Jess Oberlin and the Ultimate Two-Piece

The DIY designer talks about the meaning behind her her "little black suit" and so much more.

Behind her colorful and comfy two-pieces, the badass DIY designer Jess Oberlin talks about her creative community in the Netherlands, the story behind her little black (and sometimes trippy) two-pieces, ’90s inspiration and her karaoke obsession.

Dance clips submitted by customers and friends edit and visuals: Noralie​. See more on JØ vimeo

Where are you from? Where do you live? How did you get there?
I’m from Kars, Ontario, basically the middle of nowhere in Canada. Now I live in Eindhoven, Netherlands, because of love, and the chance I feel this city gives me to build something from nothing.

I’ve never talked with anyone in the Netherlands before, what is the creative scene like there?
In The Netherlands has always nurtured its creatives. In the past few years, it’s become harder to get funding, so there’s even more of a d.i.y attitude than before, and if you work hard enough, I feel like there are certainly opportunities here to make it as a creative. It takes a lot of passion persistence, and balls to stay here instead of moving to a more obviously hip and creative in your face city like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. Eindhoven, love it or hate it, it’s like the underdog of the Netherlands, an old industrial city once given up on, with tons of empty factories, now finally being repurposed. Here and there there are nice parties and exhibitions.

“It takes a lot of passion persistence, and balls to stay here instead of moving to a more obviously hip and creative in your face city like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. Eindhoven, love it or hate it, it’s like the underdog of the Netherlands”

There’s a lot more happening in Rotterdam or Amsterdam, but when something creative is up in Eindhoven, the diehards go out to support each other. I really felt that when I had my Launch party last April. That’s something I’d definitely miss if I were in a bigger more “happening” city.

Styling/direction/models: Jess Oberlin, Elif Özbay, Eva van der Moer Photographer: Fieke van Berkom

I’m interested in how you mention building a creative community from the ground up. What does it take to do that? Do you feel like you have any advice for someone who feels a need to do that in their own community?

I don’t feel like I had a hand in building it, but more like I’m flowing with it. I’m here, I’m doing my thing, and people know me for my suits, photos and videos. I only got there by getting to know people in the community, being genuinely interested and visiting their events, checking out their work. I guess then they also keep an eye on me and mine. So going out of your comfort zone (ie, on the couch with pizza and nostalgic ’90s movies) keeping your eyes and ears open, networking in a natural sense, of getting to know people, invite them over for that pizza and movie, pair with some champagne and ’90s hip hop, or karaoke that’d be my advice.

Dance clips submitted by customers and friends edit and visuals: Noralie​. See more on JØ vimeo
Can you tell me a little bit about the “little black” two-pieces you make and why that’s your chosen medium?

I hadn’t really thought of it as my medium, it feels like it’s almost anti-fashion. It’s slow, and unusual to have only one product as a brand, for me that’s exciting, I feel like a pioneer. I like that I can just work on one item, not a collection. It’s a nice base to make other works from or with, like the video art up on my Vimeo and YouTube. My girls work hard with me in making them to get the vibe out. I am so happy that people identify with it. Even Lena Dunham this person across the ocean noticing it and being like yes, I totally feel in tune with this. The suits unite us and I haven’t felt so great as since I started making them and getting other people in them. I have always been into making people feel good. I remember this one morning, I used to wear like long shirts or skirts over leggings cause ppl were like “leggings aren’t pants” and then this one morning I was like fuck it, and went out in just leggings. That was so empowering, to be like ‘I know not  everyone is cool with this, but I don’t give any fucks’. People should be doing whatever they want just because it’s what feels right. I make the suits for those people, its not just a suit, it’s a symbol for that. If some people don’t get it then so be it.

“People should be doing whatever they want just because it’s what feels right. I make the suits for those people, its not just a suit, it’s a symbol for that. If some people don’t get it then so be it.”

I designed the suits based on about 6 real womens bodies, because I wanted to have a suit that felt right on all body types. I worked on the design for two years and I am proud of everybody that puts one on. I think every body is their own intricate art piece. I’m fascinated by people, their stories, their lives, I want to show them off and in a interesting way be a safe warm and cozy part of their life. The suits are a canvas for you to show off who you are, do what you love, and show that it’s great to be proud doing so.

How did you get into designing and what were some of the first things you made? How have you seen yourself evolve as a designer over time?

I was always into drawing, designing, dreaming and collaging with my vogue or seventeen magazine, but never serious about it. My mom said she couldn’t see me working anywhere else than in fashion, but who listens to their mom when they are 18 right? I learnt to sew in the ’90s when I was 9 from this awesome d.i.y seamstress mom who was my mom’s bestie. She helped me shorten some bell-bottoms, and make a bag out of jeans, and thought my remodeling was neat. I lost touch of that for a long time, but in the last years, decided it was time to follow my heart again and get back at it. I never went to school for it. It took me a good 6 years after traveling the world and making my babies, to realize I should continue to follow that dream and passion, and that maybe my mom was right. JØ was born out of that desire to listen to my inner child again and let her do what she wants. I self-taught myself pattern making and stretch sewing techniques. I guess you could say that over time I have evolved into more of a fashion artist than a designer.

Dance clips submitted by customers and friends edit and visuals: Noralie​. See more on JØ vimeo
I love that you mention you are self-taught, I’m also self-taught, so I know that it can be quite a journey to learn your craft. Do you have any advice for someone who feels a calling to learn to create something?

Follow your heart, make a tons of mistakes,  and if you are way too stressed or feeling pressure do karaoke and drink champagne.

Any other creative projects that we need to be talking about?

I am so busy with getting the name and the suits out right now, some collaborations with female artists for new fabric patternsthat I am excited about! There will be new photo shoots working with some other brands too on those and video clips popping up as usual. I wanna throw another party to celebrate another year of suits, once I get into another store or exhibition space. I’d love for there to be a bigger girl party and karaoke scene here in Eindhoven, sometimes I think of organizing something… Oh yah watch my live Instagram on Fridays at 3pm CET, it’s a live JØ karaoke show, you can sing from behind your phone with me.

Styling/direction: Jess Oberlin, Elif Özbay Photographer: Fieke van Berkom

Vicky (UR co-founder/my roommate) came in my room at 7am to tell me to ask you what your favorite karaoke song is.

Haha! Hey Vicky, there’s two. Drop it like it’s hot and Don’t stop believing. Yah I know them 100% without looking at the screen, when we’re luck enough to have twerk queen Sadav with us, she does amazing backup twerking…it’s magical (check her tutorial on my Vimeo/YouTube channel!)

Ok so speaking of karaoke I love the videos and graphics you use alongside your designs, can you tell me more about developing that aesthetic?

Thanks! I started JØ by myself, but right at the beginning I met two awesome chicks, Elif and Fleur, they got the concept, got me, and wanted to be a part of it. They helped a lot with in the beginning, as did Moet and Chandon. We all vibe with the same style, and made a lot of Photoshop and video clips with each others input. Back then we even made an improv vapor wave album. It’s been a totally intuitive and organic process, now everyone knows what I like and we can collaborate on projects without even having to talk about the look and feel. Glitter, gold, pastels and neon, that’s Øberlin.

Dance clips submitted by customers and friends edit and visuals: Noralie​. See more on JØ vimeo

Are there any people or artists that inspire you and your work? (or anyone you are just obsessed with?)

As for pop and style icons: Madonna in the ’80s/’90s, Lisa Left eye lopes, Aaliyah, Snoop, Audrey Hepburn. Also politically, any human who stands up and fights for what they believe in, speaking their mind  no matter what. My biggest artistic inspiration is anything ’90s, art, ads, movies, artists from back then how they dressed and styled… I mean wow. I create for my ’90s inner child, anything she would have done or liked back in the ’90s, that’s what I am still into and work into the videos and photo shoots.

I create for my ’90s inner child, anything she would have done or liked back in the ’90s

I feel most encouraged and inspired by the people closest to me who believe in me, my girls, my Grandma- Hope Oberlin, my kids, and my man. I want to show them that you can make it if you keep following your heart and want to work your ass off. Obsessions, there’s a bunch of artists, girl art collectives and magazines on Instagram who I would deeply obsess about if I had more time, definitely are exciting to watch, inspire me and who I hope to work with in the future. Aside from them, you could pick any and every song on my Spotify ‘90s Øberlin style’ playlist is a source of inspiration, I listen to that way too often in my studio dancing with myself.

Lastly I like to keep the Ultra Regular family growing so I ask everyone I interview if they know anyone that I need to know about. Someone you admire, one of your friends, someone you like to work with anyone you care about who is making amazing stuff!
Ashlukadraws, neon salt water, neon talk,  girl on girl collective, Elif Özbay , Gaia van Egmond, Fieke van Berkom(!!!), Bas Kosters, Niek Pulles, Harm Rensink, Bart Hess, Albert van Abbe – my man :),  Dirty Girls Project

 

Keep Up With Jess

http://www.jessoberlin.com/

 Karaoke JØ style

 @jessoberlin

And use code ULTRABABEREADER for a Jess Oberlin discount!

And creep on some of her favorite things!

Lena Dunham Loving JØ | Webshop | JØ vimeo | Photoshoots | Best 90’s playlist