may have been a trend on the New York runways, but it has been a consistent theme throughout Carolina Herrera’s business — one that’s grown her company into a $410 million luxury brand....

NEW YORK — Femininity and subtle elegance may have been a trend on the New York runways, but it has been a consistent theme throughout Carolina Herrera’s business — one that’s grown her company into a $410 million luxury brand.

Sitting in her office atop 501 Seventh Avenue Thursday with her new team — design director Hervé Pierre Braillard (known in the industry simply as Hervé Pierre) and Carolina’s youngest daughter, Patricia, as designer — the charismatic designer spoke about the importance of timing that led to the addition of her two latest recruits.

Just days after Herrera’s well-reviewed fall collection during New York Fashion Week, the company’s creative director, Damiano Biella, gave notice he was resigning after 4 1/2 years. Several days prior and only several buildings up Seventh Avenue, Bill Blass dismissed Lars Nilsson as creative director and Hervé Pierre as design director.

Both Patricia Herrera, 29, and Hervé Pierre, 37, said they thought about joining Herrera in previous years. He interviewed there in the mid-Nineties, though the right position never arose. Furthering his connection to the company was his business relationship with Carolina Herrera president Mario Grauso — the two having worked together at Vera Wang for three years, when Grauso was president there.

According to Carolina Herrera, Hervé Pierre’s couture background at Pierre Balmain, for example, gives him a sharp eye for detail. This is one of the most important elements of fashion, she said, since the simplest details can change an entire look. Hervé Pierre will be responsible for all design aspects at the company, which includes ready-to-wear, fur and eyewear, as well as the bridal collection that bows April 1 — his design debut for the firm.

The younger Herrera, meanwhile, thought about joining her mother’s company off and on for the past year, but kept quiet about her feelings. She wanted to make sure she was ready to leave journalism and her post as fashion editor of Vanity Fair, where she carved out a name for herself over the last seven years.

While the full-time role at the company is the next step in her career — she officially starts in April — lending her input to the business has been a consistent interest throughout her life. When asked about what she brings to the table, she described herself as having a different vibe stemming from youth. Not an editor’s eye per se, she said, but a different type of creativity at the company.

According to Grauso, Patricia Herrera will be the company’s ambassador to a slightly younger customer, as well as being responsible for heightening the brand’s profile through celebrity dressing. Her debut projects include advertising campaigns for the eyewear, rtw and bridal lines. She also will be integral in the development of new licenses, such as a shoe deal that could come to fruition this year.

The firm’s sales include the signature collection ($25 million), licensed fragrances ($350 million), licensed eyewear ($5 million) and diffusion line CH Carolina Herrera ($30 million).

Several projects already in the works are expected to grow sales this year, including the June launch of a new fragrance for women, a second Carolina Herrera shop-in-shop with Saks Fifth Avenue and a second freestanding CH Carolina Herrera boutique in the U.S.

According to Grauso, 2003 volume is expected to increase by 15 to 20 percent, an aggressive number considering the economy and pending war, he said.

In its fledgling year, the company’s first shop-in-shop, which opened on the third floor of Saks last April, will do about $1.5 million in sales. The next Saks shop-in-shop will open by the end of the year, though Grauso wouldn’t specify which Saks store. A soft-shop in Saks Beverly Hills and the global launch of the Chic fragrance for men are slated for 2004.

The new fragrance launching in June will be called Carolina and is a lighter version of the signature fragrance created in 1987. Billed as the fragrance for the next generation of Herrera women by Grauso, it is inspired by Carolina Herrera, Jr., who lives in Spain and oversees much of the fragrance end of her mother’s business. Both the original scent and a lighter version will be produced, and though they will share the same bottle shape, customers will separate the two by bottle color and packaging.

The CH Carolina Herrera diffusion line opened its first U.S. store in October at the Village at Merrick Park in Coral Gables, Fla. It is the company’s fastest-growing sector and will open its second store in the U.S. by the end of the year. It will most likely be close to New York — possibly in Westchester County or Manhasset on Long Island, for example — though Grauso said he’s still deciding on the location.

CH was launched in 2000 and is licensed to Ourense, Spain-based apparel manufacturer STL. In Spain, it is currently available in 27 doors, 17 of which are company-owned stores.