Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia’s story is the stuff of modern-day fashion fairytales. Both worked under Mr. de la Renta with Kim serving as studio director for 12 years and Garcia as senior designer for six. Following Oscar’s death in 2014, the pair left to launch Monse – their own label centred on relaxed glamour and deconstructed tailoring that has quickly earned itself a cult celebrity following. Following Peter Copping’s departure last year, the pair were appointed co-creative directors of the New York-based house and have swiftly set about bringing a fresh perspective while continuing to preserve de la Renta’s original design DNA – feminine, fancy and functional. The two also remain at the helm of Monse dividing their time between both brands.
Taking up the creative directorship at Oscar de la Renta has been a homecoming of sorts, how did it feel to rejoin the brand?
F: It feels like coming back home to the place where we learned everything and we now have the opportunity to give back to the brand that did so much for us when we started in this city.
L: To be honest, I feel like I never left.
As joint creative directors how do you bring your respective ideas together cohesively?
L: We keep an open mind about our own points of view - it works because we respect each other’s work.
F: We have different perspectives about what a woman should wear, but each and every time we combine the ideas the result is always an improvement from our original individual ideas. It’s become an addictive collaborative process that can start from a clipping, a piece of art, an Instagram post or even a movie - we bring it to the table and dissect why we love it.
How are you introducing your own aesthetics to the house while preserving its DNA?
L: Because we worked here before Oscar’s passing away, I was afraid the designs might not look different enough. I loved what we did with Oscar, but in three years a lot has changed in fashion, so for us it’s about marrying what’s relevant to today’s woman with Oscar’s DNA and our own spin.
F: Having learned it all from Oscar, we intrinsically have him in our DNA. Designing for the brand has to be very instinctual - he would always follow his gut. If the idea doesn’t blow our socks off right from the start, we don't work on it and move on.
What was your inspiration for autumn/winter17?
L: Keeping Oscar’s love for simplicity alive in the most modern way we could think of.
F: The collection was about achieving the sharp and impactful simplicity of colour. Oscar would always say he loved making simple dresses in beautiful colours, and this was very much our starting point.
Tell us about some of your key pieces?
L: I love all the suits and jumpsuits.
F: Evening separates are a category that I believe the brand can tap into much more, it’s about pairing a fancy top with pants, something very much for the woman of today. The carmine sash top worn with pants was the first nod to this idea.
What does an average working day look like?
L: I’m constantly in touch with both the Oscar de la Renta and Monse teams over text message and I’m always at either office.
F: I start my morning in the gym, around 06:30am, then head to one of the two offices, depending on who needs us more. It’s nice to let some ideas rest overnight by not working two days in a row in the same office as it prevents us from a very common problem designers have: overworking an idea. The work day is usually over by 6:30-7:00pm, then I’m most likely at some work event or will walk back home (a must for me) to the West Village – it’s the best way to decompress.
What do you like most about working together and what do you think each of your strengths are?
L: I’m never alone which I love and we have fun together, even if we’re doing something that would be considered boring. Fernando always gives me a point of view that’s very different to mine so I like hearing what he has to say. He is very good at dreaming up an image or a sound, it’s like he’s always making a little movie in his head.
F: I think the constant conversation pushes us to improve on any ideas we may have. When I joined Oscar in 2009, Laura had already established the house’s daywear DNA, it was the eveningwear that needed some help. So from there I worked on evening ideas influenced by her day and she’d work on day ideas influenced by my evening – this dialogue became the only way cohesion was kept in each collection.
Who is today’s Oscar de la Renta woman?
F: Our woman is no longer that lady who lunches, so it’s our job to update this idea to our existing clientele in a modern, sophisticated way. Today’s woman is busy and the clothes need to be comfortable.
What three words would you use to encapsulate Oscar de la Renta’s signature style?
L: Bold, feminine and elegant.
F: Bold, feminine and timeless.
What has been the most valuable lesson on your journey as designers so far?
L: It’s important to have good people around you. We are not doing this alone; it takes an army to put a collection together.
F: Oscar always taught us to have fun every day, but I’ve also learned the value in having a happy team - as a boss Oscar knew what he was talking about. The level of efficiency and creativity is heightened when everyone is happy.