What If We All Saw Midtown Through Fernando Garcia’s Eyes?

The Monse and Oscar de la Renta co-creative director speaks on Monse’s return to the runway at Rockefeller Center, how “The Shining” influenced the show’s music, and why he always makes time for a bite at Lodi.

Fernando Garcia at the International Building lobby, where he and Laura Kim staged Monse's recent runway show. Credit: Phillip Paulus

Earlier this month, Monse founders Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia staged their first fashion week runway show since September 2022. Subversive tailoring and downtown sexiness runs deep in the label’s DNA, and this season’s choice of setting—the copper-ceilinged International Building at Rockefeller Center—rounded out the collection with a dose of Art Deco drama and cinematic glamour. Pop art–inspired graphic tees and slinky knits depicting surreal landscapes streaked with UFOs imparted levity. Crucially, they also transitioned the collection from workwear-ready to something more akin to a party girl’s battle armor with metallic fringe and spiked leather bustiers.

Most people wouldn’t see Midtown as inspirational fodder for the kind of fantasy a runway show asks its attendees to inhabit, but then again, Garcia isn’t “most people.” After his friend Jenna Lyons suggested he join her on a walkthrough of the complex during the runway location-scouting process, he replied “you don’t need to ask me twice.” 

Surface spoke with Garcia about his longtime love of Rockefeller Center, his “Stanley Kubrick moment” on the runway, and aliens.

Credit: Daniel Salemi for Monse.

You have such strong affection for Midtown and Rockefeller Center specifically. Where does that come from?

It’s a sentimental tie that I have. I grew up in the Dominican Republic but my family would come to New York City for as many Christmases as possible. Going to the Rockefeller Center tree lighting was a must; going to Central Park, seeing the Plaza Hotel and sometimes staying there. For the millennium, my grandfather invited ten of us to celebrate the morning at the Rainbow Room. I had more of a relationship with uptown as a young boy than I do as an adult. But it’s close to my heart. 

How did that translate to Monse’s recent runway show? 

When Jenna Lyons asked me to check it out, I found it to be very moving, how beautifully intact it is. It inspired in me respect for the time that it was developed. It felt otherworldly. I either go to Saks or I go to the tree, and I never bothered to explore the 45 Rockefeller entrance. It felt like it tested the way the world revolves around it. The otherworldliness of it connected with me because of our collection’s pun on the alien invasion.

Credit: Daniel Salemi for Monse.

Did the choice of location influence the collection at all? 

What it did influence was the music. The eeriness of the space made me think of ways to have the echo reverberate on these gorgeous marble walls and tall ceilings. That was very present in my mind. I wanted everybody to feel a sense of calm, but alien energy. It dictated the pace of the girls and the crescendo of the music, knowing that they would be using escalators, for instance, and that the finale would be all of them coming down the escalators.

It was a cinematic finale moment.

Cinematic was a little bit of what we fed Collin [Craig, who helped us develop music]. I’m a huge movie buff. I shared with him my favorite composers: Trent Reznor and Philip Glass. And I said to him, “You know the opening credits of The Shining, when all you had was a solemn, one instrument [playing in] one key?” I went back to The Social Network. Trent Reznor’s one piano key was the entire score of the film. 

So I thought, with all this reverberation, darkness, and coziness, I wanted to make people feel like it was bringing them back to a Kubrick moment: a sense of building a story and telling with the clothes, that the music speaking to the person coming out is all connected. Every single time I pick music for a show, I think of it as a movie that I’m playing out. I have the beginning character who we don’t know, and then middle, and then towards the end, the chaos. The crescendo builds towards that person coming out. 

We’ve talked a lot about the old guard of Midtown and Rock Center. When you’re in the area these days, is there a spot you frequent for meals or a drink?

Whenever there’s a reason for me to go see somebody at Christie’s or be around that area, I make time to go to Lodi. It’s the same feeling I had being at 45 Rockefeller Center: just wanting to be there. It’s wonderful food, but it takes you to a place where you want to make time to spend there. I can’t say that for a lot of spaces in the city, especially uptown. I just want to be there for a little bit. 

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