As founders of fashion line MONSE and creative directors at Oscar de la Renta, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia have transcended their industry with a partnership that’s more than the sum of its parts.
The pair, who are best friends, met while working at Oscar de la Renta on the label’s design team. They immediately bonded under the mentorship of Oscar and began to form their distinctive vision and point of view. Later in their careers they returned to Oscar de la Renta as creative directors, and in 2016 they launched their own fashion label, MONSE.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Laura’s first brush with the fashion industry came early: She remembers perusing fabric markets at the tender age of four with her grandmother, who worked in textiles and would pass along glossy magazines. Soon, Laura was learning the basics of sewing, sketching, and pattern making, developing a critical eye toward the latest trends.
At eighteen, she moved to New York City to study fashion at the Pratt Institute, one of the most renowned art and design schools in the world.
2003 Laura starts intern – ing at Oscar de la Renta while com – pleting her fashion degree at Pratt Institute in New York City Prestige brands like Donna Karan, TSE Cashmere, and Oscar de la Renta all ushered Laura into their studios as an intern while she was pursuing her degree. After graduating from Pratt, she went on to work at Oscar de la Renta for more than a decade.
Fernando remembers how, as a child in the Dominican Republic, he’d watch star-studded awards shows on television with his mother, noting how the fashion on display would change year by year. “That’s when I started to notice that there was more to it than just a dress on a girl,” he says.
That sent him down the rabbit hole of global fashion, researching some of the most influential designers— France’s Nicolas Ghesquière (Louis Vuitton), Israel’s Alber Elbaz (Lanvin), England’s John Galliano (Givenchy and Dior), America’s Tom Ford (Gucci)—to better understand their techniques and inspirations
He enrolled in architecture school, graduating from Notre Dame, a storied university in the American Midwest, in 2009. But his dressmaking dreams never faded.
When a family friend connected Fernando with Oscar de la Renta, he leaped at the chance to join the Dominican-born designer at his eponymous label as an intern.
Laura Meeting Garcia
There, Fernando began his fashion career as Laura’s aide, and to say their pairing was fortuitous would be an egregious understatement. Right away, Fernando saw that he and Laura were “the people in the room telling each other the harsh truths every single moment,” he says. Their refreshingly candid dynamic also proved harmonious and complementary on a technical level. (Fernando prefers to sketch, while Laura is an expert draper.)
Laura starts interning at Oscar de la Renta while com – pleting her fashion degree at Pratt Institute in New York City.
Fernando joins Oscar de la Renta as an intern, report – ing to Laura.
Laura and Fernando launch Monse, a luxury fashion label that deconstructs menswear and clas – sic tailoring. The brand is swiftly embraced by celeb – rities, including pop-music stars Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, and Rihanna, as well as Hollywood actors Kerry Washington, Lupita Nyong’o, and Sienna Miller.
Laura and Fernando are appointed co-creative directors of Oscar de la Renta.
Laura and Fernando grace the cover of the “Top Designers” issue for The Hollywood Reporter, a premier U.S. enter – tainment industry magazine. They also take home the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent at the prestigious CFDA Fashion Awards ceremony.
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Much & Muchness
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Prophet & Apostle:
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Building a Happy Business Marriage
The keys to getting along with your cofounder
ASSESS YOUR DYNAMIC.
First, ask the important questions about how your working relationship may play out. Do you have mutual respect for each other? Can you be real about your differences? Are you good at listening to each other? Achieving a healthy work relationship requires a significant amount of mutual appreciation.
WORK TOGETHER FIRST
It’s easy to overestimate your compatibility with someone if you’ve never worked with them before. How will you know if they perform well under pressure, get along with others, or deftly manage a team? If you’ve never interacted with a friend in an office setting, consider chatting with your potential partner’s former colleagues and asking how they handled mistakes, conflicts, and their own weaknesses, and then assess whether your working styles mesh.
SHARE VALUES AND GOALS.
No matter the venture, talk to your partner about where they envision themselves in the next five years. Are your goals complementary? It’s okay if destinations shift, so long as you continue to sync up with your partner about your ever-evolving desires.
SPEAK YOUR TRUTHS
Creating opportunities for open communication is key to a successful business marriage—one that can evolve and grow.
Adopting a learning mindset can help you see feedback as a means to self-improvement, rather than a threat, and can help you weather the inevitable turbulence of an honest relationship.
TRUST EACH OTHER.
When you trust each other’s talents and work ethics, it’s much easier to give your partner the freedom to pursue their creative visions, no matter how outlandish.
FIND SOMEONE WHOSE SKILLS COMPLEMENT YOUR OWN.
In some ways, Laura and Fernando might seem like an odd pairing— Laura describes herself as “type A,” while Fernando is more spontaneous—but opposites attract. Laura has learned how to account for his working style when developing a new collection.
Creating desire means striking the right balance between exclusivity and ubiquity. Put too much product into circulation and you risk becoming passé; too little and you won’t turn a profit.
SHOOT FOR SUSTAINABILITY.
Modern fashion is a wasteful enterprise. Every year, the industry pumps out 150 billion pieces—roughly twenty pieces of clothing for every single person on the planet.
In 2015, for example, the United States generated 16.1 million tons of textile waste; that’s about a hundred pounds per person, and a 400 percent increase since 1960. Fast-fashion brands have even built waste into their business models: H&M failed to sell $4.3 billion worth of clothing and still turned a profit for the year.
- Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History by Richard Thompson Ford
- The African Lookbook by Catherine E. McKinle
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