In an interview a few weeks before the fall 2016 show for their new line Monse, designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia said they had been working "nonstop" — and it turns out the former Oscar de la Renta designers weren't exaggerating. In addition to getting their young business off the ground, Carolina Herrera had brought them on as consultants to the pre-fall 2016 collection. And while the duo didn't work on Herrera's fall 2016 line, they have recently been hired full-time: Kim as senior vice president of design and Garcia as consultant.
"I met Laura a long time ago and when she left Oscar de la Renta, I wanted her to be on my team," said Herrera on Thursday. "I know their work because they worked directly with me on the pre-fall collection, and so when they were ready to join the company, [they did]. And I am very happy to have them both." Herrera specified that she maintains ultimate creative control, however. "Laura is going to be directing the whole thing," she said. "But the creative director is myself. They are coming to join me."
The permanent addition of Kim and Garcia to Herrera's small design team of only a handful of people follows the exit of longtime Creative Director Hervé Pierre and two other designers who — according to a well-placed source who requested anonymity — were abruptly fired after an office lunch celebrating the fall runway show on Feb. 15. A representative for Carolina Herrera did not comment on the departures but confirmed Pierre is no longer with the company. The source also said Herrera was surprised and upset by the layoffs, and that they were mandated by newly appointed CEO and President François Kress, who himself hired Kim and Garcia. On Thursday, Herrera vehemently denied these claims and called them false gossip.
"I did approve because if I didn't approve, [Pierre] wouldn’t have gone," said Herrera, adding that she and Pierre remain friends, "because he has been there for 14 years with me." She praised Kress, who joined Carolina Herrera in March 2015 after holding similar positions at Stuart Weitzman, The Row and Prada USA. "I trust [Kress] very much, I think he does it in a wonderful way. He has a very elegant mind, he knows a lot about fashion and I love to have him in the company." She added that if the staffing decision had occurred without her approval, Kress "wouldn't be there."
Herrera also said not to expect major design changes now that Kim and Garcia are on board. "The company is 34 years old and it's not going to change totally," she said. [Ed. note: It is actually 35 years old, a rep later clarified.] Herrera showed her first collection in 1981 and sold her fashion business to Puig, a private Barcelona fragrance company, which also owns Nina Ricci and Jean Paul Gaultier, in 1995. "As you know, fashion changes, there is a change all the time. And this is a new phase... But it's not that I’m doing something totally different. We are in the same style of the house of Carolina Herrera."
Meanwhile, the Monse designers have not announced plans to pause their buzzy fledging business and, as of Thursday, were hosting a trunk show for fall at Bergdorf Goodman. (A representative for the brand declined to comment on the Carolina Herrera appointment.) The craftsmanship and tailoring the pair developed while working together for Oscar de la Renta should prove valuable at their new employer. Kim spent 12 years with de la Renta and presented his final, posthumously completed collection to the press in December 2014. Monse's New York Fashion Week debut in September was a highly anticipated critical success and the label even landed Net-a-Porter as a buyer in its very first season. And while the duo will not have autonomy on Herrera's team, it will be interesting to see what correlations, if any, emerge between the two brands in coming seasons.