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Nina Garcia: ‘Fashion is meant to be fun’

In Manila recently for the Jag Origins campaign launch, the Marie Claire creative director and ‘Project Runway’ judge talks about the industry, the print medium–and buying shoes


NINA GARCIA: “What is interesting about what I do as editor and in ‘Project Runway’ is finding young talent and nurturing and supporting it.” NELSON MATAWARAN

What does a media personality and style arbiter like Nina Garcia do with the clothes given to her by designers?

“That doesn’t happen anymore,” replied the creative director of Marie Claire and judge of “Project Runway.” “The bloggers get the clothes.”

In this tech-savvy era, bloggers have become more influential than magazine editors for trendspotting. Still, Garcia, 46, wielded power by broadening the boundaries of a fashion editor.

She nurtured aspiring designers in a reality TV show, wrote four style guidebooks and dispensed advice in online makeover videos. Hence the brand, Nina Garcia.

Her ability to reinvent herself in a rapidly changing fashion world has made her a wise choice for the launch of the Jag Origins campaign. In Philippine Fashion Week (PFW), Jag Jeans is one of the most anticipated shows for its flair.

Despite the starting price tag of P1,200, Jag is the top-selling jeans brand in the country today, and it dominates the jeans section in all the SM department stores.

As a way of giving back, the company organized Jag Origins, an educational forum geared for the industry. At the recent PFW, the Philippines became the first market in the region to hold this event.

“It’s a conversation,” said Garcia. “Jag Origins opens a possibility for the fashion people and the students to know more about what is happening in fashion, art and marketing.”

Likewise, Jag commissioned three rising designers, Jerome Salaya Ang, Norman Noriega and Jeffrey Rogador, to create a special collection for PFW.

“When you collaborate with others in the creative field, it’s a win-win for new designers and for Jag. Because they are receiving creativity, as well,” said Garcia.

Financial muscle

In the forum and in many interviews, she mentioned that it requires financial muscle and business savvy for a designer to succeed. She also said that fashion and the Web have opened more options. Asked about the consequent information overload, she told Inquirer Lifestyle: “There are editors to curate that and bloggers with their specific viewpoint. For my readers, it’s service-driven, keeping in mind the practical solutions for their everyday life. We have the high, high fashion, but there are women who have jobs and children.”

Garcia pointed out the difference between a stylist and an editor. The editor sees the big picture and determines the message for the reader. The stylist pays attention to the finer details on the set.

In her magazine work, Garcia said she always considers the Marie Claire reader, the pages she will open and what she will take out from that. “I’m trying to think of how to solve her problems. I propose options. I don’t ever want her to be a fashion victim.”

She believes that women have a right to pursue their personal expression, thus fashion is about celebrating their authenticity. Imposing on readers is an editorial taboo.

“My biggest no-no is not to talk down to women, saying, ‘You have to wear this from head to toe’ or ‘This is the way you have to wear it.’ I don’t believe in that. We are all different. I want to offer options, and let them make choices.”

When new designers go to the office to show their samples and portfolios, Garcia is always looking something distinctive, or if it fills in a need and not “out there.”

Despite the influx of online magazines and decreasing magazine sales in the newsstands, Garcia said the print medium will still be relevant. “When TV came around, it didn’t make radio obsolete. Print will be more precious. It will be more of a creative outlet and more specialized. The photography will mean much more.”

Working her way up from an intern to a fashion authority, Garcia has been through challenges that have kept her humble.

“The fashion industry is rife with competition. All businesses are. The difference is that there are many egos. Creative people can be very ‘dramatic.’ The biggest advice for anybody coming into this business is to keep focus. We are not curing cancer. This is fashion. It’s meant to be fun. It’s also a business that can seem glamorous, but it’s a business of hard work. You need to be grounded. Otherwise you could tail off into the dramatic and the big egos. I don’t think that is the right way.”


Thus, she cherishes loyalty in a fractious fashion world.

Garcia is said to have handled conflicts graciously. “I don’t let it escalate into a diva match. There’s always compromise. You have to give and receive.”

In her work, she values being considerate and respecting others. “You can’t lose those. It’s very easy to get caught up in this moment of ‘I have to get this dress shot’ and then you get very ‘dramatic.’”

Garcia cited her family as still keeping her in touch with her real self. She added that her native Colombia and the Philippines are both Catholic countries which treasure family. In her short stay, she said she felt at home in Manila.

During the interview, Garcia remained genial even if she’d heard the questions before. For the press meeting at Solaire Resort and Casino, she wore a racer-back, animal-printed Gucci pantsuit that skimmed her trim body. She said taking care of two young sons and Pilates have kept her in shape.

Since she travels a lot, her suitcase staples are also her wardrobe must-haves: a little black dress, a white or blue button down shirt (“I love men’s”), a pair of trousers, jeans, flats and a pair of high heels. For temperate countries, she packs a trench coat and a cardigan.

Garcia admitted that shoes are her biggest fashion obsession. “Shoes are an instant pick-me-up. No matter what mood, I’m in, whether I feel fat or when I was pregnant, that was the one thing that I wanted—to buy my shoes.” For working women, simple elegance commands professionalism. She recommended classic closed-toe pumps with a modern heel for the office. “It’s chic.”

As a journalist, she was impartial about naming her favorite brands. “A few years ago, there were just a handful of designers that did great shoes like Blahnik, Louboutin and Alaia. Now we can find many shoes at different price points.”

How can a minimum-wage earner look stylish in the rainy season?

“There is a lot we can do with a small budget. Dress for comfort. Get a great pair of black trousers, a white shirt and a great pair of shoes. Flats are in, be it ballerina or tuxedo flats that are trending now. It’s not so much about what trends you can wear, but what makes you feel confident,” she said.

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Tags: fashion , Lifestyle , Nina Garcia

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