This profile is part of our series “Quiénes Somos,” which focuses on nine amazing and original creators in the Latinx community. You can read more by visiting our Latinx Heritage Month homepage.
For many interested in the fashion industry, going to design school might be the obvious choice. But for Fernando J. Garcia, the Latinx designer behind some of Oscar de La Renta’s most sought-after pieces, it was different. The 33-year-old Dominican designer studied architecture at the University of Notre Dame, and has risen through the ranks at the prestigious fashion house to become the brand’s co-creative director.
Garcia’s appreciation for fashion started at an early age when he started sketching designs on napkins. He landed an internship with Oscar De La Renta, which eventually led to his role as principal designer.
Garcia spoke to HuffPost about how the Latinx culture inspires him, missing the sweet taste of home, and what it’s like being one of the few Latinx people at the top of the fashion industry. The brand that has dressed European royalty and America’s first ladies continues to dominate with iconic outfits like Garcia’s feather gown from the 2019 collection.
When did you first start creating, and what was your inspiration then? What inspires you now?
I began creating when I began drawing a woman’s body at a very early age. Eventually I stumbled upon the red carpets and the connection one would have through a brand and an actor with what they were wearing. … So I began learning about each one’s perspectives and understanding of what a woman should wear, who inspires them and who ultimately inspires me.
You mention at an early age that you began drawing a woman’s body. Was this the female figure in general? What were some of the things you realized at that point?
Yes, this was the woman in general; her proportions, her body types and eventually her aspirations and desires.
How does your identity tie into your work? What does it mean for you to be Latinx in this industry?
As a Latin person, I recognize the power of color and the simplicity of the shape. Being surrounded by this my whole life has allowed me to tackle these subjects head-on and learn about it more this way.
When you say “being surrounded by this,” can you elaborate on what you are referring to?
Seeing it on a daily basis, there is an irreverence when it comes to the use of color in Latin countries, something I have come to realize is particular to us … maybe like cowboys may be unique to America.
Fernando working on the Oscar De La Renta Bridal Collection
What is the biggest challenge you face in your career?
I wish I was better at saying “no.” I believe the focus on your craft is a true sign of success, and I will keep chipping at it.
Do you have favorites among your creations? If you were to pick one piece to stand for your career, what would it be?
I believe my first proud moment was when I helped Oscar develop the fall 2012 jewel print. Where I felt valued for the first time as a valuable member of the team/family/company. After this our first collection as creative directors was special along with the feather gown from Spring 2019…
Is there a person you dream of working with or designing for?
Princess Diana has been my “ultimate” since I was a boy. Meghan Markle has become a fierce supporter, and meeting Harry was also a highlight.
Princess Diana was truly a fashion icon. What did you like about her style the most?
Her confidence in her choices, they were not subdued by any means at times.
What is something that quarantine has allowed you to work on that you otherwise may have not had time for? Do you have any other passion projects?
I personally love to run; I believe I’m getting a stride close to college back … just not there yet.
How do you feel your work influences the community? Are there other ways you are advocating for the Latinx Community?
I try to participate in as many Latin events, specifically in the Dominican Republic. I wish I had a voice talking to me from my community as I was growing up, so I am trying to be that voice.
As a fellow Dominican myself, I would love to hear more about what brings you back. What are some of the initiatives you are close to? What is something you would have liked to hear growing up?
I would have liked to hear someone tell a Dominican boy that if you happen to have a dream that hasn’t much support in the island: Find it, search all over the world for that person who can teach you the things you’re afraid of learning there.
Fernando, would you mind sharing a fond memory growing up? Something perhaps memorable about growing up in a Dominican home.
I miss my guayaba treats, the ones the schoolyard street vendor would slip through the gates of the school to all us sweet-toothed Dominicans. That was the flavor of my childhood … and I miss it.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.