Four days after Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim were officially named the new creative directors of Oscar de la Renta — where they spent a combined 18 years cutting their teeth before its founder passed away — they announced a venue change for the spring 2017 show for their own brand, Monse. The switch was necessitated by a surge in RSVPs following that announcement, and Friday night's packed show felt like the culmination of excitement around the brand that has been building since day one. And day one was, amazingly, only a year ago.
Since its debut last September, the brand has landed major stockists like Net-a-Porter, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue, dressed everyone from Sarah Jessica Parker and Amal Clooney to Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez, and even "inspired" other designers with its signature twisted button-down shirting — most recently Kendall & Kylie — another milestone, some might argue. "I think we're injecting a little bit of that ease into people's minds and that's just a way of reacting to the times; everybody just wanted to look a little bit more relaxed," offers Garcia, diplomatically. "I actually love it when you go into Zara and they knock you off," says Kim. "I feel like I achieved something."
Speaking to Garcia and Kim Friday morning at the Tribeca studio they moved into just two months ago (they launched Monse out of Garcia's apartment and then worked out of an office that was even smaller), I got the sense that the decision to return to Oscar was an easy one, but that the decision to continue with Monse simultaneously required at least a little more thought. "When we began discussing the idea, splitting our time seemed like something we can do because it's in New York," explained Garcia. "The company and how they work is something that we're familiar with...[it's] a very different type of customer to address, so it wouldn't be complicated to split [time] between the two. I think all those factors led us to decide to do both."
Plus, one can't deny that some of the buzz around Monse has been thanks to the designers' ties to Oscar de la Renta — perhaps the decision would have gone the other way had Monse not experienced the meteoric growth that it has, and established such a strong point of view along the way. "It's a little bit more unhinged at Monse," explained Garcia, of the difference between the two brands. "I don't think we're going to be too classic or too uptown at Oscar; I think we're going to mix a little ease into it, but here, it's a little bit more, I would say, rebellious." And the fact that even more eyes are on the brand right now than usual was not lost on them — they also plan to take the collection to the Paris market for the first time this season. "This is the time for us to really tell the world what our DNA is," said Kim.
The sense of rebellion was very clear for spring 2017. Without relying too heavily on the punk/goth aesthetic that has been prevalent lately, the designers sent models down the concrete runway with septum piercings, single statement earrings, large satin chokers with big buckles, punky boots and sexy heels with big leather wrap-around ankle straps to a soundtrack that included, wonderfully, the "Stranger Things" theme song. They were the perfect accessories for Monse's signature reconstructed, shoulder-baring shirting in cotton, striped silk and even sequins. Speaking of, the designers showed some of their strongest eveningwear yet, which somehow looked as wearable as it did elegant and will almost certainly make its way onto the red carpet soon.
Garcia, who is more involved in the celebrity dressing side of the business, says the brand's red carpet success is the result of early support from top stylists like Kate Young and Cristina Ehrlich. "We've tried to stick to those who were there for us in the very beginning and keep the collection for them as much as we can, 'cause it wasn't easy to build the brand so quickly and we owe them a lot."
It's obvious why people want to support Kim and Garcia: in addition to being talented, they are kind, hard-working, genuine people who value loyalty. They've earned the right to be excited.
"It's our home," said Kim of ODLR. "Alex [Bolen], the CEO, [his wife] Eliza, and Oscar [de la Renta's widow] Annette, they're really like family to us. I don't even feel like I'm going back to work, it's like I'm going back to have fun. I think we are really defining who we are as Monse, and this collection we had a little bit more fun — I think it's my favorite so far. I might change my mind tomorrow after the reviews."
"She'll probably blame me for why it didn't work out for some reason," quipped Garcia.
"Anything goes wrong in my life, I'm like, 'Fernando!'"
"It's okay," Garcia explained. "It's a yin and a yang."
Spoiler: It worked out.
Browse Monse's spring 2017 collection in the gallery below.