Nina Garcia

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I’m from a city called Barranquilla on the northwestern tip of Colombia, about an hour away from Cartagena. It’s by the beach—very hot, very humid, and it was really great growing up there. Though at the time, the drug boom was happening in Colombia. Everybody was getting into the business; it was chaos. My parents felt that it was not a safe place, so they sent me to boarding school when I was 15 to get away, which is how I ended up in the States.

I went to Dana Hall, a girls’ school in Wellesley, Massachusetts. That was culture shock! [Laughs] It was very preppy, and I was very…Colombian. Latin girls are a little more grown up when they’re teenagers, while everyone at school was very tomboyish. For me it was not about playing lacrosse—I didn’t get it. I loved fashion, and even back then I kind of knew that that was what I wanted to do. But I didn’t know what it really meant to work in fashion, and I had a glamorized vision of what this industry was. I thought to be in fashion meant to be a fashion designer, which is not the case—it took me years to figure that out. I had an 'aha moment' when I realized, OK yes, I can design, but I’m not a great designer; I wanted to be a designer, but in comparison to the people I was in school with at FIT, I never really felt that I had ‘it.’ I did an internship with Marc Jacobs back when he was doing the grunge collection for Perry Ellis. Funny enough, some of the people that he had then are still with him today. Isn’t that incredible? Anyway, so I was doing an internship there and I remember greeting the editors and taking their coffee orders and thinking, ‘Oh my God, how phenomenal is their job!?’ I think that’s what got me interested in publishing.

So I did some networking and applied for an assistant position with Leslie Johnson at Mirabella. I stayed at Mirabella for probably three years and then it went out of business and I moved to Elle. And it’s just been magazines ever since. I love the newness of working in magazines, being able to appreciate the beauty of what these designers do—they put their life and all their energy into what they create, and it's always very interesting to see. I also like the curating part of it. I like the fact that I can, through the magazine, speak to a woman who might not know what to do or what to buy—you know, there’s a lot out there to take in. And now more than ever there’s so much information, it needs to be narrowed down. I love doing that.

Project Runway

I was very skeptical about doing TV at first. There are people who really want to be the center of attention, and want to be on TV…I’m the opposite of that. I was the fashion director at Elle when the [Project Runway] producers came to the magazine, and very reticent. I just spoke my mind, I was like, ‘No, I think it’s a bad idea, I’m not interested.’ I felt that doing the show might take away my credibility. Back then—this was nine years ago—fashion was so closed and so cliquey. I really did think that it was going to be a joke—TV has a very cheesy element. But the more I said 'no,' I think the more they wanted me to do it, because I was very forthright, very honest. Then I heard Michael [Kors] was doing it, but at that point it was still just an idea—a fashion show on TV. I thought it was a bad idea! I didn’t think anybody would watch that. Little did I know… [Laughs] And I got a lot of pressure from the magazine. They were like, ‘Do it, do it, do it!’ But, see, the other thing was that at that time, my mother was dying of cancer and I was flying to Colombia a lot to be with her. So the producers said, ‘Listen, you’ll split the time with somebody else [from Elle] so you can make it work.’ So I said, ‘OK, fine.’

Thinking back on it, it was so crazy because we didn’t know what we were doing! There was nothing to model ourselves after. But when the first season aired, it was huge. It was amazing to be in the middle of that. Once I was in that judging seat and I felt semi-comfortable being in front of the camera, all of a sudden I was like, ‘Oh yeah, of course I can do this.’ Now I love doing it because, again, it’s seeing talent, seeing the process of how you make something out of nothing. I mean, it is kind of fascinating to see a designer take a piece of fabric and just transform it into a garment. And people in the industry, after that first episode, were obsessed. Steven Meisel, Anna Sui… I mean people were obsessed. Everybody had an opinion because everybody could relate, and it was almost like a microcosm of what’s happening in the industry. This was the first peeling back of what really goes on in that creative process. It was great.

It took a little while for me to get used to becoming a very public person. That had its good things and its bad things. The good things are that yes, it gave me the opportunity to do a lot of things I never thought I would do. For instance, I don’t think I would have thought about writing a book had I not had that opportunity with TV. But it also created a lot of tension internally at the magazine at the time because people didn’t know how to handle everything. There were a lot of conflicting feelings, and that was difficult.

Now, my life is very busy and very complicated. I have two kids on top of work at Marie Claire and all these other side projects, so while I love fashion and love experimenting, I keep things very pared down when it comes to my personal style. I need to get out of the house quickly in something that works and that I can be comfortable in all day. So that means very streamlined and tailored—that’s what works for my body. I’m small—5’4”—so I can’t wear too many layers, that kind of swallows me. The same goes for beauty...

Skincare

I have what works for me and that’s kind of what I stick to. For skincare, I love creams. I love creams. [Laughs] I like creams because I’ve always had issues with my skin being very dry, and I have eczema. I don’t know, maybe I’m at the age when I like to be moisturized. I’ll use the Chanel Sublimage, which I love. I get the little weekend ones that I travel with—Le Jour, La Nuit, and Le Weekend serums. I’m obsessed with Dr. Brandt Detoxagen Experience Oxygenating facial, because I love oxygen facials. You know when you have a facial and you get that oxygen mist? That’s my favorite. You cleanse your face and put this on, not with a machine obviously, but it creates these little oxygen bubbles. You leave it on for 5-to-10 minutes and then you do the cream. And it feels like you had that oxygen facial. The Chanel Sublimage is my favorite mask. I’m very dry, so I’ll wear that in winter all day without washing it off. After taping the show, I love the Shu Uemura Skin Purifier High Performance Balancing Cleansing Oil for removing my makeup—it’s the only thing that gets it all off. I use lots of creams and oils for the body, too. Caudalie Divine Oil is amazing. I love Divine Legs, too, because it makes you look more tan. I like being tan, but I don’t take as much sun anymore because it’s just so damaging. I feel like I’ve already done the damage and now I want to stop. For a body cream, I like Avene Akerat Body Cream. It’s very thick, and borderline medical-grade. My top traits I look for in a cream are that it has to be scentless and moisturizing, but not oily. Especially for the body creams, they always have a scent. Which means you have to be in a scent all day that you don’t really like! I also like Sanitas Milk and Honey Body Butter and Lemon Cream Scrub; it’s great. Especially in the winter, I love a good scrub.

Hair

So I have two obsessions—creams and hair. I’ve always loved my hair. I like the Oribe products because the packaging is beautiful—it can live here on my counter and be fine. I use Oribe Anti-Humidity Spray, that one is good. And you know when your shampoo stops working? I like to sub in the Cleansing Oil Shampoo once a month and it brings it back to life, because my hair can get really flat or frizzy. The one product that I love the most, though, is the Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray—this is my obsession, I have so much of this stuff. It's for when your hair is too clean and it doesn’t really hold a style; it gives your hair texture and makes it look less 'new.' I feel like my hair is the best when it’s, like, two days in from washing. When it’s too clean, it’s too bouncy, too many flyaways. The best gift someone could give me is basically a blow dryer—any tool, I love them. I went to London recently and my friend gave me this GHD Straightening Iron. I love it because I feel like it doesn’t damage my hair like other flat irons. I don’t really straighten my hair that much, but in the summer I sometimes need it. What else? I get my hair colored by Reyad at Fekkai. It’s pretty consistent, but sometimes I will go a little blonder for filming because it translates better to camera with the lights. In the summer when I’m filming, my hair is a lot blonder and the highlights are a little more noticeable and jarring, but on camera, it looks great.

Makeup

I also have very big lips, so lipstick on me is very strong. I prefer a minimal lip, and for that I’ll use the Clinique Chubbies. They’re the best—just a little bit of color, but it’s also very natural and I can combine them—I have Bountiful Blush and Graped Up. If I need it to stay longer, I’ll use La Prarie Luxe Lipliner in Nude. Otherwise, right now I’m loving the Bronzing Powder from Tom Ford. And I’ll do a little Tom Ford Love Lust Blush and the Shade & Illuminate Palette. I don’t know how to do it well, but I try. I just wear mascara and a little bit of MAC Blacktrack Fluidline Eyeliner and smudge it. I wear very little makeup. I think the more I wear, the harsher and older I look. Sometimes I’ll wear Lancôme Teint Miracle Foundation because it doesn’t feel dry. It’s either that or Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Almond. Tinted moisturizer is great because it doesn’t feel like foundation and doesn’t look cake-y, and it still allows my skin to look natural. For lip balm, I use La Mer The Lip Balm. And I’m obsessed with La Prairie Anti-Aging Eye and Lip Perfection. These travel with me. Also, for Europe, where they don’t have hand sanitizer everywhere like over here, I take Jao Hand Sanitizer. It smells like a spa—very refreshing, it doesn’t smell like alcohol at all.

Fragrance

Fragrance-wise, I am very sensitive to smells, so when something becomes too flower-y, I can’t stand it. I like masculine, woodsy scents when it comes to perfume. I wear Tom Ford Oud Wood. And for home, I like the Aedes de Venustas Candle at my vanity—that’s my area. I feel like my bathroom space is too democratic— everyone in the family will go in there. But I can lock myself in my vanity space and be naked or whatever I want! [Laughs] It’s where I’ll write checks, make notes, or look at my iPad… I really don’t consider myself glamorous—‘glamour’ implies high-maintenance. If I can just live with my bronzer, a little moisturizer, and maybe a little mascara, that’s it, I’m happy. I barely even pluck my eyebrows! [Laughs]

Nina Garcia photographed by Emily Weiss on January 29, 2014 in New York.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Christina

    From the bits and pieces shown her home looks absolutely stunning.

  • Grace

    Love

  • emiller1233

    HER TOP IS AMAZING!
    ErinElizabeth

  • Tessa85

    I love Nina, she always looks so glamourous.

  • Yesenia

    YES a Latina!!!! Love Nina Garcia

  • joannanyc

    I would! Wouldn't you? Although in her case she might have the housekeeper to it.

  • http://theconsciencefund.com/ Divya

    This is like the quintessential amazing Top-Shelf we are used to! Look at all the Chanel! Loved it! :-)

  • Helena

    AAAAAH. Love Nina, love her home and her minimalist style. She and Sofia Coppola are IT for me.

  • Alice

    Ok, so this is probably an amateur hour type question but I've read a lot on ITG about people needing to alternate shampoos once in a while because theirs "stops working." Is this real? Or is it more of a placebo? I've never noticed the impact of "shampoo ennui" on my hair but maybe I'm not paying enough attention...does anyone have any idea?

    Lovely Top Shelf btw. If switching shampoos can get me hair like hers I'll try it...

    • http://www.dishguts.com/ Meg White

      This is purely anecdotal, I use Pureology's Moisture line most of the time I wash my hair, followed by Redken's Anti-Snap plus frequent use of dry shampoo and texturizing spray. Once a month or so I'll use Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle shampoo, which definitely acts like a clarifying shampoo on my hair and there's a noticable difference in how my hair looks (too clean for my tastes) and feels (lighter, for sure.)

  • http://www.clevergirlreviews.com/ Clever Girl Reviews

    You can always count on Nina for a killer Peplum top. I constantly think about trying the Orbie line. I guess if it's good enough for Nina it should be good enough for me! I saw a bottle of something from Tata Harper squirreled away in there. I wonder what it is.

  • softy

    that bathroom corridor though.

  • bluesky557

    Oh, I love Nina Garcia. She and Michael Kors are what make watching Project Runway worth it. (Well, and Tim Gunn.) It was great to see her here! As someone who also has 2 kids, I appreciate her need to get ready quickly!

  • http://blogaboutdesign.com/ B.A.D Blog About Design

    I love Nina's style too. It's both simple and stylish.

  • carmen

    best top shelf ever! thank you itg

  • Lili

    Lovely! I like how there is such a mix of cultures, ages and styles in the top shelf's. It helps that Nina is a busy mum, like me. And I adore peplum tops!

  • Lili

    Can we please (pretty please) see a topshelf of one of my favorite models Oluchi Orlandi? :) :)

  • Victoria

    jaysus it must be nice to be rich. i want her everything.

    • lucinda veen

      Haha, I think that's why many of us read Into the Gloss.

  • Farah Haque

    Soo, she doesn't like fragrances that are too flowery, yet she has Fracas by Robert Piguet??

  • unvanquished

    her home is beautiful

  • Geraldine
  • Janine

    I love Nina. She seems like a normal person, and I've always thought that from just seeing her on PR. She's so put together but doesn't appear to spend all kinds of time on herself. I could live in that bathroom, though. Nothing like a cream bathroom. I don't get the impression she lives in a palace, though, like everyone says. Her house looks nice/modest. Thanks, ITG!

  • Accademia di Moda

    Nina has such an effortlessly chic style that we are so envious of! She looks amazing in practically everything she wears and her combinations are elegant and sophisticated! Go Nina!

  • zincink

    Who did the painting in the background? Love the mirrored side shelving and the article. Thanks for sharing this fashion wisdom!

  • Sara

    This is what's stopping me from doing the #ITGTopShelfie thing haha, everything is a mess in my bathroom.

  • xenia

    It seems like she went for a good shop before the interview. Everything is new... I prefer it when top shelfies are spontaneous

  • Lani

    could you guys please interview Julie Andrews?????

  • Luiza

    Feels very chic to see some of the same products you use at nina's cabinet ;) but hers is organised by brand, size AND colour!!!

  • http://psimfromthemidwest.blogspot.com/ Hollyn Baron

    I saw her at a restaurant once (Rosa Mexicano on the UWS) and she looked so beautiful and glamorous. She looked much younger than she does on television and I loved that she was all dressed up to drink margaritas.

PRODUCTS MENTIONED

CHANEL
Chanel Sublimage Cream
CHANEL
Chanel Le Jour, La Nuit, and Le Weekend Serums
Dr. Brandt Skincare
Dr. Brandt Detoxagen Experience Oxygenating Facial
CHANEL
Chanel Precision Sublimage Essential Regenerating Mask
Shu Uemura
Shu Uemura Skin Purifier High Performance Balancing Cleansing Oil
Caudalie
Caudalie Divine Oil
Caudalie
Caudalie Divine Legs Tinted Lotion
Avene
Avene Akerat Smoothing Exfoliating Cream
Sanitas Skincare
Sanitas Milk and Honey Body Butter
Sanitas Skincare
Sanitas Lemon Cream Scrub
Oribe
Oribe Impermeable Anti-Humidity Spray
Shu Uemura
Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Shampoo
Oribe
Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray
ghd
GHD Classic Styler Ceramic Hair Straightener
Clinique
Clinique Chubby Stick
La Prairie
La Prarie Luxe Lip Liner Automatique
Tom Ford Beauty
Tom Ford Beauty Bronzing Powder
Tom Ford
Tom Ford Cheek Color Blush
Tom Ford
Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Palette
MAC
MAC Fluidline
Lancôme
Lancome Teint Miracle Foundation
Laura Mercier
Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20
Crème de la Mer
La Mer The Lip Balm
La Prairie
La Prairie Anti-Aging Eye & Lip Perfection
Madewell
Jao Hand Refresher
Tom Ford
Tom Ford Oud Wood Eau de Parfum
Aedes de Venustas
Aedes de Venustas Candle Phoenecis
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