Carolina Herrera has always been a force to be reckoned with. The 80-year-old fashion designer is known for her exceptional sense of style that is akin to the sophistication and grace of royalty, dignitaries and women of power. Her clientele includes First Ladies Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, Laura Bush and Michele Obama, cosmetic tycoons like Estee Lauder as well as British royals Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle.

Born to a wealthy family and coming from a privileged background, Herrera has always been a doyenne of impeccable taste. Her aesthetics stem from her mother who taught her everything she knew about being an elegant woman. Throughout her illustrious career, she is always seen in a crisp white shirt with cigarette pants or A-line skirt – all of which can be seen in her diffusion CH Carolina Herrera line.

Carolina Herrera at one of her shows wearing her signature look — crisp white shirt and an A-line skirt. (Credit: Getty Images)

One of her most successful creations from the CH line is the Insignia collection that birthed during the 35th Anniversary of her career. Herrera began her career late when she was already in her 40s. Her eponymous brand was trademarked in the eighties after Diana Vreeland, then Editor-in-Chief of Vogue encouraged her into creating a clothing line. The rest remains history.

Despite her Venezuelan roots, New York City has often served as the inspiration behind Herrera’s collections. It was there that her early work was exhibited in some of the city’s most iconic locations – Bryan Park, Lincoln Centre, MOMA and the Frick to name a few. However, one place that matters most to Herrera is the Metropolitan Club where she presented her first twenty-look collection in a private event back in 1981 – The Metropolitan also served as an inspiration to one of the Insignia bags in the collection.

Christie Tyler wearing the Initials Insignia handbag.

The Birth of Insignia

The Insignia project was born in 2017 in conjunction with the coral anniversary of the House of Herrera. Taking the brand’s initials as a starting point, a new signature monogram was created based on an already iconic bracelet, which in turn provided the inspiration for a collection of bags.

The letters C and H are integrated into the signature monogram while embracing the spirit of CH Carolina Herrera with its clean lines and uncomplicated designs. When put together, the reimagined emblem embodies the designer’s appreciation for effortless style and presence.

Its delicate three-dimensional design that is based on the initials is distinctively crafted in metal – plated in silver, gold or ruthenium – to give it character. The Insignia Bag benefits from its elegant structure, giving it a beautiful handle at the top of the bag.

The bag also takes inspiration from the idea of jewellery boxes. Its rigid geometric form is achieved by incorporating a wooden case into its structure, a proper characteristic of classic jewellers. This handcrafted wooden support is just the first step of seventy-six operations that are carried out by 24 men in the brand’s atelier in Spain.

“Fashion has always been a repetition of ideas, but what makes it new is the way you put it together.”
Carolina Herrera

The rich heritage of craftsmanship and excellence in quality defines the brand’s ethos, highlighting the simple luxury of everyday accessorising. In the same breadth, the bag of complex construction but pure exterior lines represents similar values that CH Carolina Herrera continue to uphold.

In Search for Relevance

Fashion enthusiasts may argue that CH Carolina Herrera may have joined in the logomania trend when it was all the rage. But like the Insignia bags and all the other accessories, the iconic ‘CH’ feature has taken a few reiterations over the years. Taking the same concept from its jewellery collection – the CH initials are rotated and made into bangles and rings – the details of each metal piece are incorporated into the new Insignia collections, which include a crossbody, clutch and the latest belt bag version.

The Insignia clutch, particularly the Metropolitan collection, takes its shape from the CH initials where the longitudinal connecting line of the letter H is elongated to support the structure of the handheld bag. The letter C, on the other hand, gives the clutch its rounded edge. The Metropolitan pays tribute Herrera’s career in burgeoning New York, an epicentre for art and fashion.

More recently, the house of Herrera released the Scala Insignia clutch inspired by the brand’s 35th-anniversary bracelet. The clutch is detailed with a distinctive rhodium plated clasp and a stone piece in the middle. The opulence of the three dimensional CH initials is accented with different stones like malachite and lapis lazuli.

The Insignia Scala clutch with a malachite stone detailing in its clasp.

It is in its craftsmanship that the Insignia bags truly stand out from the rest. Yet, despite its hours of workmanship and the many craftsmen involved in the creation process, the bag remains unassuming – toeing the same line of the Herrera woman who exudes quiet confidence and elegance.

The bag retains a simplistic flair akin to the brand’s signature shapes and silhouettes. Over the years, the Insignia bags have been seen in the arms of royalty and celebrities – all of which sports the same kind of elegance that brings out their individual personality.

The Insignia and its craftsmanship is that one way for Carolina Herrera to perpetuate her sense of elegance and to leave a legacy in today’s world of fashion. Herrera famously once said: “The first thing that makes a woman elegant is her individuality. It’s not about what you wear, but how you wear it.”

All images courtesy of CH Carolina Herrera

Martin Teo
Martin has a bent for history and food culture, especially of the Peranakan heritage. Since the pandemic, he finds joy in plant parenting and continues to expand his collection of Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and Syngoniums. He's now on a lookout for the elusive Philodendron Florida Beauty to add to his urban garden.