NEW YORK, United States — Designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia, co-creative directors of both Monse and Oscar de la Renta, will debut their Fall 2017 collections for the two brands together — one after the other, with Monse leading — during New York Fashion Week at 6.30pm ET on Monday, February 13. The runway show will take place at IMG’s Skylight Clarkson Square venue with a set designed by the New York-based Stefan Beckman Studio.
The venue is a surprising choice for Oscar de la Renta, which typically shows at a more buttoned-up location such as the Morgan Library, the Park Avenue Armory or in its own offices. But the decision to show the collections consecutively, with no break, is truly unorthodox.
For one, it makes it that much harder for the brands to sit apart in the marketplace. It also puts more pressure on the design team to have both collections ready on the same day.
But Garcia argues it's easier — and more cost-effective — to stage one event than two, while also allowing the designers to show editors and buyers how the two labels are distinct yet complement each other. (While Oscar de la Renta's aesthetic will certainly evolve under Kim and Garcia’s watch, it seems sure to remain the dressed-up antidote to Monse’s flashier, rebellious quality). There will also be a "reveal factor" before the first Oscar de la Renta look hits the catwalk in order to clearly delineate the lines, and to underscore the elder brand's gravity.
“We wanted to attack it head on: Can we do two different collections that have an identity on their own and be brave enough to show them together?" Garcia said. "Having them be consecutive does not mean that there is necessarily a blending of the ideas. There’s going to be different styling for each show, and it’s going to be very apparent where the [change] happens. The clothes are very different."
According to Oscar de la Renta chief executive Alex Bolen, the thinking was driven not only by an intention to shake up the increasingly staid runway-show format, but also to convey that the two labels are part of the same brand family. "We talk about brands DNAs, and I think that, on some level, if Fernando is part of the Monse DNA and part of the Oscar DNA, it’s impossible for them to be totally separate," he said. "And guess what? I don’t think they need to be totally separate. It’s going to be a happy day for me when I see a real customer with an Oscar blouse and a Monse skirt.”
The scheduling also provides, intentionally or not, a bit of relief to editors and buyers with unpleasantly packed schedules. "It’s one less show that somebody has to run across town for," Bolen added.
But the show also marks a homecoming for Monse. In September, it was announced that Kim and Garcia would be rejoining Oscar de la Renta as co-creative directors — and showing their first collection in February 2017 — after departing from their positions as studio director and senior designer, respectively, more than a year earlier in order to launch Monse, their own line. During the period of separation, Monse gained quite a bit of recognition on the red carpet and was picked up by several prominent retailers, including Net-a-Porter.
In February 2016, Kim also began working for Oscar de la Renta rival Carolina Herrera as senior vice president of design, while Garcia was hired by the same brand as a consultant. However, in September it was announced that the duo would replace Oscar de la Renta’s former creative director Peter Copping, whose work did not resonate with the label's loyal customers.
As a part of Kim and Garcia’s return to Oscar de la Renta, the house agreed to invest, both financially and operationally, in the still-sizzling Monse label. And while ready-to-wear remains the bread-and-butter for both brands, Bolen has aspirations to increase their marketshare in other categories. “On the Oscar runway, we are very focused on the total look. Look closely not just at the clothes, but at the jewelry and the shoes and the bags," he said. "We have been stronger in ready-to-wear and jewelry than we have been, for example, in shoes and bags. Those are important to us, and we think that we have interesting things to say."
While there is an air of “bringing the gang back together” to the forthcoming show, the last few months have been bumpy for the designers and their current and former employers. In December 2016, Carolina Herrera filed a lawsuit against Kim for allegedly violating a non-compete agreement when Oscar de la Renta re-hired her and Garcia as co-creative directors. All parties reached a settlement in early January 2017, but the complication underscored the longtime rivalry — albeit an outwardly friendly one — between the two houses. Bolen declined to comment further on the lawsuit, only to say, “I have no comment on any of that. We are focused on the future."