In 1965, Herrera began her career working as a publicist for Emilio Pucci, a Florentine Marquis himself and a close family friend. She began working at Pucci's Caracas boutique, and moved to New York in 1980. Frequently associating with Mick and Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol, at Studio 54, she became well known for her dramatic style. She first appeared on the International Best Dressed List in 1972, then was elected to its Hall of Fame in 1980. In 1981, her friend Diana Vreeland, then Editor-in-Chief of Vogue suggested that Carolina design a clothing line.
Carolina Herrera did so, having samples made in Caracas, and debuted her collection at Manhattan's Metropolitan Club to critical acclaim. A well known Park Avenue boutique, Martha's, agreed to showcase her clothing in their prominent windows. Upon this initial success, she returned to Caracas and raised capital to fund a more formal launch. Her first runway show in 1980 included future supermodel Iman. Carolina Herrera presents her Ready-to-Wear Collection semiannually at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. The company has been based in New York City since 1980, and in 1981 the brand received recognition from several key publications, including Women's Wear Daily and Tatler, with particular early attention to her well designed sleeves. A few of her most notable clients have included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who asked her to design the dress for her daughter Caroline's wedding, Diana, Duchess of Cadaval, who asked her to design the dress for her marriage with Prince Charles-Philippe of Orléans, Duke of Anjou, and actress Renée Zellweger.