fernando-garcia-interview

Fernando GarciaCreative Director of Monse and Oscar de la Renta

New York, USA. March 17th, 2021

Edited by Alexei Key

Photographed by César Buitrago


 

When I started interning for Oscar de la Renta, one of the things I brought to the table was a love for color, as well as a boldness in a way that’s definitely prevalent in the culture of any Latin American country. [My design partner Laura Kim] and I definitely have that in common. We would gravitate toward things that are photogenic and graphic and bold.

Laura was at Oscar for a few years before I joined the house. Actually, when Oscar met me, he figured that we would get along and work well together, and perhaps even complement each other’s aesthetic. So he very much was the matchmaker. Oscar followed his intuition, and he was on the money.

We were both brought into an American company that was founded by an immigrant; Oscar believed in the melting pot of cultures, as well as the fusing of different backgrounds, in order to create something different than other American designers. With that in mind, it was always welcome to be like a bit of an outsider. Working for Oscar de la Renta was the first job for both Laura and myself, so we only know that kind of way of working, as an eclectic, multicultural team.

There’s a serious expectation for femininity when it comes to the product we develop for Oscar, as well as a need for luxury. We’ll develop and use the best fabrics in the world to create a very simple sheath. The difference in our work for Monse is that customers are expecting to wear something that feels like an update of a staple in their closet. So it’s about reinventing an idea that perhaps may have felt stale, like how we started to deconstruct shirts in the beginning, and now we’re tailoring or deconstructing sweaters. That’s how we approach the expectations of clients at each house.

The fabric-development process at Oscar definitely requires a rigorous calendar. But as long as we develop things with the proper amount of time, it’s fine. Because it is a larger collection, it does take a little more time [than Monse]. I feel like we have the system down at this point.

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Laura and I are always pushing each other to better our products, that’s been an exciting element of our work from day one. At Oscar we always ended up leaning on each other—to the point that we started Monse together. Because we believe in each other’s opinions, we respect each other’s strengths. That’s why we like working together.

Early on we couldn’t think of a name for our own label, and the company’s lawyer was pressuring us to come up with one. At one point we started thinking about Penelope, because Penelope Cruz was supporting us very much by wearing one of our gowns after Oscar had passed away. From there we went to Phoebe—my sister’s dog is named Phoebe, and she loved that dog so much and proposed it, but I said no, it doesn’t sound right.

Then Laura had the idea of my mother’s name, which is Monse. It’s short for Monserrat, which is a very Spanish name. My mother’s nickname is Monse, so Laura said, “What about that?” My mom was super embarrassed with the idea of our company being named after her, but it’s a short name and feminine, but also strong at the same time, so we went for it.

Once you start your own company, you find you have less time to be creative, because you also become a manager. Laura is much stronger at this than I am. But I went from being Oscar’s assistant to senior designer to creating my own company over the course of about eight years. A new set of responsibilities come into play: a lot of learning and understanding how to manage a team and getting everybody excited every single day and worrying about their lives. It forces you to grow up. That’s been the biggest change for me.

I’ve also learned to put myself in other shoes, understand other points of views, and to be patient. Also, I would say that achieving a goal with the support of your team is much more meaningful than reaching the goal alone, no matter what.

We have colleagues who have been with us through the assisting years and who are still in the company. But everybody might have different roles, and sometimes their path leads them to another company. It’s our job to make sure that they grow as much as possible while they’re with us. If it’s time for them to move on onto the next chapter, it might be a shame to lose somebody who’s valuable, but it’s something I’ve also learned is okay. At Oscar, the company is about 50-50, half new people and half who have known us for a very long time. But at Monse, a lot of the team has been with us for the entirety of the time we’ve been in business—that’s now almost six years. They have evolved and grown with us, and that’s been really fun to watch.

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Fernando Garcia with Laura Kim.

This year everybody should be paying attention to their bottom line and developing collections that make sense to people who are buying them and plan to wear them. More than ever, it’s time to learn from our customers and grow with them. It doesn’t matter if that means you’re not going to land at fashion week, or you’re not going to have it ready in the timeline you usually do. It’s about making sure that your business survives—and if you can during this hard time, make it flourish as well. Develop at your own pace, as big as your budget will allow.

With a traditional fashion week, I do like the fact that there’s a slight hit on the demand, because it makes you focus on the collection being special—each piece makes everybody sit with the drawing board and think about “What will be my next color?” or it makes us more inclined to think about an overall arc of the collection and how it flows. But these days everyone’s assessing ways to make sure your customer has what she needs. That’s also going to change the amount of deliveries. But it should, because it’s about supply and demand, when there is demand. If there happens to be a demand for developing eight collections a year, so be it.

Whenever I’m designing anything, my goal is always to make the woman feel sexy and feminine. I also feel most creative when I’m happy, when I have balance in my life. That’s also how I think about beauty—as happiness, something beautiful is conceived or created by people who are happy. That’s always the first word that pops in my mind.

Perhaps when things are less worrisome, there is more clarity in your mind. It’s definitely apparent when you’re happy while developing a collection; it shows in the clothes. That’s something I learned from Oscar, because you could always tell the pieces he was most excited to work on—it showed on the runway, and people could feel it. You have to have an emotional reaction to clothes, also to sometimes justify the price. If you don’t feel something when you touch it or wear it, it’s not worth the investment.

Music is always a big inspiration. Whenever I listen to, for instance, Mumford & Sons, it makes me think of a girl walking down the runway, or a music video I’ve created in my mind. Other than that, I enjoy seeing new talents. I also love Jenny Brosinski, the artist; the vibrant colors and the juxtapositions she uses to create a collage effect is definitely in line with what Laura and I both love. It’s also very much how we create things, so her work looks like something that was plucked out of our minds. I also love photography: What Luke Gilford is doing always makes me feel something when I look at his pictures.

Laura and I currently just live day by day, doing the best job we can each time. Thinking about my own legacy reminds me of the days when Laura and I used to get questions like that in the beginning on the business side, when they would ask: What is your five-year plan for your company? Meanwhile, I was thinking about our one-week plan, only because the world changes so much, and you definitely don’t want to over plan. You have to be malleable. You should definitely be organized and have a schedule, but I don’t think anybody should expect to know what the world is going to be like tomorrow. If I had a wish of what my legacy would be, it’s that I was known for making beautiful clothes.

fernando-garcia-interview

FERNANDO GARCIA