The new wave

Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim are the founders behind the cool-meets-luxe brand, Monse. They are also the co-creative directors of Oscar de la Renta. We get to know the dynamic duo who are using their winning formula to change the face of the brand as we know it.

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As I sashayed in to meet the co-creative directors of Oscar de la Renta and founders of Monse, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, I was humbled by their serene energy. It’s unlikely that you will meet two people more grateful to be where they are. Starting out as interns for Oscar de la Renta himself, this is every fashion posse’ dream come true. Meeting the duo was every bit what I had anticipated; Laura was shy, wholesome and enthusiastic, whereas Fernando was serious, business-minded yet warm. It was the perfect combination to make magic. And that they are.

 

Oscar de la Renta has made a clear shift in design and aesthetic. From something that was predominately for the older and more distinguished woman, Laura and Fernando are making Oscar de la Renta the go-to brand for mothers and daughters alike, introducing day dresses, denim and even T-shirts. Despite breathing a more casual air into the brand, they are still staying true to Oscar’s roots, with fairy-tale inspired eveningwear – a glove fit for our market, which they both innately understand. “Middle Eastern women really understand how to dress up, they are a symbol to Oscar de la Renta as a brand. We have a wonderful fan base in Dubai.”

Fernando was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, which is actually where Oscar de la Renta is from (few knew the man himself) and as he puts it: “Oscar is a God in the Dominican Republic.” As a graduate in architecture, Fernando was lucky enough to have a family tie to Oscar de la Renta – something he used when he was ready to show off sketches he had been producing for years. “I have been a fashion person since I was a baby.” Oscar immediately offered him an internship, and the rest was pretty much history.

Laura has a different backstory. She gushed that she had actually been interning for Donna Karen in New York. Oscar and Karen were based in the same building. “One day I peeked in and looked around the door because I was intrigued. A few weeks later I was interning for Oscar de la Renta.” She recalled she initially had a lack of knowledge about the brand and only knew about it from seeing an image in Vogue with Kate Moss and P. Diddy wearing the designer – “when I saw the image I thought ‘wow this is so amazing and Oscar is so good looking’. I started to romanticise about the brand and have loved it ever since.” After both Fernando and Laura became interns to the fashion legend, they met and in their words, “have been inseparable ever since”.

As I took a sip of my tea, the pair gave off the notion of fondness and familiarity between them. This synergy has been reflected in their work. Laura started to tell me about her hopes to always have her own business, exclaiming: “I never wanted to be a creative director of someone else’s company, I only wanted my own designs and my own company.” Fernando calmly interjected: “I never wanted my own company. It felt easier to be the head of another brand that already exists. There would be less pressure if the company did not belong to us.” The duo did step away from Oscar de la Renta to create their brand Monse, which has had international recognition for its expert re-workings of tailoring, being the go-to brand for cool girls all over the globe. Re-joining the house in 2016 seemed to be just the right timing for them, as they had been fiercely working towards building Monse when Pete Copping stepped down and the duo were approached to take on the job. Fernando stated: “To tell you the truth, learning what we did from Oscar prepared us for many things. The only way we learnt the lessons we needed was through creating our own company. Those two years were fundamental for us to take the reins of the house and become its leaders.” The question really is: how are they doing it all? Fernando smiled as I questioned their stamina. From founding a brand to designing for another, the two are on a production conveyor belt. “The beauty of having two CEOs that trust each other implicitly is you can split the workload,” he explained.

They are both young and vibrant, so I was curious to find out more about their lives outside of the crazed fashion bubble. “I love cooking, feeding people and we work out together,” noted Laura. Fernando also finds solace in exercise and inspiration from movies – “I see actresses I love and immediately want to see them wearing Oscar de la Renta”– but admitted that they don’t really ever switch off.

I was struck by the fact that they had spent so much time with Oscar himself. But what did we know of him? Laura tells me in detail: “He was wicked, he was a gentleman, he was very naughty and good at poking fun at people, especially if he knew you.”

We wrap up on a note of new beginnings and industry talk. Their next move with the brand? “Oscar already had this vision to evolve the brand. We just made it happen in his honour and will continue to do so.” And when it comes to the industry at large, Fernando and Laura don’t mask the surprising ease of breaking into it. “It isn’t that ambitious, there are so many interns and assistants I knew that could have gotten further than they did, but you have to work for it.” Fernando also puts it straight: “I think in any industry you have to be determined and ambitious to make it.” Neither of them took anything for granted as they became increasingly indispensable to the Oscar de la Renta team over the years.

Their advice? “Work for a big brand so you can make mistakes on their dime. That is the only way you can learn.”

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Media: Getty and supplied