How Oscar and Monse’s Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia Created During COVID

by Eddie Roche

Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia have the rare distinction of running two successful New York–based fashion brands, Oscar de la Renta and Monse. But it took a global pandemic for them to finally step off their moving train to take a pause and learn some new tricks. The Daily recently caught up with these real-life besties on the set of shooting their Oscar de la Renta lookbook to see how they’ve navigated the past few months and what they’re going to miss about doing runway shows this season.

How did things go for you both when everything first went down in March?
Fernando Garcia: We had to figure out what to do with the size of our teams and then the size of our collections. Both of our companies contacted the people we sell the most to, and we worked around that and when it would make sense to have a new collection ready for them. It made us realize that everyone should pay attention to their own world, their own business. It’s not so much about following a calendar this particular year. It’s about paying attention to who your customer is.
Laura Kim: For Monse, China closed before us and then they opened before everyone else. Monse has a really big market in China, so we didn’t delay anything. We all worked from home and continued on our normal schedule. It was interesting to see how two different companies took it very differently. For Oscar, we stopped everything for a couple of months and then went back. It’s such a big company that they can jump right back in and catch up. It was interesting to see how a small company and a big company could handle it.

What were the differences?
Kim: Our Monse office is small and really long, so we were already socially distanced. There are less people making decisions, so it’s much faster. I do think the way that Oscar did it was really good, too. We stopped everything and figured out what to do. With Monse, I was worried that we were too optimistic. In the end, both worked out.
Garcia: It’s all very individual. Everyone should pay attention to who you’re selling to and how long you can last with the amount of people you’ve hired.


What was it like for you two, who are around each other all the time? How long did you go without seeing each other?
Kim: About two weeks.
Garcia: We took care of our health and socially distanced. But there came a point when we needed groceries, so a grocery run became our weekly meeting.
Kim: He had to carry them for me! He doesn’t know how to cook, so I would deliver him food every day. I cooked something daily, so one of the meals he’d get something.
Garcia: During the process, Laura discovered a knack for being a chef. It was something she was always fond of but she explored the art behind it during quarantine, which gave me the cooking bug. I started to cook a lot more, too.
Kim: We would FaceTime and I’d teach him how to cook. But he eats the same thing every day!

What do you eat?
Garcia: I love chicken, onions, peas, and eggs. I love anything with peas in it. I really do!

How else did you get through things?
Kim: We worked every day.
Garcia: Our design director, Chad, sent a form to my apartment and some tools to drape with. We began working remotely with our pattern maker, which was something we had never explored before and made the process a little slower. But it was something we had to adapt to. Eventually, we were able to meet once in a while socially distancing and vibe off of each other’s energy and understand what ideas are the more relevant ones for this post-pandemic world we’re now a part of. The ideas that we had in the beginning for the design process for Resort, which was originally supposed to be due at the end of May/beginning of June, kept changing
Kim: We designed Oscar, like, three times.
Garcia: We started to notice the temperature of the room was changing so fast every single day. Whatever idea we had for May or June was completely irrelevant by the time April rolled around.

Monse (Daniel Rosenthal)

What would be irrelevant?
Garcia: Now, more than ever, there needs to be a sense of practicality instilled into the collection you’re putting out. You’re catering to a customer who is entertaining at home as opposed to going out to galas, which is a part of our business.
Kim: We did some more feminine and flirty looks for Oscar.

Did you do Zoom calls with your office? How did that work out?
Garcia: We hated the Zoom calls. I think everyone does!
Kim: I don’t mind them. I don’t like social events.
Garcia: I’m someone who loves feeding off the energy of the room. That was a challenge for me. Eventually, we got permission to meet up and social distancing was applied.

Did you reach out to your designer friends to see how they were working?
Garcia: We talked to Joseph [Altuzarra] and Brandon [Maxwell].
Kim: I hang out with Prabal [Gurung] and Phillip [Lim] almost every day. Everyone handled it very differently. We needed a break! I really needed a break.
Garcia: Juggling the two brands for four or five years has been a lot. It was the right time to sit back and remember who the core customer is for each one.

Oscar de la Renta (Courtesy)

If you’re changing your mind all the time, what were your inspirations for these collections? Let’s start with Oscar.
Garcia: For Oscar, I felt that it was beautiful to go back to the most pure form of femininity—the flower. We started manipulating fabric, and Laura developed these beautiful floral prints that are very pure and bold and Oscar! Quintessential is what everyone should be striving for. I want the most Oscar-looking dress and the most Monse-looking jacket. Standing out with your own heritage is vital when everyone’s spending is a lot more focused after the pandemic. For Monse, we went back to our core classics and reinvented them, like the pinstripe shirt and the deconstructed suit. The way we used embellishment this time was a little more utilitarian.
Kim: More than anything we have to feel out what’s going on in the world—the temperature and what women need. Then, we look for elements that inspire us, especially with what’s going on now.

Tell us about your shoe collab with Both.
Garcia: Our collaboration for the fall Punk collection was a perfect fit, so we asked them to work on new versions because they were such a big hit! Evolving the Punk collab into this one made for a more practical version of the first round. We love working with them!

How do you think Oscar himself would have dealt with the world we’re living in today?
Kim: Social distancing would not work for Oscar! He loved socializing.
Garcia: I certainly understand how he would have felt. He liked to feel out people’s energy and the team’s energy and have a laugh. That’s when he would be the most creative. He would have had a hard time.

What’s it like to not have to do two shows this season?
Garcia: We were always juggling between doing two shows and two shoots for the past few years. Now it’s just two shoots.
Kim: I complain so much about doing shows because they’re so much work and it’s a lot of people! But I went to Beacon, New York, this weekend for the Carl Craig installation at Dia. It feels like a fashion show, and it made me miss it. I would never say that under normal circumstances.
Garcia: There’s definitely something irreplaceable about a fashion show. The energy in the room during a Fashion Week is irreplaceable. When you’re dealing with the deadline of a fashion show versus a photo shoot, it pushes people to focus their energy on something a little more unique, because you want to create a memorable experience. Not just for yourself, but also for a group of people that will always remember that and talk about it in the future, like it was a great birthday party or a lovely night out with friends. It’s something that’s engraved in your memory forever.
Kim: They inspire you. People work in this industry because of the excitement of the show.
Garcia: I’m looking forward to the days when the shows do come back. It’s going to be so exciting and revitalize New York City. For now, it’s okay to go about our lives in a more remote way. It will come back to normal.

Cover image by Daniel Rosenthal

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