Overweight by Eunji Oh
Overweight by Eunji Oh© Hanna Pallot

“I learned how to prepare myself for competitions, the key word to get through the selection is organization.”

Interview with Eunji Oh

15 February 2024

Among the finalists of this year's international festival for fashion, photography and accessories, Hyèresno less than 4 finalists are graduates of La Cambre in Brussels. One of them is Eunji Oh, who was nominated as a finalist in the accessories category with her collection 'Overweight'. She also qualified as a finalist in the ITS Contest 2023, which awards prizes to the most promising talents in fashion, accessories, jewellery and works of art. 

MAD spoke with Eunji about her collection, her dreams and the journey she made so far through the various fashion competitions.

Can you introduce yourself, who is Eunji Oh?

“My name is Eunji, I am 27 years old. I first obtained a degree in Industrial Design. After that, I started studying at La Cambre where I finished my master's degree in Accessories 6 months ago. Currently, I am taking a 2-year course in leather goods at the Campus Arts et Métiers of the Institut Jeanne Toussaint.”

“After my studies at La Cambre in Accessories, I really wanted to delve into the world of leather, to refine my skills. Not that I only want to focus on this craft, I really want to have a career as a designer. But as a designer, specialized in leather, I think it's important to know and master the craft though. Parallel to my formation in leather goods, I am preparing for some competitions. I have been selected as a finalist for ITS Contest 2023 and the international festival of fashion, photography and accessories, Hyères Festival.”

Overweight by Eunji Oh

You graduated from La Cambre accessories last year with your graduation project 'Overweight', what is the story behind your collection?

“The story behind my collection is a personal one. I think many designers take inspiration from their childhood or something they experienced. I was born and raised in a Korean family. And the vision we have on the female body is really different from the perspective of Europeans about the female body. During my childhood, I inherited many values that are contrary to the Western world's view of beauty and the body. I really felt that contrast between those two cultures. In addition, I had a lot of skin problems during my childhood that caused me to take a lot of medication. Because of that medication, my physique changed constantly. I was often swollen and then again very skinny.”

"I try to talk about these personal stories with my collection, stories that are recognizable to other people. Have you ever felt a little compressed in your favorite jeans and felt uncomfortable wearing it? Or ever bought a small size t-shirt only to lie to yourself that you are an M size instead of an L? That's what my collection is about. It's about my body, about being cramped in my clothes, about a changing body, the trends of wearing clothes very close to the body, not feeling comfortable in clothes ... This story is visually established in the aesthetics of the collection. I searched for images that represent the body 'imprisoned' in clothes, but also the body 'imprisoned' in society. For example, I squeezed my body with straps. Or I compared the body to a the Michelin guy, or a piece of meat.”

“It is a subject that speaks to people today, but it is certainly not my intention to talk about a heavy topic. The collection is still about my personal story. I consciously didn't make the message of my collection too heavy. I think it is important to include humour to lighten the subject a bit. Chunky names like 'The love handle bag' and 'Chubby Shoes' ensure that people can also laugh about my collection. The result is a positive, sometimes funny collection that still has a strong message behind it.”

Are you continuing to work on the collection?

“I have perfected the collection and refined my pitch. I have also elaborated some pieces to lend to competitions. In addition, I am already imagining a sequel for the 'overweight' collection. I sometimes fantasize about a 'boob series' or a 'feminine body series'. Maybe the aesthetics will be a bit different, but there will always be a sense of 'overweight' in the collections. That's what I find interesting about the story behind my collection. 'Overweight' can be so many things. It can refer to the body, to fat, to society... It's a project that I will expand in the future.”

Overweight by Eunji Oh

You are one of the finalists of Hyères Festival and ITS Contest 2023. You received guidance from MAD Brussels to prepare for these competition presentations. How have you experienced these competitions so far?

“I really learned how to organise myself for these competitions. I have to respect a lot of deadlines, I do it all by myself. It is also more difficult to prepare 2 competitions at the same time. One contest demands specific elements that the other doesn't. The key word to get through the selection is 'organisation'.”

“The hardest part is the selection procedure to get your spot among the finalists. I had to prepare a lot: my portfolio, texts, images, videos, ... The presentation of your project is obviously super important at this stage. Besides, a competition like this is also a budgetary investment, to send your pieces, print a high-quality portfolio. It really is an exercise, where, as a young designer, you really learn to think, write, handle and look at your work in a different way. I was lucky that some of my friends had already been selected in the past for the Hyères festival. I was able to ask them a lot to help me better prepare and anticipate.”

“I did experience some stress and uncertainty during the preparations. But I learnt that you should not start a competition with the idea of 'if I am not elected, then everything will have been for nothing'. Because that is never true, you will always learn something. The competition helped me expand my work much more to really enter a next phase. Once I had this idea in my head, the preparations went a bit better.”

Overweight by Eunji Oh

How do you see the future for your work?

“Right now, I am open to all kinds of proposals and opportunities. Either working for a brand or starting freelance, I think both options will teach me specific competences. My goal for this year is to focus on the competitions. Also because I am curious to see if doors will open up after that. Depending on that, I will decide what I will do next year. I don't put my expectations entirely on those competitions, but if a great proposal would cross my path, I will jump.”

“My dream, like many starting designers I think, is to build my own brand. Dreaming, seeing it big is important to me. But there is of course also the reality. Therefore, I will see what crosses my path.”