“We wanted to do a board-game runway but we couldn’t afford it,” Laura Kim said backstage at the Monse show she and Fernando Garcia showed Friday afternoon. Instead, the designers worked an existing artifact to impressive effect, their models strolling around and through the formidable yet fanciful sculpture, Jean Dubuffet’s Group of Four Trees, installed on the courtyard at 28 Liberty Street.
That less-is-more approach proved exactly that — more — while indicating the pragmatism Kim and Garcia have imposed upon themselves without hindering their creative output. Example B: staging a full-on show for resort. During an Oscar de la Renta resort appointment earlier in the week, Kim said that, several seasons into their double-duty at De la Renta and Monse, they’ve realized that producing two shows in one season “is too much for us.” At the same time, their resort Monse business is significantly larger than spring, so the choice to put Monse on the runway for resort seemed like a no-brainer.
As for the fanciful runway that wasn’t, the collection’s stated inspiration was the 2017 book “Georgian and Victorian Board Games: The Liman Collection.” Kim and Garcia took from it a range of visual imagery, mostly numbers and playing-piece objects — dice, hearts, chess pawns — that they re-imagined as prints as well as charms that punctuated looks, for example, a three-D hand clasping the shoulder seam of a gown; a sheer tattoo-motif T worn with a bustier and trousers. As many of the illustrated games had military components, there were also flourishes such as chain fringing and epaulets.
Yet the designers employed the ruse judiciously, not as the main event but as a fresh seasonal jolt to their signature deconstructed tailoring. Several unisex looks were shown on men; the brand has a nascent men’s business, mostly in Asia. As usual, there was a lot going on in terms of silhouette; Garcia and Kim spliced, diced, twisted, turned and mixed fabrics liberally. But they’ve mastered the concept so that an officer’s coat in khaki and black, buttoned on one side and slit past the waist on the other, projected an attitude of polished ease. So, too, a shirt-and-skirt look in white with black outlines, the skirt made to mimic the top of a man’s trouser, but worn upside down. The collection also beautifully integrated the tailored pieces with fluidity as often, jackets and coats topped loose trousers or looser pajama pants. The intricacy of silhouette took a turn for evening in alluring, asymmetrically draped dresses. It all added up to a winning game of chic.