Nina Garcia: A passion for fashion

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Fashion Week runway welcomed a special guest on Friday, May 24: Marie Claire creative director and “Project Runway” judge Nina Garcia.

Clad in a black V-neck, halter dress with metallic details, the fashion guru shared her thoughts on fashion and what it takes to succeed in the highly competitive industry.

She spoke at “JAG Origins,” a forum for the promotion of creative thinking and love for design among young Filipinos. The forum was held after the JAG Holiday 2013 fashion show and the presentation of special collections from Filipino designers Norman Noriega, Jerome Salaya Ang, and Jeffrey Rogador.

Here are some of Nina’s insights.

What did you think of the collections of Normal Noriega, Jerome Salaya Ang and Jeffrey Rogador you just saw?

I was blown away. They were all phenomenal. They had a very distinctive point of view. They had very different aesthetics but very well put together.

FASHION FIERCE. Nina Garcia shares her experiences in the fashion industry.

Photo by Pia Ranada

How did you start your career in fashion?

I was very lucky that I was able to go to America and study. I graduated from FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology). I did various internships while at school. One of those happened to be with Marc Jacobs when he was designing for Perry Ellis.

I wasn’t even the assistant, I was the intern in the closet checking garment bags full of clothes, garment bags going to magazines. That’s how it all started for me. But I was passionate about what I was doing. I just wanted to breathe the air of fashion. I was just happy being there. There was no other choice for me.

BRAVO.

Filipino designer Jerome Salaya Ang claps for Nina Garcia who hailed his collection with a hearty, 'Bravo!' Photo by Pia Ranada

Any experiences discovering new talent?

The job of the editor is looking for new talent. That’s what gives us the biggest pleasure. It’s finding that one thing that we haven’t seen.

I remember when John Galliano and Alexander McQueen first started showing. It was all a big secret that there was this very talented man who is creating very bizarre but very beautiful clothes. He was coming from London and he had a very small apartment. All the editors in the know went to visit it and saw these 5 or 6 pieces that he had. They were extraordinary.

I also remember meeting Zac Posen and he was so young. It was in his mother’s home and he had 4 or 5 pieces on a mannequin and that was how we first saw him.

'WELL PUT TOGETHER.' Nina Garcia said all the collections she saw, including Norman Noriega's as depicted in this photo, were well put together.

Photo by Pia Ranada

How true is the cut-throat world of fashion depicted in films and books?

It’s always about the new: it’s the new model, it’s the new designer, it’s the new editor. So there is no security and that creates very insecure people. That creates vulnerable people who can be very competitive. Having said that, I think that is an old guard. The tide is changing. The new generation of editors are more civil. And one thing I observe in this industry is that in the time when we’re in trouble, everyone unites. That’s a good thing.

What does it take for a fashion designer to become a fashion brand?

It’s very important to have a background in business or the support of businessmen. That’s not easy to do. A lot of designers make the wrong partnerships so you have to be very careful. If you examine the kind of designers that have been very successful—Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs—they always had a business partner. They took care of the creative but they had a business partner. It’s too competitive that no designer can do it alone. The marketing and business side of it is integral in building the brand.

LADY OF FASHION. Nina Garcia thanks the audience and says she hopes to return to Manila.

Photo by Andrew Robles

How can one succeed in the fashion industry?

You have to have the passion, the drive and the desire to be in that business. I think it’s also important to know a lot about culture, a lot about the arts because a lot of design is influenced by film, literature, art. There are so many connections with the arts.

The key advice I give students who want to get into the fashion business is get an internship, try it out, take several internships. Experiment and see what you like. This is a business that can be very closed and very clique-y. It’s a phenomenal way to network, to figure out what you want to do.

A new designer is about to come up with his or her first collection. What’s your advice?

Stay very focused. Know very clearly what you’re going to do with your collection, know the woman you want to target. You have to have a very distinct point of view. Know yourself. Be authentic to yourself. I’ve seen designers who try to imitate other designers, partly out of admiration. But it’s about being yourself, bringing your own perspective in. - Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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