BY: HAL RUBENSTEIN
Oscar De La Renta is one of the most desired and revered brands in American fashion. Even the name has the prefect lilt and rhythm to describe a line of clothing that embraces romance, that creates drama, and that moves as sinuously as if the ever charming Mr. De La Renta was gliding you across the dance floor himself. So imagine how daunting it must have been for Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia to inherit this enviable but daunting branding. Kim and Garcia had already established their own clothing line Monse – which is both fresh and irreverent - but they had to adjust the aesthetic when it came time to taking on the De La Renta brand.
HR: When did the two of you first join forces?
FG: My father had a friend who knew Oscar. I studied architecture, but I always wanted to see what fashion was like, so I would sketch in the back of all my notebooks. When I graduated from Notre Dame, I asked my father, 'Do you want to use that favor card to see what Oscar thinks about my sketches?' He agreed, and the rest is history. That's how I met him. He offered me an internship on the spot and Laura became my boss.
LK: When Fernando showed up, he had no idea how to do anything, but he was just really, really into it. He was the most passionate intern I ever had. Passion means something.
HR: What was it about each other’s aesthetic that you believed would mesh into a harmonious design philosophy?
FG: We have different perspectives about what a woman should wear, but each and every time we combine the ideas the result is always an improvement from our original individual ideas. It’s become an addictive collaborative process that can start from a clipping, a piece of art, an Instagram post or even a movie – we bring it to the table and dissect why we love it.
Oscar de la Renta has a very rare element of timelessness that does not exist in many brands today. Its ability to have the same strength in product offering, throughout its existence - Laura Kim
HR: Why do you think Oscar de la Renta’s image of beauty has had such a lasting impact on the ready-to-wear customer?
LK: Oscar de la Renta has a very rare element of timelessness that does not exist in many brands today. Its ability to have the same strength in product offering, throughout its existence, is amazing. Every year it has stayed as American and elegant while striking a young bold note, as it did at the very beginning.
HR: What or who did you turn to, to see this landscape of the fashion world through "Oscar's eyes"?
LK: Professionally speaking, we grew up in this company. Having worked together for 12 years, while learning it all from him, we intrinsically have Oscar in our DNA. He would always follow his gut. Oscar believed designing was instinctual, so if an idea doesn’t blow our socks off right from the start, we move on. We’re a team. Because we see a story behind everything here, we don’t feel like we’re invading Oscar’s office. Like, this is a picture of a white dress styled by Vogue editor Grace Coddington with Lady Gaga. That was my first resort collection here, so I remember that dress very fondly.
HR: With each collection, the melding of your design perspective and Oscar’s seems more fluid and seamless. How has your view of your mission changed in the last few years?
LK: I think we’re finally bringing the brand in line with our vision which is a little lighter; more in tune for the way we live now. It took about a year and a half to settle in. Now, we’re getting a universal yes from buyers, editors, from the family as well as us. We feel like we’ve gotten to where we want to be with the house.
HR: Who do you see as today’s Oscar de la Renta customer?
FG: We’re introducing new types of items into her closet, like suiting, denim, and evening tops. We’re educating her further about how to expand her closet. Our client has been there since we returned, and now we’re focused on giving her things from the house that she hasn’t had before. This woman moves around the world with astonishing frequency. Her clothes need to travel in suitcases; she’s frequently going from a work environment into a social occasion. The clothes need to loosen up.
HR: Oscar adored his Latin heritage. How does that factor into your work?
LK: For the Spring 2020 collection, we explored the house’s Latin American roots through a modern lens, taking inspiration from the melting pot of cultures in the Caribbean and the splendor of the natural landscapes. Ultimately, we’re after a joie de vivre that came through in Oscar’s clothes. We want to make him proud.
HR: What are the clothes you feel most comfortable and glamorous in?
LK: I put comfort before everything. We always had caftans but we never really showed them. But I’m starting to realize that that’s all I want to wear.
- REBEKAH KOHAN
DIRECTOR, GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS
This woman moves around the world with astonishing frequency. Her clothes need to travel in suitcases; she’s frequently going from a work environment into a social occasion. The clothes need to loosen up.
- Fernando Garcia