When Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia began to seriously discuss co-founding Monse, the Tribeca-based fashion house worn by everyone from Diane Kruger to Daisy Ridley, Garcia needed some coaxing. “It was always Laura’s dream to open her own line,” Garcia says. “She was more prepared than I was and convinced me this was the age to develop our own point of view outside of an existing brand’s vision.”
The duo now describes their work relationship as fast-paced and decisive, a natural result of having collaborated since 2009. They met during their time together at Oscar de la Renta, where Kim was a studio director and Garcia a senior designer. After six years at the storied fashion house, the pair briefly migrated to Carolina Herrera before starting their own line, Monse.
Named after Garcia’s mother, Monse’s identity is the edgy cousin to their work for de la Renta, to which they later returned to as co-creative directors. “Besides the [use] of bold colors and our [shared] love of shirting, each brand has a very specific DNA,” the duo says. “There is no need for overlap.”
Since Monse’s first collection debuted in spring 2016, the brand’s point of view has been clear. Marked by deconstructed shirting in common plaids and stripes, asymmetrical blazers and denim, the irreverent-chic backbone of Monse is a downtown Manhattan counterpoint to the uptown glamour of de la Renta. “I thought it was important for us to develop our own point of view as designers,” Kim says, “and to have ownership of what we created.”
For the most part, the differences between Monse and de la Renta are apparent: where Monse distresses denim, Oscar de la Renta embroiders it with silver sequins. (de la Renta’s take on spring is especially high-drama, with reflective tees and dresses, oversized dinner jackets and, of course, evening gowns.) However, while Chez Monse may be generally more accessible, that same highly embellished glamour shines through in bursts. Exhibit A: a sequined basketball jersey that commands brand name recognition with the label’s emblazoned logo—a rarity at Oscar de la Renta (save for those branded fur coats).
“At Oscar, knowing the things he felt passionate about is always our starting point. From here, we inject our aesthetic into his vision,” the pair says. “For Monse, we draw inspiration from walking around the city and listening to music. They do not inform one other—they are two separate entities entirely, with their own DNAs.”