Fashion maven Nina Garcia answers 30 questions

Posted at 05/25/2013 12:07 AM | Updated as of 05/26/2013 3:13 PM
Fashion maven Nina Garcia

Why 'Project Runway' judge feels at home in PH

MANILA, Philippines -- "Project Runway" judge Nina Garcia feels right at home in the Philippines, saying the tropical country reminds her of her beginnings in Colombia.

The 48-year-old fashion journalist, who is currently the creative director of fashion magazine "Marie Claire", on Friday attended the Jag Origins show at the Philippine Fashion Week as special guest.

"Thank you to the Philippines for giving me such a phenomenally warm welcome, and for making me feel so at home, so welcome, so embraced," Garcia told Kapamilya host Boy Abunda in a one-on-one interview on Friday.

Born and raised in Colombia, Garcia cited the similarities of her native country with the Philippines, "starting with both being Catholic countries, and the family I think is part of priority for both cultures."

"Also, the weather is very similar, the fruits, the warmth of the people, the climate, it's very similar to Colombia," she said.

In her interview with Abunda, Garcia also retraced her beginnings in the fashion industry. The author of 4 fashion-themed books also shared her philosophy about style, and talked about what it takes to make it big in her "cut-throat" industry.

Here are 30 questions for Nina Garcia, answered:

Let's start light. If style had a name, what is it?

Personal.

You're having dinner with Pope Francis. What are you wearing?

Black.

If fashion had a color, what is it?

I would say red.

If you meet the devil, what do you think he'd be wearing?

He's not wearing.

If you go to heaven, which designer would you bring along with you?

Alexander McQueen. Because what he did is so beautifully feminine. It was heavenly. When he went feminine, when he went soft, it was just ethereal.

Who is the sexiest man in the world?

My two children.

Lights on or lights off?

Lights on.

It's your last night on earth. Where are you and what are you wearing?

Haute couture, for sure. In Paris!

Dress you would never, ever wear?

Tight, shiny and short. Not happening.

Name one woman who can wear anything and look great.

Kate Moss.

New York or Colombia?

It's got to be both.

Black or white?

Black.

Are diamonds really a woman's best friend?

Absolutely.

Describe Nina Garcia's personal style in one word.

Streamlined.

How do you approach being a judge on 'Project Runway'?

It's tough, because you don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but at the same time you want to help them, and you want to be truthful and you want to be frank. But my biggest nightmare in being too frank is that I would ever disappoint anybody, or break anybody's spirit.

[I think about] how I can say it in a way that is not mean or offensive... While I don't want to break anybody's spirit, I don't want to waste anybody's time.

When I am sitting there with those designers, I am judging them with their peers, I am judging them with what I see in the market, with what I see as an editor.

In a country not as wealthy as the United States, how can you make fashion relevant?

I'm a big believer that fashion has no economic or geographic boundaries. Fashion is an expression of the culture, but it's also creativity. And now more than ever, with the power of social media, when you have something that is unique and is fabulous, it can become viral, it can become fashion.

What is the difference between fashion and style?

Fashion is an expression of a time, of a place, of history. It's putting things into context. Style is really very personal, it's kind of timeless. Style is really about how you put yourself together, it's something very personal. Fashion is just an interpretation of the culture around us.

If style is indeed personal, why are even talking about style?

Because it communicates. It does communicate, the way you put yourself together. It's almost like a language without words. It's the first thing you see, so it can communicate something. Style is a journal.

If you look back in history of the women who are most memorable and most stylish, they were never the followers of fashion, they were the ones who were unique in their style, breakers of the rules. They were authentic, genuine, original. They were not following the trends.

How has show business afftected style and vice versa?

Back in the '30s and '40s, the studio controlled the image of the actresses. There were no stylists then, but the studio controlled these women, the way they put themselves together, the way they spoke, the way they presented themselves. Now that's changed. Now it's the stylist who is controlling their image. The stylists are controlling what they wear. Do I agree with it? No. I wish I could see more of their personal style.

Do you agree that stylists have tempered the flamboyance in show business?

Yes. Nobody wants to be in the worst-dressed list. It's interesting because when the stylist get too flamboyant, or a star is too creative in their outfit, people get turned off, sometimes. Then there are artists like Lady Gaga. She owns that.

Now, it's show business and commerce. What you see on the red carpet is going to translate all over the world. It's a business, so it has been watered down, because at the end of the day, there is that "show business sells clothes."

Is there anything original in fashion today?

There is original interpretation (laughs). There's a few that are original, but there are original interpretations. It's very difficult to have an original creation. And I would venture to say that in the past maybe 30 years in design, there hasn't been so much originality. It's just an interpretation.

It will happen (originality). I don't feel so pessimistic about it. I think it's just the times that we have been living. It's been very comfortable, and there's so much money, but so much at stake, that if you take a chance, if you have something that doesn't make it, you have a lot to lose.

A quote in your book says, 'We are survivalists, we are nurturers, we are women.' Talk about it.

We are women, and I think that now more than ever, in the 21st century, we have the possibility to do so much. We can have families, we can have jobs, and we're very good at it. We can juggle so many things. We are survivalists because we keep the family, and that's where it all starts.

Trends: how should we view them as consumers?

Cautiously. I am not a proponent of being a fashion victim, and I think when we get too caught up in the trends, we fall into that category. I think we should use them sparingly. I think we should use them when they work for us. But I don't think we should use them just for the sake of using them.

How can we tell a good designer from a bad one?

A bad designer, in my opinion, does not have a point of view. When you see a designer, you should be able to tell, "That's so and so." A bad designer does not have a distinct point of view. I should be able to look at their collection and be like, "That is so and so." It should be authentic to them, it shouldn't be, "One day, I'm going to do this, and the next day, I'm doing to do that." It should be authentic, genuine, real, and should be able to communicate.

What is your single most important message on style to aspiring designers?

We go back to being personal, being original, being authentic. I often speak to many designers in Colombia and South America who are trying to break into the business, and they ask, "What is it that we have to do? What is it that will bring us that international attention?"

It is being genuine, being proud of your heritage, being proud of what you do, owning what you're good at, as opposed to trying to be somebody else, or trying to be something else. That's my most important message.

In every part, [this applies,] not only in design. When I get asked questions from students, like, "What were my challenges in the American market [as someone from Colombia]?" I really felt very proud to be Colombian. That, for me, was a source of strength. I didn't find it as a disadvantage. That gave me an advantage. It was my equity, and it was my point of distinction. I saw things from a different perspective than the Americans.

What did you learn from "Project Runway" that you didn't learn from magazines?

You know, the show is really a microcosm of what happens in the real world. It is that tough, it is that cut-throat. It's either you make it or you don't make it. It just gave me more empathy for the designers, for the designers who are the creators. It was more upfront. It's more condensed. It's more there. I see it.

Obviously, in my every-day work, I run across many designers, they are living in real life. But here I see it repeatedly, and I see it so closely. I have more empathy for them.

How do you survive being in a fiercely competitive field?

Focus. Determination. Passion for what I do. I am passionate about what I do, I've always been. I knew it from very early on. I think that what is most important is that I feel very grounded. My family keeps me very grounded. This is an industry that can seem very glamorous, that can be very alluring, can make you fly. My family is what keeps me grounded.

How do you handle praise and criticism? How do you handle people who dislike and people who like Nina Garcia?

I try not to listen to who does not like Nina Garcia, but actually, I like criticism. Criticism makes you grow. Criticism makes you think. It can't be all praise. I doubt praise. I question praise, I do question praise. I don't like to be praised all the time.

And may be that's why I'm such a frank judge, because I do like to hear -- play ping-pong -- to hear what is the criticism. It helps me. It helps me grow. If it all were praise, we would live in a bubble. And for a designer, it's very important to hear from their customer, they need to hear it.

Here is a woman styled by Nina Garcia. Describe how she looks.

High, comfortable heels. Probably wearing a jacket. Pants. White crisp shirt. A beautiful accessory. That's it. Very simple, streamlined. To the point. Strong.

Are you comfortable with fame?

I don't think of myself as being famous. I just do my job. I like to do my job. I'm passionate with what I do. I stepped into the TV thing by accident. It's been wonderful. It's a wonderful program. But I still love what I do. I love the magazine world, I love the business.