If you had told me I’d be strolling the halls of the Johnny Cash museum or trying on cowboy hats with Mrs. Carolina Herrera this time last year, I would have thought you had a romanticized and slightly strange perception of what my job entails. But it’s true—and I’m still pinching myself. The elegant and gracious designer, who celebrates her brand’s 35th anniversary this week (alongside her charismatic team), welcomed me to the Music City to attend the Nashville Symphony Show, at which she was the featured designer. But before we get to that, read on for a quick peek into what was perhaps the most special and delightfully unexpected 24 hours I’ve had in a very long time.
“Cheers to our new friend!” A warm and inviting toast I received at a small round dinner table at Prima the evening before the runway show. It was occupied with Mrs. Herrera and her inner circle (her daughter Patricia, her CMO, the director of sales, and the ilk). The 77-year-old designer wore a sophisticated, white boatneck top with emerald tassel earrings, and I was instantly struck by her liveliness and good-natured demeanor. It’s not every day you share a meal with one of the first American fashion designers, so I soaked it in, as well as the intelligent (but also lighthearted!) conversation going on around me. We chatted about everything from Japanese cuisine to Enrique Iglesias’s top hits from the 2000s. Mrs. Herrera headed back to the hotel after finishing up, but not before insisting the remaining few finish the wine—a playful trait I’ve been told she’s known for.
The next day arrived, and we all met up at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum. The staff there arranged to have us view some standout pieces they pulled from the archives. Nudie Cohn boots and suits, a fringe cowgirl outfit worn by Patsy Cline, and several other artifacts that Mrs. Herrera meticulously observed with genuine intrigue and delight (does this mean her next collection will be Nashville inspired?). We also visited other galleries in the museum that showcased ogle-inducing items like Elvis’s gold Cadillac, a pink Dolly Parton dress, and, of course, the marijuana-leaf suit Nudie Cohn designed for Gram Parsons. We also skipped over to the Johnny Cash museum to take in a little more of the history.
For me it was an endearing and interesting experience to watch a woman, whom I consider to be one of the most intelligent and elegant in the world, walk around these galleries without being noticed or approached by fellow museumgoers. Don’t they know who she is? Don’t they know legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland encouraged her to show her first collection in 1981? Don’t they remember she was friends with the likes of Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol? These were all questions that I (thankfully and respectfully) kept to myself, but my inner fashion dweeb couldn’t help but ponder.
After the sightseeing, we headed over to indulge in a quick chocolate stop at Goo Goo (yes, treats were sampled and purchased) and stopped next door to peruse cowboy hats and boots that we were informed only tourists wear. Go figure!
After a day of getting acquainted with Nashville, everyone adjourned to prepare for the F/W 16 collection that Mrs. Herrera was presenting for the second time (the first being during fashion week at The Frick in New York City). Once I arrived at the symphony hall, it was quickly made clear that some of her biggest admirers were present. Everyone was wearing Carolina Herrera gowns, and once she physically made her way into the building, women young and old lined up to greet and take a photograph with the legend.
Holly Williams (Hank Williams’s granddaughter) emceed the event, which supports musical education program Accelerando as well as the actual Nashville Symphony. In addition to the runway show (yes, it was just as beautiful the first time around), a 16-year-old harpist performed, as did country music singer and songwriter Sara Evans. After the show, we made our way to the reception, where Mrs. Herrera and I got to quickly chat about the intersection between music and fashion. She explained a previous collection when she traveled to London to commission English composer Tom Hodge to create Beethoven-inspired music, which completely shaped the collection. “Anything that goes through your senses. Fashion is to please the eye, but if you are listening to fantastic music, you see it with different eyes,” she reasoned. And though she joked that her only musical talents entailed playing piano “badly,” Nashville’s decision to elect this humble and awe-inspiring woman as their featured designer was its best one yet.