Upon meeting Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, the dynamic duo behind labels Monse and Oscar de la Renta, you are greeted by their overwhelming sense of warmth. My first encounter with them was during my time at American Vogue when they stopped by to discuss launching their own label, Monse, with colleagues. After the meetings at the office, a co-worker and I met the pair at Houseman on Greenwich Street, where we chatted about the label’s vision and their goals over simple and seasonal bites.
From that first collection, you could tell that these two were special: driven and determined to show the world a modern definition of refined glamour. It was fitting that our post-debut dinner was at the casually polished Odeon in Tribeca: the restaurant’s vibe mimics their fashion ethos of timelessness with edge. For Garcia and Kim, food, like fashion is nourishing on the inside and out, always providing a spark of joy through the unexpected. On the eve of New York Fashion Week, we spoke with Garcia about his and Kim’s favorite spots in the city.
What is your go-to casual spot?
Tartine in the West Village, used to be bring your own alcohol, but now it's not. It did—and I still think they still do—have that sense of charm where they know you; it's intimate, it's quaint, and it's very tried and true savory plates. My favorite is the spicy chicken with this sort of guac sauce and fries. Very rich and savory with staples that everyone can fall in love with. It's nothing complicated or convoluted, it’s very yummy, very “soul nourishing”. If I ever have a day where I need a pick me up, I go there and remember the young days of Fernando living in the West Village. Those days are long gone but that's where I go for a little culinary gastronomical hug.
What is your go-to fine dining spot?
Atomix; Laura and I discovered it a couple of years ago, and it was the most gratifying, not filling longer evening of the best possible Asian cuisine ever. Dining runs the full gamut for me from something really quaint and homey, to the most top of the line, luxurious without it hitting you over the head.
What did you think of the plating and the overall vibe?
I love everything about that place. It's over the top without being over the top. I don’t feel overwhelmed with their choice of flavors or decoration or garnish or mixing of proteins with whatever you can think of. The journey is always something expansive. I always learn something new there, a new flavor I’ve never encountered, but it's always a flavor that doesn’t feel overworked. Let the ingredients speak for themselves.
Do you ever get inspired for your own designs when you go out for dinner?
I think that what I find is that the people that go to the Atomix’s of the world don’t need to show up decked to the nines. They probably have the most expensive Loro Piana cashmere on them, and that is as luxurious as a very flashy dress that one would assume is required to partake in that fancy evening in New York. So I think the power of restraint is inspiring from a place like Atomix, but also I like the tried and true Waverly Inn and Sant Ambroeus. It’s always fun for people watching to go to those places, and whenever I need to start my day with a jolt, I always go with Keith [McNally]’s Balthazar. I say it this way because of how entertaining his Instagram posts have dictated what my morning breakfast routine should feel like. I go there and I feel like I’m going to experience not just the food, but the people and the wait staff and their journey.
What’s your go-to order at Balthazar?
I would say the steak frites for sure and the mussels. For breakfast, I like the poached egg or on the weekdays, eggs and soldiers. There’s no better toast to be dipped into a soft boiled egg in the entire world than Keith’s Balthazar toast for that plate. They are perfectly crunchy, never soft, and the eggs are always done at the right amount of time. That’s my favorite breakfast plate.
What is your favorite hotel for family or friends to stay at in New York?
The Greenwich Hotel. It has the most Zen-like energy of all the hotels. A close second would be The Mercer. The staff is wonderful, but the Greenwich Hotel is by far number one for me and Laura. When we wanted a staycation back in our assistant days and treat ourselves, Laura and I would go for one night—that's all we could afford then—and enjoy the private courtyard that's only allowed to be used by hotel guests. There's an energy of privacy there that's unlike anything else in New York. The Shibui spa is not over the top but has a Japanese sensitivity to it, it’s quiet. There's always good looking people at the Greenwich Hotel so people watching is always fun. For work reasons I go there quite often, as actors and singers do enjoy staying there. There seems to be an understanding amongst the people we work with that that is the place to stay.
What are your favorite hotel bars and cafes?
I always like the King Cole bar (at the St. Regis). Whenever there’s an uptown thing, that's a go-to. I think there's nothing more endearing to my soul than the Met Gala season rolling up and me having to take a break at the Carlyle breakfast or the Carlyle bar or the Carlyle dinner. Anything in the Carlyle during May is filled with good and bad memories that I had to sort of treat with a treat.
What do you usually get?
I just go there just to feel a big hug, because it’s a very stressful time during the Met Gala season. I have already made it very clear to my team at Oscar that whenever Met Gala rolls around, I need a room there because I am running around between the Mark Hotel, the Carlyle, and any of the little hotels that are up there. I need a battle station and I prefer the Carlyle, but the Mark is wonderful too.
I need a station because the elevators of the older buildings end up not working because of overuse. I still remember running up to Billie Eilish’s room because the elevators were jammed because everybody was getting ready at the Carlyle. There’s a picture of that I don’t think she would ever let me share, but it’s of her dad fanning me with a pizza box he had from the night before because I had to run up the stairs to get her ready for the Met.
If your designs were a MICHELIN Guide restaurant, which one would it be?
Laura’s would be Cote. We go there quite often. Also, the new Caviar Kaspia (at the Mark Hotel).
If your designs were a MICHELIN guide hotel, what hotel would it be?
Probably the Carlyle or the Greenwich. Those are my two favorite places in the city for hotels. I think that the Carlyle has the uptown aesthetic that we cater to at Oscar and the Greenwich has that cool downtown vibe that Monse has.