Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia are pulling double duty at the helm of Oscar de la Renta and Monse. The real-life besties took time out of their jam-packed schedule to dish on what they learned from Oscar and how they divide and conquer.
Obvious first question: How, exactly, do you work together?
Laura Kim: We work a lot over text messages! We bounce back and forth. We also include our team, so everyone knows what’s going on. We also make fun of each other…and fight!
Kim: If he shows me something he likes, I’ll say, “Are you serious, Fernando?”
Fernando Garcia: That’s it! That’s the extent of it! [Laughs]
Are you always on the same page in terms of design?
Kim: No, never.
Garcia: We have different aesthetics, but we bring our points of view into each piece we create. That balance is what pushes the product to the best level possible. Oscar was always very much about having an open conversation about ideas, even when we were kids to him. We have the same mentality and trust in our team—we always hear what they want to do with each piece. That’s how we like to work!
Do you remember your first encounter?
Kim: I started working at the brand in 2003, and Fernando came in 2009. He had been my intern; I came to work late, as usual, and I saw a man purse on my desk. I said, “Who put this here?”
Garcia: I didn’t know what to wear on my first day at a fashion brand.
What did you wear?
Garcia: A Prada man purse!
Kim: It wasn’t Prada! [Laughs] He had a Blackberry. Who has a Blackberry?
When did you become friends?
Kim: Right away! Oscar was so good with people. He knew exactly who to hire, and who would work well together. He sometimes didn’t even want to look at your book—he could see right through you.
Garcia: Oscar had good instincts about everything, and something told him that Laura and I were going to connect in every way. He liked having a small team, and he knew we had to like each other on a personal and professional level.
What would he think of you two helming his company?
Kim: He never wanted to retire, so I wonder! As a creative person, it’s hard to think of your company being run by someone else.
Garcia: I would imagine he would feel comfortable with it. In many ways, he raised us.
What’s the greatest lesson you learned from him?
Kim: He had fun every minute of his life. I try to keep that in my mind!
Garcia: If you’re not going to bed thinking I’m the luckiest person alive, you’re not in the right business.
Kim: There’s something about Dominican people—they’re always happy! Fernando, Oscar, one of my assistants…I appreciate that, because I’m kind of gloomy.
Garcia: I wouldn’t call Laura gloomy. I’d call her more of a realist. It’s a good mix to have a realist and a dreamer mixed together.
Kim: I bring him down to earth! [Laughs]
Garcia: I bring her up! [Laughs]
Laura, are you still always tardy to the office?
Kim: I arrive between 10 and 10:30 a.m. I’m bombarded with messages every morning.
Garcia: She’s physically showing up at that time, but we start working at 6 a.m. It doesn’t feel like a normal day if my phone isn’t buzzing with 17 texts from Estelle, our head of embroideries.
How do you divide your time between Oscar and Monse?
Garcia: It changes, and thanks to the trust of our Monse CEO, Renee Prince Fillip, and our Oscar de la Renta CEO, Alex Bolen, we get the job done. One week, we might spend seven days at Oscar, and then the next week, we’re at Monse. Trust is key—if we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t be here.
How do the Monse and Oscar girls differ?
Garcia: The Monse girl is slightly unhinged. The Oscar girl is a little more polished. They are two different clienteles, but it’s fun to see them mixed up. Sometimes we see women wear a Monse top, and sometimes an Oscar skirt. It’s an interesting dynamic, and there is a thread since we design both lines. They blend in an ironic way.
Monse has gained a huge celebrity following.
Kim: We’re both friends with Nicki Minaj, but I’ll never forget when she said the brand’s name in her song, “Plain Jane” remix. I had the day off, was chilling on my couch, heard it and was like, “Whaaat!?”
Garcia: We first met in her hotel room, and created an immediate bond. She talked about how Oscar invited her to her first fashion show, and she went with Anna Wintour. She’s become a good supporter and friend. As for other celebrities? I loved how Zoë Kravitz took the Oscar DNA to a new place that the house hadn’t seen before. We’re all about finding people who connect with the brand and take it somewhere unexpected.
You took Sarah Jessica Parker to the Met Gala.
Garcia: Thanks to our time with Oscar, we got to work with her a little bit. The second we started talking about Monse, she and her stylist, Erin Walsh, were two of the first people to knock on our door and say, “What can we do?”
When you are working on Oscar, do you still have him in the back of your mind?
Kim: There’s a clientele that we know well, and she comes back to Oscar, so thinking about him is just natural to us, because we did it for so long.
Garcia: He was our school; his lessons are inside us.
What can we expect from the Fall collections?
Garcia: For Oscar, we’re exploring the idea of separates, more than ever. We started interesting takes on daywear, embroidery, and tailoring.
Kim: We’re looking at the Elizabethan era—a lot of our prints came from that period.
Why did you decide to forfeit a runway show for Monse in favor of a short film?
Garcia: Monse is a new company, and with the newness in product must come newness in communication. We pay as much attention to how we develop pre-collections as we do runway shows, and it has paid off tremendously for us. The market is telling us something: The pre-collection concept shoots get the job done.
Kim: It’s not that we don’t enjoy runway shows, but we wanted to explore a different way of showing our work.
What’s the story with the short?
Garcia: It’s directed by Fabien Constant with music by Sebastien Perrin, and it stars our favorite Monse girl, Erin Wasson, who will be wearing the whole collection. The film takes place at Coney Island—the collection is very much inspired by that unhinged ’50s housewife look. A surprise guest narrates the story while Erin runs around the park.
How did Erin enter your orbit?
Garcia: She’s been one of our muses since the very beginning. She embodies the free-spirited woman that we would love to dress every day.
Despite your imminent Fashion Week show, you seem very calm!
Garcia: We’re waiting for samples to be finished. There’s no more time to add anything or spend any more money. We’re forced to sit tight!
We were at your first Monse show; a lot has happened in a short period of time.
Garcia: I loved that day! We’re just running with it. We keep our heads down, we keep working hard, and the business keeps growing and growing. We just have fun while we’re doing it! That show was so intimate and heartfelt compared to the size of the collections now.
What can you tell us about the other that we’d be surprised to know?
Garcia: Laura is an incredible cook!
Kim: Every day is so dramatic with him! Once when we were at Oscar and working weekends, he told me he’s wasn’t coming in on Saturday, because he signed up to be an extra in a Jennifer Aniston movie. Are you kidding me?
Garcia: That could have kicked off my acting career! But I had to cancel.
Did you want to be an actor?
Garcia: No, but I’m obsessed with the film industry. I wanted to see what it was like to be on a set.
Do people think you’re married?
Kim: A lot of people do, because we’re always together. We’re not!