Nina Garcia inspires Manila
It was Nina Garcia’s priceless fashion advice that made an almost two-hour wait definitely worth it.
The Project Runway judge, Marie Claire creative director and fashion expert was in Manila on May 24 for the Jag Origins fashion show and forum, which was part of Philippine Fashion Week (PFW) Holiday 2013.
A first in PFW history, Jag Origins is now an affair that will present not just a runway show but also series of creative talks for students, designers, marketers, advertisers and the fashion industry in general.
The jeans brand invited Garcia to be Origin’s inaugural speaker, who shared two-decades’ worth of expertise in the ever-changing, cutthroat world of fashion.
For her first words at the much-awaited talk hosted by Boy Abunda, Garcia could only express gratitude and joy. “I have to thank Manila for such a phenomenal welcome, for making me feel such at home. This is the first of many visits, I hope. Thanks also to Jag for creating such a program,” she exclaimed.
Abunda then threw in the first question. He asked what the style icon wears on days she feels lousy. “[On] days I am chasing my three- and six-year-olds [you mean]?” Garcia interjected with a laugh. “I usually wear my jeans, a pair of sneakers, probably a button-down or a T-shirt, just like any woman.”
Also a style icon that many look up to, Garcia went on to give her fabulous fashion tips, the first of which is that it pays to have a “go-to” uniform. “I have this go-to uniform that safeguards me when I don’t know that to wear or I am running late. Everyone should have that go-to uniform,” she explained.
What followed were more heartfelt and experiential fashion advice for aspiring and established designers alike, which gained the woman countless fans this side of the stylish world.
The way to the top
Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, 48-year-old Garcia started her fashion career at the bottom just like everybody else. During Abunda’s interview, it was revealed that the former Elle and currently Marie Claire creative director also served drinks to her editors and bosses once upon a time.
But none of it mattered for she knew it was her dream to be in the fashion industry. “I grew up knowing from the beginning this was my dream,” she shared.
“Colombia, at that time, didn’t have that much resources. We didn’t really know that much about fashion so the idea of fashion for me was really being a designer. I didn’t know that fashion is such a broad business,” Garcia recalled.
From this came the decision to go to the United States of America where many doors opened up for the talented lady, one of which was working for Marc Jacobs. “I wasn’t even actually working for Marc Jacobs. I was the one unzipping the bags and checking the clothes,” she remembered of her initial involvement with the famous brand.
Today, Garcia has reputed relationships with designers ranging from Michael Kors, Alexander Wang, Tom Ford, Miuccia Prada, Stella McCartney and Raf Simons.
So what does it actually take for someone, who’s from nowhere, to make it to the top? Garcia proudly answered, “Coming from nowhere: It’s right here [points herself].
“The first thing you have to have is passion. [Then] the drive [and]the desire to really be passionate about the business,” she continued. “I also think it’s very important to know a lot about culture; to know a lot about the arts; to know some of the business.
“Sooner or later you have to face the reality that it’s not only art or creativity but there’s also commerce,” she noted.
Garcia no doubt inspired her audience at Jag Origins especially young and aspiring designers who came out in droves to see her.
“Stay very focused. Know very clearly what [market]you want to target. And be very distinctive—you have to have a very distinct point of view. [So] know yourself [and]be authentic to yourself,” she wisely advised.
Though she never became a fashion designer, Garcia revealed that she studied at the Boston University and the Fashion Institute of Technology. These added to her qualifications and fame as Project Runway’s most formidable judge.
“The biggest mistake that young designers make is that they want it so quickly. They want to go to New York Fashion Week to have that big runway show—no!,” she warned.
“It’s step-by-step. The slower you go up, the better it is. The faster you go up, the faster you go down. So I caution you on that, take it little by little. With the right strategy, with the right business plan—with the right steps, it is possible.”
Abunda then asked what was on everyone’s mind. “I come from the Philippines. How do I get to Marie Claire?”
She replied, “You call. You send in your look book. You find out what our e-mail address is. You look for it in the magazine, you look at the masthead, find out who are the market editors. You send them a letter. You send them an e-mail. You follow up with a call. You’ll get somebody to look at those designs.
“I promise, because you know what the job of an editor is? The job of an editor is to look for new things. That is what gives us the biggest pleasure: To find that one thing that we haven’t seen, and is going to move us.”