Emily Oberg x Nanushka
Emily Oberg goes to show that your little black book and bank balance aren't the only things that get you in the door anymore.
Being in the world of fashion no longer has everything to do with connections, money and the highest education. In today's day and age, it more so has to do with how you carry yourself, how much information you can validly absorb, and surprising to some, what it means to be emotionally intelligent. Many industries that females seem to contribute economically the most to, tend to be led by men. Fashion and Streetwear, for example, have been a male-dominated industry since the beginning of time, until now that is. Emily Oberg, former on-air anchor of Complex News turned Womenswear Creative Lead at Kith turned Art Director, goes to show that your little black book and bank balance aren't the only things that get you in the door anymore. We’re caught living in a time where your connections often amount to currency, your level of education often lets people distinguish your intelligence and your age is seen to speak to your wisdom. Nanushka decided to have a conversation with Canadian born and bred Emily Oberg about everything from what it means to be an Art Director, the mindset behind building a brand and what’s next for the Sporty & Rich founder.
From beginning her career at Complex News, founding her own brand Sporty & Rich, being the Womenswear Creative Lead at Kith and becoming a freelance Art Director and Consultant, Emily had realized early on that if she wanted to go anywhere in life, she would have to do it by herself with discipline in mind. “I don’t come from a wealthy family, I was never handed anything and I was never a good student, I just passed high school and I always felt really dumb, to be honest. But somehow I knew that I would never need a college degree or education to get to where I wanted to be. That path is for some people, but not for me… I hold myself to a super high standard and I am always striving to reach my maximum potential. One of my favorite quotes is from the film ‘A Bronx Tale,’ the character Sonny says, ‘The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.’ I never want to look back on my life and wish that I did more, so for now I’m trying to do it all.”
By joining Complex News at only 20 years old, where many saw fantasy, Emily saw reality. “I remember I was working at a department store in Vancouver at the time and I had my phone interview during my lunch break. It was all so surreal and I was just dying to get out of Canada and New York had always been a dream for me. At first, I was like, there’s no way I can do this job, there’s no way I can move to New York by myself. I was so terrified, but I was even more terrified of how I would feel if I didn’t take the opportunity, I would regret it for the rest of my life. So I did it. “
Joining any company at such a young age always brings a new set of challenges, whether it be people not overlooking your age, undermining your capabilities or just simply a lack of trust. There was a difference at Complex - there was a sense of understanding, acknowledgment, and responsibility of teaching rather than expecting. “ I didn’t know a single thing about writing or how to be on camera or how to read a teleprompter. I came from a completely different world than them. I always followed and studied streetwear and fashion and music but I had no real-life experience so they helped me a lot and without them, I never would’ve succeeded.”
By spending a few years at Complex News and eventually “graduating”, Emily embarked on her next adventure, a leap to the other side of the country to take on the role of being the Womenswear Creative Lead at the highly famed streetwear brand, KITH. “I hadn’t done what I was about to do before, I had been in the world of streetwear for a while but to actually design clothes and do fittings and choose fabrics and create a full collection is a completely different set of skills that I didn’t have until I did it. Also, I don’t think people knew that being on camera was never something I wanted to do and that I just fell into it.”
Behind building a brand, there is always a beauty, a brain, and a blueprint. Although Emily began Sporty & Rich as a so-called “passion project”, in today’s social media society, it seems that more and more passion projects turn into brands, brands turn into lifestyle lines, and a lifestyle line turns into an actual lifestyle. One thing Emily didn't anticipate Sporty & Rich turning into is a brand - a lifestyle yes, but not a brand. Over a Friday evening phone call, Emily pointed out the fact that, although Sporty & Rich started out as a mood board of her life, she has had to slowly come to the realization that Sporty & Rich IS a brand. A brand with new collections launching, magazines dropping and that will soon be available in some of the world’s richest retailers - in true Sporty & Rich Fashion.
“To me, Sporty & Rich is first a magazine, then a mood board, then a brand. I never want people to think I’m taking myself too seriously and thinking of myself as a “designer” or something. That was more so a new graphic I developed for Sporty & Rich. In the past, I never took it seriously.
Bianca from Nanushka: What made you want to get away from streetwear and more into Art Direction?
I will always have a place in my heart for streetwear because it’s what got me to where I am and I loved it from such a young age, but as of right now, I just don’t see much longevity in it. I feel like there’s a lot of people doing the same things and not much of it is new. I don’t want to sound like a pessimist because I am the ultimate optimist, but the world of streetwear has changed a lot from when I was first getting into it at 14 years old. I feel like these fashion sites and blogs and big-box retailers latched onto it for dear life and just completely changed what they were doing before. I get that it’s a big trend, but you have to be authentic about whatever it is that you do and to me, there isn’t a lot of that authenticity left.
Being only 25 years old and living between Los Angeles for work and Paris for pleasure, what’s next for Emily is truly infinitive. Between a design collaboration with Harmony Paris, advancing Art Direction and succeeding through Sporty & Rich, Emily’s next mission takes the eye far beyond what we can see and what we know today. “Lately, I’ve realized that I don’t want to do something that’s been done before or that there isn’t a need for. This world is so overrun by pollution and garbage and things that accumulate and just pile up in a landfill. I feel like we don’t even have room for our trash anymore and the planet is clearly dying. So we need to be smart about what it is that we’re doing, what we’re creating and contributing to the world not only on a physical and product level but on an emotional and energetic level as well. There’s so much of the same thing right now, we’re starving for something new. I’m currently in the process of raising money for my next venture but I won’t say what it is. I’ll just say that it has the maximum potential, the utmost longevity, and will change the way we live and think.”