Monday, March 18, 2013

Coterie feature #2: OBA from Shanghai [Coterie NYC 2013]

via Sartorialist

I suffer. I suffer from lack of outerwear. Okay, I do not suffer per se because what I really suffer from is lack of closet space. haha! As for outerwear, I have never put any real effort in picking out a stylish coat unless shopping leftover seasonal coats at sample sales count? Every Fall or Winter, I wear one coat per season and one coat only. I own one parka from Canada Goose for those frigid Winters, one lady-like wool coat from Mackage I save for "special" occasions or dates and then my old 10 year old discolored, overused parka from Spiewak I now wear when it is cold but not too cold to wear my Canada Goose. Sure I have other coats or jackets but I really just stick with these three most of the time. I never thought I would need anything more until I saw these coats from Oba at Coterie. It was one of the few times that I looked at a piece of clothing and not think of it simply as something to wear but more... it evoked these emotions and I'm not sure how to describe it...Maybe it is the powerful women the collection was inspired from? It felt and looked more like an art collection to me and when my friend Thao tried some of their coats on, she was so happily in love with them and could not stop smiling. It is rare to see someone embrace outerwear like that and I think it is one of Oba's goals. What you cannot miss on all the pieces is the structure and detailing. The designers were thoughtful in the design process and it is apparent. Also, I once thought that coats looked better when they are fitted but Oba's coat fit unconventionally and give plenty of room to layer while still looking great!

"Our collections pay tribute to unique and signature styles for every mood and season.  Just as each person is unique, so are Oba coats."

I never put much emphasis on outerwear because I always think it's something I would take off anyway and what I am wearing is more important. I think I have changed my mind...

From their current online shop, I'd try the Freedom (monument) or Hidden Plaid (beluga) as they are of an unconventional fit and also Eastern Redemption (sauterine) because of the pop in color which I lack in my wardrobe!

Oba design inspired by Soong sisters

I had the opportune to speak with the director of marketing and business development of Oba, Ms. Vivian Kuo at Coterie. She also took some time from her busy schedule along with founder and designer of Oba, Joanna Lim and co-designer of Oba's 'Prepared & Embraced' collection and founder of dra/wn, Kendra Wan, to answer some of my questions about their brand and newest collection. 

1. Designers often find a muse and a source of inspiration for designing their collections and Oba has made it apparent where her inspirations for Oba’s first collection come from. Why did she pick the ladies featured in the collections? From Anne Frank to Frida... Where did the idea come from?

The idea for our latest collection really began from a conversation between the two designers about the Mayan end of the world date, which evolved into a larger and more general question of life and death. We came up with a list of influential women from the last century. We picked a range of women from all backgrounds such as arts, to politics to philanthropy etc. We wanted to have a range of fields to make sure that the collection would not just be seen as a 'fashion' idea, but an intellectual one that all people can relate to. 

2. I loved all the textures and patterns used in the collection. Where did you find all the materials to put everything together? Did the material inspire you or was it the other way around where you had an idea and needed to search high and low to find the perfect material to make your ideas and sketches come to life?

Most of the fabrics we sourced from throughout China and Korea, with the exception of the Julia style, where the printed fabric is from a French mill. We worked from the list of women first, and then searched for the right fabrics that were appropriate for her character/personality. It was a long process, not easy at all!

3. As demands eventually grow with the popularity of a clothing line such as Oba, how important is it for you to maintain the 'Prepared & Embraced' motto of the brand? Will the clothes ever be mass-produced?

Prepared & Embraced is the name of this particular collection. It is not necessarily the motto of the brand.  With its success, we plan to expand with the next season. It will never be mass-produced, at least not at the moment, as we want to maintain the high level of quality and overall workmanship of each individual piece. All of our outerwear is made in our own sewing and cutting room with our own production team. So everything is in house and closely controlled for quality. 

4. I could picture Oba's outerwear attract many street style photographers out there. Do you have any favorite street style photographers or bloggers that you would love or take inspiration from?

Our favorite is Bill Cunningham. We were floored when our coat was featured in the New York Times Style Section last November. It was such an honor. But another up and coming street style photographer we enjoy is Roy Zhang, based here in Shanghai. You can find him as Roy on the Street on Instagram and Tumblr.

When I spotted Bill Cunningham during FNO -

5. What are the trends for the Summer is Oba designs preparing for?

Oba is an outerwear brand, so the main season for us will always be Autumn/Winter. The Spring and Summer seasons feature more dress like styles, meaning styles that are more casual, less structured and sometimes sleeves using more silks and lines.

Dra/wn for OBA's Fall/Winter 2013 collection 

Anne (Frank) coat 

Inspired: Anne (Frank) in willow and Teresa (Mother Teresa) in purple

Kendra Wan and Vivian Kuo

Co-designer and founder of dra/wn is Kendra Wan in Julia (Child)

Susan Sontag inspired

Each coat comes with its own inspiration booklet

Thanks for reading! This post is sponsor-free!

See also my Coterie feature with Emzeg Steppe.

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