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Porter
Art of Style

The designer interview: Monse

Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia with model Odette Pavlova (far left). Kim and Pavlova wear Monse SS18 throughout; mules (worn by Pavlova) Mansur Gavriel

Just two years after FERNANDO GARCIA and LAURA KIM founded Monse, the label has established serious cool-luxe credentials. The design duo reveal their winning formula to EMMA SELLS

Photography Annelise PhillipsStyling Tracy Taylor
Fashion
Blazer and pants Monse; mules Mansur Gavriel
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We started chopping up shirts; at the time, the concept of a shirt dress wasn’t tapped in a modern way
Shirt and skirt Monse
Coat Monse

So they hinged the label around pieces rather than trends, canvassing industry insiders whom they’d worked with for advice as they went. “We started chopping up some shirts, because at that time we just thought that the concept of a shirt dress wasn’t tapped enough, or not tapped in a modern way,” says Kim. “I imagined myself at a department store and seeing something familiar, like a shirt, but reimagined.”

Their big debut happened before they’d even shown a collection. In his last weeks at Oscar de la Renta, in fittings for the Met Gala, Garcia mentioned the fledgling label to a clutch of stylists who jumped at the chance to help. The result was Sarah Jessica Parker, an enduring supporter of the brand, wearing a striped monochrome dress that Kim whipped up on a sewing machine. Since then, thanks to the appeal of the label’s on-point blend of grown-up, refined polish with a cool, deconstructed edge, they’ve dressed everyone from Cate Blanchett and Amal Clooney to Blake Lively and Selena Gomez. And not only does this give Garcia a chance to indulge the love of movies that got him into fashion in the first place, it’s helped introduce Monse to a multi-generational crowd of discerning women around the globe. “I think a lot of women relate to actresses; it’s like they envision themselves being that character,” says Garcia. “So when they see them wearing clothes, it becomes real. It’s fun to make the label approachable to people, by them seeing it on the women they want to be.”

Odette Pavlova: Dress Monse; mules Mansur Gavriel. Laura Kim as before

“We imagine our woman as hardworking, someone who doesn’t have exactly the luxury that women used to have: going home and changing their outfits,” he continues. “So, everything has to have versatility, comfort and a sex appeal that lasts throughout the day.” With that in mind, Kim, who mixes the Monse collections with vintage finds and streetwear in her own closet, tries on each piece at every stage to make sure that it really works (“I’m always stealing samples, I have so much fun doing it,” she says). They temper the more overtly ‘feminine’ shapes with a menswear sensibility. “I always thought the sexiest thing a woman could wear was her boyfriend’s clothes,” says Garcia. So the duo start with “a bunch of basic menswear. From day one it was always about men’s shirts, men’s pants. We get it from thrift shops and then make it feminine: make Monse sexy,” he says.

Catwalk call outs
From left: FW16, FW16, SS16, FW17, SS17, SS17
Our clothes are very comfortable. Monse isn’t a brand that you have to be a size zero to pull off
Shirt and jeans Monse

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