This summer, when I spoke with Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, who are Creative Co-Directors of Oscar de la Renta and Monse, they said the pace of running two brands meant working remotely had already become a way of life for them. As Garcia put it, both “are on our phones no matter what”. But the self-isolation has also caused them to rethink some of their usual practices, from sustainability to how they approach their iconic evening wear. Below, as part of ELLE’s take on the future of fashion, they share their thoughts on shaping a new path forward.
Do you think this moment is going to push the industry in a better direction, whether it’s being more sustainable, changing the way we produce collections or pushing the industry to be more responsible in terms of inclusion of people of color?
Kim: We have spoken to many retailers and designer friends who [split] collections in several deliveries. I spoke a lot to Gabriela Hearst… She taught me a lot of things. For both brands, we try to use a lot of already existing fabrics instead of creating new fabrics. Instead of recovering it from scratch.
Garcia: It inspires you, creatively, to be sustainable. I think on the diversity front it’s always been part of Laura and my mission, but there is a lot more to learn and remember. And we will strive to do so.
Kim: I mean if you watch the shows, we’re still very diverse in the cast.
Garcia: We just have to keep going and pushing forward.
Current limitations force everyone to be creative. How did you rethink your way of doing things?
Garcia: We believe in the value of embroidery. It’s something that’s part of a brand’s DNA, and it’s part of what our customers expect. But given the current climate, we have to find ways to maybe manipulate the fabric to get that impact, that texture, that our collections have always had. It’s something that we’re trying to become more innovative and creative on.
Kim: I try to produce as much as I can in New York. We will save on our carbon footprint.
Are there things you have learned in the past few months that have influenced your work or that you think will influence the industry in the future? What do you think we’ll see in terms of what customers want and how their approach to fashion will change?
Kim: I think for the next year customers, even Oscar patrons, are going to be looking for something cheaper, but we have to make sure that we are true to our brand, what we are showing, and not sacrificing the quality.
Garcia: To pick up on what Laura says, everyone should be focusing on who they are as a brand because of the frugality that our customers are going to have now. They’re going to want something that looks like quintessential Oscar and quintessential Monse, to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.
Do you think there will be a time when the pendulum will change and people will say, “I’ve been wearing sweatpants for three months and want to dress again?” When these events obviously do not take place, how does the evening dress evolve?
Kim: I think there will be a lot more small gatherings of friends. We tried to see what a home entertainment look is that isn’t too casual but not too chic. This is where we are at.
Do you have any ideas on how the fashion shows and fashion weeks are going to change? Are there any other more innovative ways to show that you think they could replace what we do?
Garcia: I think every brand, given the current climate, has to do exactly what is right for them. There is no “right” answer that is universal for everyone.
You were working in fashion during the 2008 recession. Are there any lessons you learned during this time on how to tackle challenges? Do you think there are any similarities between the two eras, and what lessons have you learned from them that you are currently using?
Kim: 2008, contemporary brands emerged from it. It was a new price that was lacking in the market. I think even now, after all this craziness, whoever stays focused and looks at the market and realizes what’s missing and going there, this is the one brand that’s going to survive instead of just keeping it all that way. I think we have to be very aware of customer needs and what’s missing and go from there.
What do you want to take away from these times and what do you want to leave behind in the pre-COVID era?
Kim: It really gave me time to think about what we’re doing and really focus on what we love to do. I think creative people should push what they do, what they love to do. This is where you get the best work.
Garcia: We’re drawn in a lot of different directions, especially when you’re running two brands, but it has bound to force all of us, everyone on the team, to slow down and think about what’s needed and what’s important to keep going. and move on. .
Kim: And there is material durability [as well as environmental sustainability.] My team, their energy can’t sustain [a frenetic] workload, so I think it’s really about focusing on what we love to do and what’s good for the brand.
Garcia: I’ve seen when other brands have a product in the store that looks like the one you designed when you ran out of stock. It’s possible that a customer will know when you’ve created something really original and excited with a smile on your face. You can feel the energy in clothes when they have been designed with the time needed. I think maybe this is a good result of this crazy situation we find ourselves in.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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