As one of the fashion industry's most powerful editors, Nina Garcia and her staff at Elle magazine influence how and where America's women shop, what they wear, and what retailers will feature in their stores. When she's not working her day job as Elle's fashion director, Ms. Garcia holds court as one of the judges for the Emmy-nominated reality series "Project Runway." Born in Colombia, Ms. Garcia, is also working on a women's fashion guide book for Harper Collins. She has been Elle's fashion director since 2000.
>> Your personal view is inevitably transferred to your work. What or who has been your biggest influence?
My biggest influence was my mother and again growing up in that South American culture. Latin American women really put a lot of effort into the way they look. It's a cultural thing. It's also like European women, it's a thing of tradition.
>> How have Hispanic women influenced fashion and what we see in the pages of Elle magazine?
Every time we've had a Latin on our cover it's been an enormously successful cover. Shakira was enormous. Jennifer Lopez and Eva Mendes, huge. There has not been one Latin that we've had that has not been an enormous success on the cover; the demographics are there. Latin women spend a lot of money in beauty and they spend a lot of money in fashion. It's in our culture.
>> Why have high-end designers decided that it's OK to design clothing for mainstream retailers?
They're being very clever. They're extending their brand. It's like Karl [Lagerfeld] designing for H&M – that was brilliant. Now everybody knows who Karl is. He's not just the designer of a luxury brand like Chanel. He can also design for H&M. The response is incredible and I think it's fantastic that everyone can have an understanding of fashion and have a piece of fashion. It's not like it was before when it was just for the people who shop at Gucci and Prada. Everybody has a part of it.
>> How has fashion changed since you started out nearly 20 years ago?
American women have finally become more secure. Now it's about personal style. They understand fashion more because we have the Internet. They can see a show within minutes of having happened in Milan.
>> Do fashion trends typically start at the top of the fashion food chain and then trickle down?
Very much. You see something on the runway and then it trickles down and starts a humongous trend. But the opposite can happen as well, where you have the cargo pants that some stylist saw in the West Village and puts them in the magazine, and all of a sudden the luxury brands are like, "What, cargo pants? We need to make them and they have to be $300."
>> Is someone born with style or can style be created?
There are very few people born being very stylish. The truly stylish women have had no rules, they've made their own rules. They're not victims to trends. If those long jeans don't look good on you, don't buy them. Buy what looks good on you. It's about not being that fashion victim, you're going to be a fashion diva. It all connects back to that personal style.
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