I recently had the chance to meet with Angeline Oei of A.Oei-studio designs and she shared with me pieces from her spring collection, thoughts on the Seattle Fashion market, and what has inspired her latest work.
Thank you so much for taking time to meet with me. I know you’ve recently done a few interviews, so I will try not to recap what others have already asked. I would like to keep this more about you and our local scene in Seattle. Speaking of which, how did you end up here in Seattle?
Yeah, It was my boyfriend actually...he lives here and I’d been visiting him. Every time I came here I would talk to store owners and other fashion designers in the industry. I really grew to like it... the creative environment here is very quiet - very subtle - You kind of have to go out of your way to meet with people and talk to designers here, but there is a lot of community support for independent local designers and I found it was quite a great place for a new brand to start up.
Along those lines, I know you studied in Amsterdam and have done work in Singapore and NY… How does the scene in Seattle differ from other countries ...or even other cities within the states?
In Amsterdam the fashion is a lot more conceptual and experimental and people are more interested in innovation and creating something new,...It’s a lot about texture and layers. Then, I moved to Singapore and started working for companies where it was more about making something that was commercial or trend-driven. Here in Seattle it is a lot more Do-It-Yourself. Designers tend to not even care what is going on within the industry itself and really just want to do their own thing. I think it’s just a mix of all of that…
Do you think Seattle is less mainstream? or are we becoming more mainstream?
Less mainstream…Seattle fashion is quite diverse and international, and combines functional clothing, vintage, and tailored, well-crafted pieces. People here tend to be more concerned with quality over trends.
Do you think Seattle is still finding its own space in the market or …?
Seattle fashion market has been growing in a positive manner with emerging independent designers like Schai and Silvae bringing the Seattle fashion scene to an international luxury market. Customers here have a greater appreciation and support for design and fashion. But for Seattle to become a fashion capital, there needs to be a bigger support for the local fashion industry - improving the standard of the fashion schools, or having a fashion foundation that can offer support for new designers and give them feedback and resources. There is a small manufacturing scene here that also makes it hard for designers to really develop their products locally.
I was just going to ask - Do you deal with local manufacturers?
Yeah yeah, I work with some local manufacturers - It’s been a little tough finding the skills I require for women’s clothing locally. Most of the manufacturers specialize in active wear or jeans...More casual wear...Windbreakers….
So more Seattle Weather?
Socks and Sandals?
You also work with companies in Singapore?
Yes, so I spent the greatest number of my years in this industry, working in Singapore. I still have a network within the Fashion industry of manufacturers and suppliers that I know and trust. They can deliver something that is very good quality and yet still affordable.
Being that you do have all this international exposure and experience, do you find any difficulties with breaking into the Seattle market?
I think I am still too new to really tell yet. So far, my stuff has been well received. Linda from Clementines has really helped me to expand my exposure...but I’m still a little small. And the market here is still small.
Are you just in the Seattle market?
No. I sell in Singapore, New York, and Oakland. Here in Seattle I sell at Clementines.
Do you find support within the local fashion community or is it really competitive.
Designers here in Seattle are quite open and happy to collaborate and share information. They are more focused on doing their own thing so I’ve never really felt any kind of competition.
I hate to ask this next question because I am sure you hear it a lot. What are your influences currently?
I think current events really influence my design right now. For this print
[...grabs beautiful white silk shirt with yellow and grey print]
This was inspired by the concept of Artificial Intelligence. I started thinking about the creation of an ideal human being and I started drawing faces. And then eventually they started to evolve to this space where I broke it up into a print…but wanted to make it more abstract, like a floral, leafy kind of print.
That’s really creative… and a beautiful piece.
In this design…[selects a ladies top from the rack]...
I was inspired by the Rocky mountains. I took a train trip through the mountains into CANADA and turned the photos I took of the mountains into this print.
I really like the style you seem to be into now. I like the bold color contrast and textures. Would you say this is a period you are going through? Or kind of a new direction you have found yourself to be following?
I would say it is kind of both… I like mixing fabrics. For instance
...Pulls out a new shirt from the spring collection…
This is a cotton Jersey and it has stretch and this is a silk fabric which is really soft. So I just like combining them together to see what comes out… Sometime I don’t know...sometimes the fabrics are so different that they kind of do their own thing…
And where do you find the silks...who does the painting and coloring?
I do all the prints and designs myself. Whenever I start having an idea or concept, I start playing around with different colors and materials until a final print is developed. The fabric is then digitally printed in Thailand which is quite known for its silks.
Do you ever have moment where even you don’t know what is happening?
Yes - But sometimes those are good moments too...they bring out surprises.
I don’t know that it is a “signature style”, but I really do just enjoy finding different fabrics and seeing how they will go together. Bold dark colors with soft light colors.
Well, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Thank you for showing me your collection. I am a big fan of your designs. What are your plans for the future?
I would like to grow A. Oei - I have so many more ideas and can’t wait to share them. I am currently working on my Fall collection.
Thank you Angeline for sharing your time with me today. I was really inspired looking at your latest collection and your enthusiasm is contagious.
To see more of Angeline’s product line, please come down to Clementines in Seattle’s beautiful & historic Pioneer Square. A.Oei will be having a Spring Trunk Show at Clementines on MAY 3rd from 4pm to 8PM. Make a day of it, grab lunch, tour the art galleries nearby, then come to the Spring show for a first look at Angeline’s Amazing collection.