May 20, 2016

How Half-Filipina Model and ‘Complex’ Host Emily Oberg Conquered the NYC Streetwear Scene

preen emily oberg complex

It’s pretty safe to say that half-Filipino model and host Emily Oberg made a big leap by moving to New York to become Complex Magazine’s editorial producer. But an even bigger leap would have to be making a name for herself among the city’s streetwear crowd.

So, why is that a big deal? If you’ve noticed, streetwear brands mostly cater to men. But now, it seems that more women like Emily are becoming interested in streetwear fashion and making it their own.

That said, Emily shares that her personal streetwear style is inspired by a mix of luxury and comfort. “I’m inspired by European women, vintage ads, and especially, rappers from the `90s,” she says. “I obsess over pictures of [2Pac] and Snoop [Dogg] in Cali from like 1993 to 1995. I think that whole time period and the look of hip-hop back then is and will always be the epitome of cool.”

Aside from her documentary on the SUPREME’s reselling culture and her ongoing web series, where did this love for streetwear and hip-hop take her so far? We managed to catch up with her (yup, from New York) and she gives us insight on her fashion line and how she’s handling the male-centric crowd.

How has moving to the Big Apple changed you? What can you say about your exposure to the fashion and arts culture in New York as compared to your roots in Canada?
It has made me a very hard worker and very driven. There’s so much going on here [that] it inspires and pressures you to do as much as you can. I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of brilliant creatives and make connections, which helps when creating something new. I’m much more inspired by my surroundings now than [when] I was in Canada. It will always be home, but it’s just not somewhere I would live at at this point.

Can you tell us a little about your work at Complex now?
At Complex, I work in video. I don’t have a background in it so everything I know is from doing it, which is the best way, I think. I love my team and my job, and it has led me to do a lot of amazing things.

You started out as a model and stylist. How did these beginnings contribute to your career growth? What direction do you see it heading?
A photoshoot I modeled in and styled for was posted to Complex, and an editor at the time―who is now one of my close friends―reached out to me about doing freelance styling work for them. I had already wanted to move to NYC for a while now, and this seemed like the perfect way to get there. I asked if they had any positions, and I moved two weeks later.

What’s your artistic strong point? What aspects of the creative industry are you most comfortable in? Is there anything you still hope to explore or improve on?
My strong point is knowing what’s relevant and cool. I think I have a good eye for what looks and sounds good, and that helps me in a lot of areas. It’s not something I ever struggled with. For me, it comes naturally, knowing what certain people will and won’t like.

I think I could improve on articulating my thoughts and ideas more clearly. I always know what I want, and have a vision of that in my head, but sometimes it’s hard to explain it when you’re working with other people. I think this is why I prefer working alone but that’s not good either!

What made you venture into doing videos? Who exactly is your audience and what sort of pieces are you most interested in producing?
My position required that I be on camera everyday, so it was decided for me from the start. Our audience ranges, which is great. I like that I can connect with all different types of people everyday. I’ve been in front of the camera everyday for two years now, but I still get super nervous when I have a big interview or when I’m shooting my [Internet] show Get SweatyTalking to a camera will never feel completely natural to me, but you get used to it over time.

Are you more comfortable behind or in front of the camera?
I really love directing and being behind the camera, I love to be in control of the look of things, and directing is exactly that. I’d like to do more of this in the future, but it’s the kind of work you have to earn. You don’t just do it right away.

About your SUPREME documentary: Why did you think it was worth featuring?
I think it was important to talk about reselling because it’s become such a big part of our culture and the fashion industry. It’s a fairly new concept and has exploded in the past few years, so I wanted to shine a light on it and tell a story that hasn’t really been told before. I have a love/hate relationship with them. I get that it’s their hustle and job, but it’s also unfair to price everyone out of clothes that they want! Even I pay for resale―there’s no way around it really.

I think the reselling culture speaks to the fact that as we progress, more and more people are consumed by material things. It’s sad, that we are so obsessed with the clothes we wear and the things we buy to impress others. This effort and money could do a lot of good if spent elsewhere but, this is the world we live in.

What made you come up with your own clothing brand? Was Sporty & Rich inspired by the SUPREME phenomenon?
The Sporty & Rich brand started after I realized people really liked the saying. It caught on quickly and I wanted to monetize it. It wasn’t really inspired by any other brand because people have been doing graphic tees for years. I just wanted to make quality product and deliver in small quantities.

How have you witnessed the streetwear trend evolve over the years?
Streetwear has evolved immensely since I first got into it. Around 2007, when I first got into it, streetwear was at its peak. Graphic tees, all over print, Nike Dunks, 10 Deep, MTTM— that was the craze. It was still very niche, so if you saw someone wearing Stussy or Supreme, it was a big deal. I think Bobby Hundreds described it best when he said these brands were like “a secret handshake amongst gatekeepers” in his essay on the state of streetwear. Not everyone was into it, especially not where I lived in Canada. You’d spend all day on Hypebeast, Complex, Highsnobiety, Highsnobette, NikeTalk, etc. just reading and learning about clothes, art, sneakers and whatever else people were into. Now, it’s different. Everyone is up on everything and nothing is sacred.

Do you feel like the industry of streetwear is more male-dominated? What can you say to young women who wish to enter the scene but fear it’s too masculine?
I think there are starting to be a lot more women in streetwear, whether it’s writers, bloggers, brands, influencers, etc. I didn’t have any apprehensions because I think males are very accepting of women in the streetwear community―they love it. So that’s great. I would tell young girls trying to get into it to just be authentic, and that’s with whatever you do. If you have the passion, skills, and drive, the rest will come easy.

Interview by Angela Manuel Go


Photo courtesy of Emily Oberg’s Instagram

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Filed Under:

2Pac, Big Apple, California, Canada, Complex, editorial producer, Emily Oberg, European women, fashion, Get Sweaty, graphic tees, hip-hop, host, model, MTTM, New York City, Nike Dunks, Preen,, rappers, resale, reselling, Snoop Dogg, sold out, Sporty & Rich, streetwear, Supreme, vintage ads

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