NEW YORK — Carolina Herrera is giving brides-to-be a space to call their own.
The designer’s bridal salon is now neatly tucked away on the third floor of her Madison Avenue boutique so sometimes anxious shoppers will have privacy to mull over their options. Herrera knows decisions may take a while, so there are chocolate brown slipper chairs for support teams and big bay windows framed by leafy trees. Occasionally, some clients have the added benefit of Herrera’s unsolicited expertise, as was the case Monday morning. While trying on a gown, one unsuspecting shopper was delighted to find the designer adjusting her veil, inquiring about wedding day hairstyles and recommending the bride-to-be twist her hair into a bun, which she happily did.
“Wedding gowns should be very special and demure, even if they are hidden,” said Herrera, who has designed wedding gowns for Renée Zellweger and Caroline Kennedy.
Since resuming operational control of this Upper East Side boutique in January, Herrera has taken a much more hands-on approach. She regularly drops by the store en route to her showroom from her Carnegie Hill home to greet shoppers and her sales team. “I like the feeling in this place and all the colors. At the end of the day, I always hear what did well or what didn’t [any way.] I like checking that everyone is happy,” Herrera said. “We are able to show the whole look of Carolina Herrera in one space. And it is so wonderful to change the windows any time.”
There has been a lot of change afoot at the Madison Avenue store. Wedding gowns were moved from the second floor to the third, and eveningwear is displayed around the corner. In the room’s northeast corner, five of the designer’s gowns make a dramatic statement on forms. Brown and beige striped settees — which can also be found in the designer’s showroom, other freestanding stores and her New York apartment — rest in the center of the well-appointed room, giving the space a slightly residential feel.
“It’s cozy. It’s not one of those places where you feel like they’re going to do an operation with all those lights,” she laughed.
Yabell Pushelburg, the firm that designed the store’s interior in 2000, was called upon again for the renovations. Working closely with Herrera and her husband, Reinaldo, the designer freshened the space to make it more inviting to shoppers. One of Herrera’s favorite statements is the wide circular sculpture-like staircase that leads to the second floor. The four-floor space is much larger than it appears from the outside, with several dressing rooms, offices and displays showing the designer’s fall creations. The location is something Herrera treasures.
“This used to belong to Givenchy. I knew I needed a place where someone had been established for a long time. We did not want one of those places that had been opened and closed many times.” she said. “We were very lucky to get the whole building. It is full of light and very pretty.”
A V.I.P. dressing room is now located on the lower level, with easy access to both an alterations room and an East 75th Street entrance that allows celebrities to breeze in and out, they hope unnoticed. The main floor now has ready-to-wear as well as a few cocktail dresses so that working women can envision how their daytime outfits can turn into evening ones. There is also a sampling of eveningwear on the third floor. Ready-to-wear can be found on the second floor, along with incoming collections such as resort.
To further simplify shopping, Judith Leiber handbags, Faraone Mennella jewelry and Manolo Blahnik shoes are strategically placed throughout the store. Herrera’s fur pieces, such as a sable shawl, are displayed, as well.
Just back from Los Angeles for a “Live with Larry King” taping and hours away from a trip to Chicago, Herrera showed no signs of fatigue. “I’m never tired. I like what I do. When you’re excited about what you do, it’s a pleasure,” she said.