My Secret Life: Carolina Herrera, fashion designer, 71

My parents were... very special. My mother was a very romantic figure and my father was extremely good-looking, fun and a bit distant.

The house I grew up in... I always remember my childhood house with happy memories. There was a beautiful garden, and outside my bedroom window was a jasmine vine which would open in the evenings, giving off a divine scent.

When I was a child I wanted to be... a dog or a horse, depending on the day.

If I could change one thing about myself... it would be my impatience.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... cleaning. Whatever I spot, I clean: carpets, cushions. All of it; I love cleaning. You wouldn't know it but I'm no good at... cooking. My chef does that.

At night I dream of... At night I sleep, and I dream during the day. I have lots of fantasies in my mind. I think people need room for that.

What I see when I look in the mirror... is someone I know very well. I rather like her.

My favourite item of clothing... is always a very glamorous evening gown. The colour depends on the occasion. I rarely wear red but I had one in red that I kept coming back to because I had lots of fun every time I wore it.

I wish I'd never worn... mourning attire at the funerals of people I've loved.

It's not fashionable but I like... eating milk chocolate.

I drive... I always go for Mercedes Benz. And I ride horses and have done since I was a young girl. When I was 20 I had the most fantastic Argentinian horse who was a very good jumper. I loved her.

My house is... in New York. It's a very cosy, very personal house.

My favourite building... Either the magnificent St Paul's, or the grandiose Castle Howard – the perfect house for England, no?

My favourite work of art... The first painting that I realised I liked was 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' by Hieronymus Bosch, when I was six years old, at the Prado in Madrid. I still find myself returning there every time I'm in the city.

A book that changed me... There isn't a book that has changed me, but I have favourites such as 'Pride and Prejudice' which I often re-read.

Movie heaven... I like old ones like 'Death in Venice' and new ones. Some films, like that 'Avatar', need to be seen on a big screen.

The last album I bought/downloaded... The other day I ordered all Beethoven's symphonies and an album by Beyoncé from the internet.

My secret crush... I won't tell you – because then it wouldn't be a secret.

My greatest regret... is not being an opera singer like Maria Callas.

My real-life villain... Something I hate is cruelty to children or to animals.

The person who really makes me laugh... is my husband. You will never forget a person who has a great sense of humour.

The last time I cried... last week, watching 'Sophie's Choice' on the television: it's a terrible story about a woman leaving her children behind.

My five-year plan... business-wise, it's to open shops everywhere in the world. Personally, I don't know where I want to be. You have to live life as it comes; anything could happen between now and then.

What's the point? The point of life is living it.

My life in six words... It has been a wonderful life.

A life in brief

Carolina Herrera was born in 1939 in Venezuela. Best known in the UK for her line of perfumes, she founded her company in 1980 and moved to New York in 1981 where she dressed Jackie Onassis for the last 12 years of her life. She has four children by two partners and lives in New York with her second husband, Reinaldo Herrera Guevara, Marqués de Torre Casa. Carolina Herrera's CH lifestyle store is at 120 Mount Street, London W1 (020-3441 0965)

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