Despite a combined 18 years experience with Oscar de la Renta at his eponymous house, designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia say that the fashion set can expect something “bolder” from their debut Monse collection on Saturday at New York City’s The Norwood Club. “I wanted it to be relaxed,” says Kim of the new offering, which has already been spotted on Amal Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker this summer. “I hated the idea of being corseted every day. I think if a woman is confident and she’s educated, she doesn’t have to cinch her waist; she doesn’t have to push up her boobs. Everything we are doing is a little more relaxed. It’s looser around the waistline, so you’re comfortable in the evening especially. Our woman is going to enjoy her night.”
Kim first met de la Renta after she secured an internship with the designer in 2002. Over the course of 12 years, she eventually became a co-creator of the line and supervised the design studio. Garcia, for his part, joined the brand in 2009 also as an intern after a fortuitous meeting with de la Renta in Punta Cana arranged through businessman Frank Rainieri. Eventually, he became a principal designer. Kim was notably responsible for many of the house’s daywear pieces, while Garcia had a flair for evening. Case in point: Parker’s 2014 Met Gala dress for the Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibit.
Though de la Renta’s influence is clearly seen in Monse, which is named after Garcia’s mother (“Any combination of our two last names would have sounded like a taco truck,” says Kim), the duo’s kind of sexy is all their own. “Ours has nothing to do with body con,” says Garcia of the collection, which is priced between $500 and $4,000. “There’s not a single fitted piece in this collection. It’s a different kind of sexy. It’s a little bit undressing, ease, casual, it looks like it has one button or one zipper.”
The classic shirt, for instance, provided much fodder. “The detail is the most prevalent theme in the collection,” says Garcia. “We know how it is to walk into a store and not recognize the label, but if there’s something familiar about the product, a woman will take notice, so we have different versions of the boyfriend shirt, the men’s shirt, so that you can take it from day to evening.” Iterations of that include a strapless, black silk gown that mimics a shirt tied across the chest by the sleeves. “Not everyone in New York wants to wear a regular old dress for evening,” adds Garcia.
Asked what de la Renta would say of their designs, Kim jokes, “He would be really naughty and say ‘Fernando, these are hideous!’” But laughing aside, Garcia says, “I think he would think it’s happy and wearable.” He continues, “At the end of the day he liked women who could wear his clothes, and whenever we had an idea that was editorial, he would be like, ‘Nobody’s going to buy that!’ There’s a practicality in what we do that we owe to him. These clothes are very much for women today.”