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Monika Chiang Headshot

My Fashion Week Family

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As I prepare for my fall/winter 2013 Fashion Week presentation this Friday, I've been thinking a lot about how many months in advance we start working (six) and how many people are involved behind the scenes (too many to count) to produce a one hour presentation of the collection to editors and buyers.

But I'm mostly thinking about how lucky I feel to be surrounded by so much talent. Truthfully, the hardest part about fashion is not the vision or one great idea, but the execution of each aspect. That's where I am so lucky. Not only do I have my own amazing in-house team working to bring it all to life, but twice a year I get to assemble a group of experts to bring my vision to life.

I love that saying, "If you're the most talented person in the room, you're probably in the wrong room." I think there are those individuals who are intimidated by really smart, talented people. But for me surrounding yourself with great talent is the key to success.

So each season, we come back together with some of the people we have built relationships with and bring in a few new ones that help us take things to that next level. They become my adopted "fashion" family for a few weeks and during that time I see them more than I do my own family.

One of my favorite people to work with each season is our model casting director Julia Samersova of Cast Inc. NYC. You may know her from her TV show Scouted on the E! network.

Casting is actually a much more difficult process than you might expect and we see hundreds of girls just to find the 16 we need for the presentation. I can tell Julia what I'm looking for and she get's it. But she also has very strong opinions and challenges me if she thinks I'm overlooking a girl. I still second-guess her all the time, but ultimately I rely on her vision.

She is also such a mom. When she heard I was feeling a bit unwell, she brought all kinds of tea, lemons, honey, Echinacea and Thieves Oil (which I had never heard about before -- but highly recommend) to our casting session. She's a really nurturing person and I love that.

This will be our third season working with Lancôme. As a little girl, I used to look at their ads and just dream about being able to be a part of that world, so it's such an honor to be able to work with them. Their team is amazing and they get so excited about my collection. This season they have given us three of their top makeup artists to lead the beauty team, Darais, Tarek Abbas and Alex Sanchez.

They will have their hands full, because although I usually gravitate towards a very effortless look that I call "enhanced natural," this season I decided I wanted to go edgier. I won't lie, I am a bit nervous. But I'm stepping out of my comfort zone, and even if it's the wrong decision I want to push myself to take the risk.

The hair will also be a bit edgier than what we've done before. I enlisted the help of Patrick Melville to create the look. Patrick and I met at a photo shoot last year and we instantly hit it off. Truthfully, I'm normally very picky about who does my hair. In fact, I usually prefer to do it myself. I like it to look natural, but maybe a bit more enhanced and glamorous. Are you sensing a theme yet?

Well, Patrick was one of the first hairstylists I met that gave me exactly what I wanted. Which makes sense since he does the same for Halle Berry, Heidi Klum and a host of other amazing ladies.

I started out wanting something quite simple for the hair, but it quickly began to evolve into something a bit more involved. Then one evening I was in that sort of half-asleep state and I had this really clear vision of something a little more out there. I mentioned it to Patrick the next day and he was able to create the look just as I had imagined it.

The second newcomer to my Fashion Week family is Zanna Roberts Rassi. Zanna is the senior fashion editor at Marie Claire and one of those women street style photographers continually gravitate to and chronicle her looks. She's been on my radar for some time. I relate to her chic sensibility, unexpected pairings and the slight tomboy vibe.

You hear all these horror stories about working with a big stylist and how they were a complete diva and I'd like to tell you Zanna was a total diva (only because you're probably sick of hearing me say how nice everyone is!). But she is the exact opposite. She's incredibly focused and hard working. She was down on her hands and knees doing everything herself, but she also made the whole process completely collaborative. What's coolest about Zanna is how down to earth and humble she is -- but maybe that's the measure of true talent.

Another really talented collaborator I enjoyed working with is Meredith Kahn. Meredith is the designer behind the jewelry lines Made Her Think and Meredith Kahn Fine Jewelry. We were introduced last season by a mutual friend and just really hit it off.

Even though I design my own jewelry, one of the great things about my job is being able to bring in really talented collaborators. Meredith's own collections have such a great rock-n-roll spirit, so I wanted to see what we could come up with together. I knew she would bring a cool and edgy energy to the project.

We showed a few of the pieces from the collaboration at our spring presentation, and this season we are showing an ornamental collar that we had developed together. We didn't get a chance to show it last season and I think it works really well with all the other jewelry we developed for this collection. It brings in a touch of drama.

I could go on and on, but I have realized something as I've been writing this post. The key to creating a great presentation and executing my vision fully is really in finding people who are not only incredibly talented, but also fun to be around. I read somewhere recently that you shouldn't work with anyone that wouldn't be good company at dinner. I think it's good advice and certainly true in my case. Now I just have to find time to schedule dinner!

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