When Ji Oh debuted her eponymous womenwear line at New York Fashion Week in 2014, her fall collection landed on the cover of WWD the following day and Barneys New York placed an order. “It was very memorable and rewarding,” she says. “And I felt like, ‘Okay, now I can do this.'” Oh’s checklist of achievements as a young designer on the rise only continued, and 2016 has proven to be a breakout year. Not only did she earn a sponsorship to show during Made Fashion Week in February, but the CFDA also selected Oh as a member of the CFDA Fashion Incubator Class of 2018, and she was named a finalist in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition.
But Oh’s success stems more from her determination to do well than simply sheer luck. Her career in fashion design has been a series of transitions: Born in South Korea and raised by two fashion-savvy parents, Oh’s interest in art and design led her to London where she enrolled in the prestigious Central Saint Martins at the age of 19. Feeling like she wasn’t fitting in with the school’s curriculum, she moved to New York City in 2005, transferring to Parsons to continue her studies. Upon graduation, she didn’t start her career in a studio, but assisted a number of stylists instead. In 2010, she finally decided to launch a clothing line called Shadow Connected. The label had a stylish and sporty vibe for a younger contemporary customer, but it didn’t exactly align with Oh’s true design ethos, so she scrapped the business and launched her high-end namesake brand.
“It was more like giving myself one more chance. I really wanted to succeed with this line because you can’t just keep on trying things forever,” she says. Maintaining the brand’s pure identity has been the main focus, and according to Oh, it makes her work much more interesting. “With my previous line, I was young, too. It was more of a trial moment and I would never treat this label that way. It’s really fun to try hard and then see the results.” And what she describes her brand to be — minimal yet provocative everyday clothes; a “strong element in pretty normal basics” — is successfully hitting a chord within the industry.
Oh’s offerings currently sit on the luxury floor of Barneys (as well as Harvey Nichols and The Webster) and range in price from $280 to $2,000. The pieces are produced in New York City and made from locally sourced leathers and faux furs, silks from China and wools from Italy. Some standouts from her fall collection include extra-large and long knits, workwear-inspired coats, and unexpected details like bright-yellow accents and faux-fur panels and pockets. Her most recent resort collection includes oversized and slouchy silhouettes made from soft and sheer fabrics, as well as multiple interpretations of the classic white collared shirt.
Oh’s trajectory continues with the next milestone of launching e-commercethis Friday, July 29. Her website is designed for both mobile and desktop shoppers, showcasing fall 2016 pieces against artistic backgrounds or collages that have inspired Oh throughout her creative process. Come September, she’ll be presenting her spring 2017 collection. “I’m trying to keep it very white with a lot of trims. A lot cleaner than ever and more crisp.” As for a few down-the-road goals, she hopes to see her pieces at more retailers like Totokaelo in the U.S. or Le Bon Marché in Paris. Plus, the idea of menswear and loungewear strike Oh’s interests more so than expanding into accessories.
What’s most important to Oh right now, however, is the CFDA/VogueFashion Fund, which will be announced in November. “That’s all I can think about,” she admits. Just last week, as a part of the Fashion Fund’s series of challenges, Oh presented to a panel and spoke about herself and her eponymous line. Her obligations with the CFDA, along with planning for New York Fashion Week and applying for more sponsorships – critical and valuable opportunities for a young designer like Oh — is no doubt demanding, but she’s confidently managing it all in stride. “I’m very busy but I expected this,” she says. “I’m ready to handle everything.”