Get to Know Your Local Designer: A.Oei Studio
FALL’18 Interview by David Wall from Urban Analog
Thank you so much for having me back to talk about your next season. It’s been a long time since we talked about your line.
Yes, of course...it’s been about 6 months
I know we have run into each other at trunk shows and runway events etc - but I have to say I am really honored to be invited back to your studio to see your Fall lineup - What is your inspiration for fall?
My fall lineup for 2018 is called Hybrids. It is inspired by hybrid flowers - a dynamic world of cross-pollination and fantastical floral species.
That’s really cool…
I wanted to create my own floral species with vibrant colors (turquoise, gold, & burgundy) set off against a darker background. It’s a very bright and heavy print, so it needs that space of neutral color to calm it down.
Essentially I wanted to create a really optimistic Fall collection that still has that darker, sort of romantic yet surreal feeling.
I really like the contrast of the darker panel with the strong colors. I find your theme really inspiring. Tell me how you came up with hybrids as a theme?
I had been reading about hybrid animals and how animals of different species cross-breed to adapt to changes in the environment. Initially, I wanted to capture that idea into a print but an animal print can sometimes be very tricky, especially in relation to my brand which is much more subtle. An interview and photoshoot of Bjork where she is surrounded by and dressed in otherworldly plants and flowers gave me further ideas about how to develop the concept, color palette, and print.
Björk for Dazed’s autumn 2017 issue Photography Jesse Kanda
Of course it is [both laughing]
Yeah, it’s really great! She has these strange flowers growing out of her, almost like a new vision of utopia. At the same, my fabric supplier had sent me this beautiful turquoise fabric that I wanted to work with. So this rich color palette started to really inspire me.
The patterns and designs you created for this fall line-up are you doing any outerwear?
Yes, for instance, I have a jacket that I call the Obi wool jacket.
I love that it has no collar and drapes like a scarf over the shoulder.
Exactly, it’s cosy and oversized with a closure that’s inspired by a Japanese-style obi sash..
It also feels amazing. This brings me to ask when your fall line officially came out?
Late August - Early September...the line has been delivered to most stores.
How do you approach new stores about carrying your product line?
I create “look books”. These are books that feature my collection. I send copies to stores that I would like to stock at. If the store is interested, we set an appointment where I show the samples in person. The stores reviews the items and hopefully sends me an order.
Sometimes, a few designs won’t be chosen at all and I will drop them from production. I can usually tell what is going to be popular and will adjust my collection accordingly by creating larger orders of what I think will be best sellers.
What do you do with the less popular items?
Some of them I keep as reference styles. Most of them I will sell off as samples. Sometimes I like to get experimental with the samples. There is almost always at least one customer that wants something that is a little more special.
I also look at why a particular item wasn't sold. It might have been something as simple as the fit or the fabric. That is something that I take in consideration in my future designs.
Do you ever get feedback from stores that carry your line?
Yes - some stores offer feedback like which items sold really well, or which particular details customers commented on.
So your next collection won’t actually come out till spring, correct? You do new designs biannually?
Yes - and I already have the designs for next spring.
Yes, I design 9 months ahead because I need time to take in orders - deal with production, distribution etc.
Last we talked I knew you were looking around at manufacturers…
For this fall collection I worked with a new apparel manufacturer in Vancouver BC. They have a really sharp eye for quality and do a great job... I’m always searching for the right manufacturer closer to home, but I really like this new place I’m working with..
When looking for new manufacturers is it just who can do the best job?
The hardest part is that they need to understand what I am going for - the quality level, the type of design and fabric, the fit. The minimum quantity. Of course, it also has to be cost effective. As a small womenswear brand, it’s challenging to find a manufacturer who can meet all of the above.
Do all your textiles come from Japan?
Most are from Japan, a few are from China. Digital printing is done in Thailand where they manufacture beautiful Thai silks and cottons.
From concept to completion - how long does it take to make a single garment
It depends - Sometimes it can take a few days and sometimes a bit longer. I don’t start off by designing single garments. I design outfits and a coherent collection on paper. That includes selecting fabric, color, print etc. Only then will I have a clear idea of the garments that I want to develop. After that, I start working on the paper patterns, testing out the fabric, the fit, finishing techniques. The actual sewing of each individual piece is usually pretty fast. To develop a full collection, however, around 2 - 3 months.
So when you start a prototype, are you locked in on the design or is there room for change?
I will occasionally make modifications along the way but I try to keep it as “tight” to the design as possible. If the fit or design doesn’t look right, I will usually drop the item.. If there is potential for it to improve, I will work a few more times on the prototype before doing a final sample. It’s just too expensive and time-consuming to make multiple samples that do not fit in with the collection.
How many pieces are in your average collection?
12 full outfits - which are between 15 - 24 individual items.
Do you have any intention of growing your collection size?
Not really - The stores I work with aren’t very interested in large collections. They are interested in boutique brands and independent designers.
I think my customers really appreciate the fact that the line is exclusive and that each piece, especially those with the print, is really unique in its own way. That being said, I am looking to expand my distribution and getting my product line into more stores.
That brings up a good question. How do you break into new markets?
This season I will be going to NY for a trade show. New York is the biggest fashion show here in the States where most local and international retailers go to source products.
How long does each these events last:
Well, there are two major trade show seasons; fall-winter, spring-summer. These shows happen across a few major cities (New York, Paris, London and Milan), and some smaller ones like LA, Berlin, etc.
Basically it comes down to a tight two-weeks to a month season, where runway shows, trade events, showrooms happen and designers and retailers are busy connecting.
Do you ever carry items beyond seasonal?
I keep pieces that are either popular or that would work year round. However, I mostly try and rotate new designs each season.
Now that you have come out with your Fall line - What is your focus?
I’m currently taking orders for Spring 2019.
No down time for you then?
Not really, because in-between production runs I am prototyping for next season and selling off the remaining collection.
Do people come to your studio?
Yes, customers can schedule an appointment to view my collection in the studio. It’s always fun because they get to see my work process, shop and try on pieces, and limited one-off samples that may not be available through any other means.
I also do some custom designs and alterations which I enjoy and would like to do more of..
How would someone find out about these events or schedule time in your studio?
Through my website, people can select their preferred date/time for an appointment, subscribe to my newsletter or email me directly.
Well, I would like to thank you for sharing your time with me again. It has been a real thrill to see this new line-up.
Oei Studio designs are available at Clementines here in beautiful Pioneer Square.
Oei Studio designs are available through her online website, by appointment in Seattle WA, and through:
O.N.A 593A VANDERBILT AVE, BROOKLYN, USA
PERSONNEL OF NEW YORK 9 GREENWICH AVE, NY, USA
VISCERA 1542 BROADWAY, OAKLAND, USA
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