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Nina Garcia in Manila: 10 Things We Learned

The Project Runway judge and Marie Claire Creative Director talks about bloggers, beauty, and why she thinks Pinoys can make it in the global fashion industry.

Denim brand Jag Jeans brought in Nina Garcia, Project Runway judge and Marie Claire Creative Director, for its Philippine Fashion Week 2013 show on May 24. To cap off the night, TV host Boy Abunda interviewed the Colombian fashion journalist onstage, who charmed everyone with her warmth and words of wisdom. Here, the highlights of their conversation—and the priceless things we learned:  

On having one big dream
"I grew up knowing that [being in fashion] was the dream. That time, we didn't have so many resources. We didn't know so much about fashion. We had two publications that I read vigorously. The idea of fashion for me was all about designing. I didn't know that it can be such a broad thing. There are so many parts of this business that are fashion-related, and you don't necessarily need to be a designer to do that."

On life after college
"Once you graduate, do an internship. Try it out! You have to experiment and see what you like. This is a phenomenal way to network, and also to figure out what you want to do."

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On starting out and making connections
"I was very lucky that I was able to go to America to study. I just graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology. I found various internships in different fields. One of those happened to be with Marc Jacobs when he was designing for Perry Ellis. I wasn't even the assistant! I was the intern in the closet who checked garment bags.

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"People ask me if there was something I didn't like about that. There was nothing I didn't like! I just wanted to breathe the air of fashion. There was no other choice for me."

Her advice for young fashion designers
"You have to have the passion, the drive, and the desire to be in the business. I also think it's very important that you know a lot about culture, to know a lot about the arts, to know about some of the business [behind fashion]. Because you will, as a designer, sooner or later be faced with the reality that it's not only art that you create, but there's also commerce."

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On discovering new talent
"[If you want to make it in the business,] you call. You send me your lookbook. You find out what the email address is. You look in the magazine, you look at the masthead. Who are the market editors? You send them a letter. You send them an email. You follow up with the call. You will get someone to look at your designs, I promise. Because you know what? Here's the job of an editor: The job of an editor is to find new talent. We're always looking for new faces. It gives us pleasure when we find one thing we haven't seen which is going to move us."

On famous designers she's "discovered"
"I remember when John Galliano and Alexander McQueen first started showing. Alexander had a very small apartment in Pigalle. All the editors went to his apartment and saw five to six pieces. They were extraordinary. And I remember saying, "Wow! He's going to be amazing. I also remember reading Zac Posen's lookbook. He was so young. He showed us four to five pieces on a mannequin in his mother's home. That's where we first saw him."

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On fashion being shallow
"People think fashion is [just about the] surface. It's not. It's a serious business.  It's a billion-dollar business that gives jobs to many, many people. It's a very important industry in our country."

On Project Runway
"When I first got approached to do the show, I was an editor at Elle, and I was skeptical. The producers walked in my office saying, 'Oh, we have an idea for this show. It's about fashion. And it's about a competition.' And I'm like, 'Who's really going to care?'

"But I was so wrong. It was the perfect story. People wanted to know what it was like to work in a business that was so protected, and so mysterious for so long. All for a sudden fashion was open. The show has created an interest in fashion. Parsons tripled the students that have been applying for fashion design.

On bloggers vs. editors
"I like the bloggers. They give editors a little run for their money. But as editors, we offer a different kind of service. When I put together a magazine, I am putting together a magazine for different women for many different ages that have very different needs. The bloggers have a very personal point of view. Most of them are centered on themselves. I love them as competition! It's fascinating."

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On Pinoys going global
"You can make it!  I think you alrady have so much talent that has been able to make it in the global industry. You have Josie Natori, Monique Lhullier, Celestina. You have the talent and you have the know-how. I think it's taking it step-by-step. I think one of the biggest mistakes designers make is that they want to do things so quickly. They want their own fashion show, they want to go to New York Fashion Week. No, it's step by step. The slower you go up, the better it is. The faster you go up, the faster you go down."