5 Minutes With… Fernando Garcia Of Monse And Oscar De La Renta

Fashion

May 24, 2018 | BY Cheryl Chan

Together with his partner Laura Kim, Fernando Garcia is part of the dynamic duo behind the critically acclaimed contemporary label Monse and the legendary Oscar de la Renta. We speak to the designer on what’s it’s like to return to the house that gave him his start in fashion as well as the struggles of juggling two uniquely different brands when he was in town for a special designer showcase with Net-A-Porter.

Walk us through your creative processes for both Oscar de la Renta and Monse. Do you have a different set of inspirations when it comes to creating for either label?
Fernando Garcia (FG) We don’t have different sets of inspirations, we just design things that are relevant for the customer, but each house has a very different DNA. At Monse we start with deconstructing something menswear inspired and making it beautiful and sexy for a woman but with Oscar [de la Renta] there’s so much brand heritage that we love to sort of re-interpret something he would have done a few years ago for today.

Was there a reason why you decided to focus on deconstruction for Monse?
FG It was accidental. We left Oscar and we were so nervous at creating a line that looked like a copy of Oscar that we went so far away from it.

We started by taking my shirts and creating something that wasn’t in the market at the time, like a shirt dress that was sexy and not boring. We just kept deconstructing things because it worked and then it became a very menswear deconstructed inspired brand.

Do you feel yourself adding a bit of Monse into Oscar?
FG Well, what I like about what we’re doing at Oscar is that we’re successfully introducing new product categories to the brand that didn’t exist like denim, suiting and evening separates because today not everybody is going to wear a cocktail dress at night. They might want to wear a beautiful blouse with a really cool pair of pants instead. It’s about making the brand a little bit more accessible.

So, moving forward, is that your vision for what Oscar should be?
FG People have asked me that question, and unfortunately when your only school is Oscar, all you know is what he would have done. We don’t think “Oh, that’s something Oscar would have always done”, we do it. What we try to inject into the brand is a sense of reality. Everyone wants to wear things that are comfy, light, and not overwhelming so that’s what we’re trying to do with the house.

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What about Monse?
FG For Monse our next goal is on ecommerce because our clothes sell so well online. It resonates with the client, so we want that to be our next step for the brand.

Does managing two different labels help to channel your creativity in different manners?
FG Absolutely. I think it’s great to have two labels because it forces us to pick our favourite ideas and work on those and put away the ones that are eventually a waste of money. It makes each idea stronger and I have found that I needed a distraction when I was concentrating on an idea too much. When I started Monse, Laura [Kim] and I found ourselves working too much on one piece and it just killed it. Your client really responds well when the piece that they were looking at jumps out of a page and looks like you sketched it yesterday. It has to stay that pure and when you have no time to work on something, sometimes it helps the idea stay pure.

How do you try to set the two labels apart, especially given the fact that the both of you had met and worked at Oscar de la Renta before.
FG I think what we’re doing at Oscar is just polishing it. There’s already a strong DNA that he built and we’re just adapting it for today’s clients. It’s a whole different world at Monse because we tried so hard to look the other way that we ended up creating a different vernacular that’s not based on the pillars of Oscar.

Oscar is about femininity, sophistication and polish whereas Monse is about a woman who’s a bit unhinged and wants to look a little bit sexier than the Oscar client. So it’s two different worlds, which makes it easy to design for.

I don’t believe in having two houses and executing visions that are similar just because you have the power to do that. I personally find it very disappointing when I find designers doing things that are too similar to a trend because why would you buy one from the other when you can have two different worlds? I find it lazy when they do that.

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What are the pros and cons in terms of working as a duo? Are there any disagreements when it comes to creative control?
FG Absolutely, all the time. We see women differently, so that’s what makes our product unique. She’s a woman so she wants to be wearing the clothes that feel comfortable every day. I have a more feminine and optimistic approach. I want to run to a rack and want to buy that dress for my mom so bad, so there has to be an element of fantasy at the end of the day. You’re paying so much money for these clothes, so you have to believe that it is something you’ve never seen and moves you. If everything is too wearable it will never move you.

How do you split the roles and responsibilities?
FG Design wise, we do work together on everything so that there is a good balance of masculine and feminine, but before I came in, Laura was already excellent at managing the development calendar, the collection budgets…she’s very good with numbers. I’m terrible with numbers so I focus my strengths on the marketing and PR and creating images for the houses. I shape who I think the client should be. I think that’s how we divide and conquer.

You tend to have a sexier and more feminine approach when you design whereas Laura prizes comfort and ease, does this opposite attracts approach fuel your work?
FG Yeah, everything you see in Monse and Oscar has a good balance between masculine and feminine. The clothes are always comfy and have a touch of fantasy in them.

Do you feel that your direction for Oscar de la Renta is very different to what Oscar himself would have done? How do you keep the line contemporary and forward while retaining its storied history and legacy?
FG Because Laura and I are children of the Instagram age, we look at things that we want our friends to be wearing, so that’s a way for us to push Oscar as a brand forward—we’re speaking to customers that are our age. All we know is the lessons he taught us, so everything feels Oscar when we make them, but we make them for the girl that is working today.

How would you define luxury?
FG I think luxury is the ability to have a choice. If you have a choice to do something I would consider yourself someone who lives in luxury.

Where did your love of fashion come from? And what are your passions outside of that that has helped to shape your roles today? I heard you’re a big movie buff.
FG Yes! That’s it, that’s my answer. The film industry is the reason why I even looked into clothes.

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So why not go into costume design instead?
FG It wasn’t about creating costumes. It was about how these women—that other women looked up to and relate to on screen—come to life to them on the red carpet. My mother aspires to be, for example, Charlize Theron, and for some reason when she was playing a character on film, it didn’t feel close to her but when she jumped onto the red carpet and wore something that she could eventually buy in the store, that’s when she connected with her. It’s this connection with people that drew me to fashion, it created a bridge of accessibility between two very romantic worlds—the real world and the fantasy of film.

Are there any particular actresses you would want to dress?
FG I love so many of them. I adore Charlotte Rampling, anything Meryl Streep is great. I think Alicia Vikander is beautiful.

Do you look at your customers as characters in a movie?
FG I don’t look at customers at characters but the models when I do fashion shows. There’s definitely the right dress for the right girl every time we do a casting and we go “Oh that’s the right look for her” so that’s definitely a little bit where I can channel my love for filmmaking into fashion.

What’s your favourite movie?
FG I’ve been asked that question several times and for some reason I think Eyes Wide Shut. When I was young and impressionable, that movie really struck a chord with me because the scariest thing a movie could ever convince you of is the problems of the real life. I was so convinced that your life can unravel in a second after seeing that movie, especially when you’re given very close choices that you could not know how to differentiate. I was in my teen years and about to go to college and go to a different city—I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic—so that was all very scary to me, like one night you’re going out with your friends and you choose to go into this street instead of that one your life could go totally different.

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