A Studio Visit with Monse

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“It has to look easy, like it took her five minutes to get ready,” Monse designer Fernando Garcia told us during a private studio meet yesterday. He and his partner Laura Kim left Oscar de la Renta to start Monse, which just showed its second well-received collection for Fall 2016. “It’s always a little bit unhinged,” he continued.

“Unhinged” might be the last word that anyone would use to describe Oscar de la Renta, but if you look closely at Monse’s story there’s a decidedly uptown spirit that lives there. As we know, an American “uptown girl” means something completely different than it did 20 years ago. She might still have the mid-60s Park Avenue address, but she spends a lot of her time downtown. (She’d feel more comfortable to lunch with the fashion crowd at Sant Ambroeus in Soho than at the Madison Avenue location.)

Garcia and Kim too have stepped outside of the refined codes held by the Oscar set. Both admitted that they feared not being able to break away from that mold. We see the opposite outcome happening; their newfound flow of creativity shows in the form of a metallic fur-lined coat worn over an evening dress and a jacket that’s been made adjustable by a built-in drawstring running across the back. One of the standouts is the use of suit jacket lining—it appears as a top and on a pair of slitted pants. The striped pattern is made to look like its revealing itself after a pair of sailor buttons are peeled away. “We’re creating a D.N.A. for the brand by repeating the pieces we love.”

The evening wear is integral, but shirting has also become a main focus (which is smart because you can re-wear shirts far more often than you can dresses) as is the belief in stripes, which Garcia rightly thinks of as a strong “non-print print.” “We don’t want to be too sexy or too feminine. We think there’s a void in the middle. There are houses that are super feminine or super sexy—and they own it—but we believe in both codes,” Garcia says. Hence the splashes of pink you’ll find amongst the neutral palette.

So who is the customer? We discussed a tall, blonde Carolyn Bessette Kennedy lookalike or, the modern equivalent, Lauren Santo Domingo. But if it so happens that you’re petite and brunette, there’s more than a few options to play around with, like metallic stretch pants. A request has been submitted for a dress with long sleeves to appear next season and we have reason to believe that Garcia and Kim have open minds and ears when it comes to such suggestions.

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