De­sign­ers Laura Kim and Fer­nando Gar­cia move for­ward with a sen­ti­men­tal nod to the past.

Fashion (Canada) - - CONTENTS - By Noreen Flana­gan

How Os­car de la Renta’s cre­ative direc­tors are hon­our­ing the late de­signer’s legacy.

In 2014, Sarah Jes­sica Parker wore a ball gown to the Met Gala that had Os­car de la Renta’s sig­na­ture el­e­gantly scrolled across its train. The de­signer re­port­edly wasn’t keen on the idea, but his long-time client had re­quested it, so he gra­ciously re­lented. For Spring 2018, co-cre­ative direc­tors Laura Kim and Fer­nando Gar­cia em­bla­zoned de la Renta’s sig­na­ture through­out the col­lec­tion. What would the de­signer, who passed away in Oc­to­ber 2014, make of this? “Os­car wouldn’t have done it him­self,” ad­mits Kim with a sly smile. “He didn’t want to be that guy putting his name on ev­ery­thing, but I think he would have liked the fact that we did it for him— that we’re not for­get­ting him.”

Since as­sum­ing the man­tle of co-cre­ative direc­tors for the house in Septem­ber 2016, these young de­sign­ers have cre­atively paid homage to de la Renta’s legacy while still im­part­ing their own mod­ern im­print. In their sopho­more col­lec­tion, they con­fi­dently man­aged to pay their re­spects to the de­signer while in­tro­duc­ing a clean­lined aes­thetic and re­laxed glam­our. This is es­pe­cially ev­i­dent in the over­sized white shirts, faded or frayed denim looks and neon-coloured suits with cu­lotte pants.

Although Parker’s “au­to­graphed” dress partly in­spired the duo, Gar­cia says that this col­lec­tion—with its paint-splat­tered and brush-stroke pat­terns—is a trib­ute to de la Renta’s love of art. “We also wanted to cel­e­brate the new logo, which is Os­car’s real sig­na­ture,” he adds. Other pieces fea­ture re­pro­duc­tions of hand­writ­ten notes to de la Renta from friends of the house. The de­sign­ers’ own af­fec­tion for de la Renta is ev­i­dent when they re­call how they first met him. In both cases, it was their sketches that at­tracted his at­ten­tion. “I was in­tern­ing, and Os­car’s son, Moises, wanted to start his own line when he was 18 and asked if I could help him,” re­calls Kim, who started as an in­tern in 2003 while study­ing fashion de­sign at New York’s Pratt In­sti­tute. “So I did a col­lec­tion of sketches, and he showed them to his fa­ther. Os­car said: ‘Moises, you didn’t do these. Who did them for you?’ That’s how I got to meet Os­car.” In Gar­cia’s case, he re­lied on a fam­ily con­nec­tion. “My fa­ther had a friend who knew Os­car,” he re­calls. “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 favour card to see what Os­car thinks about my sketches?’ He agreed, and the rest is his­tory. That’s how I met him.”

De la Renta brought Gar­cia on as an in­tern in 2009, and that’s when he and Kim first met. She was the house’s de­sign direc­tor at the time and first spoke with Gar­cia on the phone. He told her he had grad­u­ated from Notre Dame, and Kim says she thought he was re­fer­ring to the cathe­dral in Paris. De­spite that early mis­un­der­stand­ing, the pair cre­atively con­nected and worked to­gether for six years be­fore leav­ing to launch their own line, Monse, in 2015. (Their de­ci­sion to go solo fol­lowed the an­nounce­ment that Pe­ter Cop­ping would be tak­ing over the reins of the com­pany. He re­signed 21 months later.)

The duo’s cre­ative part­ner­ship is based on trust, and their con­nec­tion is ev­i­dent in the way they fin­ish each other’s sen­tences. “We do have dif­fer­ences of opin­ion,” says Gar­cia, “but we ei­ther push [the de­sign] to the point where we are both happy and it’s bet­ter than what ei­ther of us could have done on our own or it dies out be­cause we can’t re­solve it. What­ever we show has been 99.9 per cent am­i­ca­bly re­solved.”

Both Kim and Gar­cia ad­mit that it can be chal­leng­ing to find the time to be cre­ative while manag­ing their busi­ness and staff, but they ap­pear to be han­dling their im­mense re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with a sea­soned mas­tery. Per­haps that con­fi­dence comes from know­ing their path from a young age. In Kim’s case, she says it was in her DNA to be in fashion. She was born in Seoul but moved to Cal­gary when she was nine. She de­scribes her par­ents as artists, adding that her grand­par­ents were in the tex­tile busi­ness. “I fin­ished high school one year early be­cause I wanted to get out and study fashion in ei­ther Lon­don or New York,” she re­calls. “When my mom mar­ried my dad, he promised her that they would study to­gether in New York—but he didn’t live up to that. My mom told him that he owed her to make this hap­pen for their kids. So I didn’t have a choice! I was go­ing to New York.”

Gar­cia’s in­ter­est in fashion was en­twined with his love of film. “Start­ing when I was eight, my mom and I would watch red-car­pet events; I saw beau­ti­ful works of art by Gal­liano, Gh­esquière and Tom Ford. That’s when I got the fashion bug—but I didn’t have the courage to pur­sue it right af­ter high school, so I waited un­til I fin­ished ar­chi­tec­ture to think about it.”

If Gar­cia could speak with de la Renta to­day, he says he would want to know if the de­signer felt they had pushed the house for­ward. “He would al­ways tell us to never look back,” re­calls Gar­cia. “That’s some­thing we keep in the back of our minds so that ev­ery­thing we do doesn’t look like how he did it, be­cause he would want us to evolve.”

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