Sarah Nami Ahn is an LA based fashion designer and founder of her own womenswear brand called NAMI after her middle name, her Korean name. Ahn’s brand, NAMI, rapidly gained traction after just one season, her debut collection SS12 that was shown at NYFW, LAFW in September and October 2011, respectively. Ahn only launched her line June of 2011 and within a short year, her line is now sold online and in boutiques around the country. Her design aesthetics is highly influenced by her worldly travels as an Army Brat, her heritage, her unusual educational background, and finally by architecture.
On October 13th, NAMI presented its Spring/Summer 2013 collection in Los Angeles, and we were lucky enough to be at the show. Check out our collection review as well as our interview with the designer, Sarah Ahn, after the cut!
As noted by my friend who accompanied me to the show, there seemed to be a myriad of clothing (all of it beautiful) sent down the runway. Leather, black and white and neutrals were highlighted during the first half of the show. An architecturally-inspired three-tiered cream maxi dress with tan lining was a crowd-pleaser. Ahn demonstrated a smart use of “warm fabrics,” seen in wool maxi dresses with interesting cuts and hemlines.
Almost shockingly (albeit refreshing to the eye), bright, jewel-toned dresses, blazers and blouses were shown during what could be considered the second half of the show. Another notable piece was a long evening gown, in a vibrant shade of violet.
Though at times the collection might have come off as a little disjointed, overall NAMI is proving that it has a knack for knowing what women want to wear.
Interview with Sarah Ahn
There was a lot of interesting use of fabric (ex. Leather) that is “atypical” of Spring/Summer collections, which was really refreshing to see. What was the inspiration behind this collection?
This collection is about nostalgia… a combination of the 50s that includes my obsession with cinched waists and big billowy tea-length skirts and 3/4 length puff sleeves juxtaposed with the more irreverent era of the 80s and the Rockabilly movement incorporating leather and experimenting with the three dimensional capabilities of fabric. The one other theme was to use traditional features of masculine attire into something that looks and feels quite feminine, as seen in the bow tie dress and the tuxedo jackets in this season’s collection.
If you had to choose, what are your favorite pieces from this collection?
The Selene dress, [and] the architectural nature of [the] Audrey dress.
What inspired you to get into the fashion industry?
I think 3 key events really made me land where I am today as a fashion designer…
1. I grew up as an Army Brat. My parents are 1st generation immigrants from Korea but they saved and saved to offer my brother and I a comfortable middle class life. This included hand-me-down clothes from my older cousins in New York. They were tall and so we’d always had to alter what we got to make it not only fit correctly on us but to make it look “cool.” The popular kids in my elementary school were wearing Guess Jeans, Hypercolor t-shirts, Umbro shorts… it was hard to compete when your parents refused to buy you new clothes or simply couldn’t. I also knew I was obsessed with fashion very early because one of my earliest memories with clothes and fabric was when I roamed around our small Sun Prairie, Wisconsin home in my mom’s gigantic green circle maxi skirt. I twirled around in that skirt for hours.
2. Family member near-tragedy. My younger brother came out of the US Army and bought a motorcycle. He was riding on Sunset Blvd near Malibu when he hit an unmarked pothole. He lost control of his bike and swerved into on-coming traffic and hit an SUV’s windshield with his head… so hard that both the windshield and his helmet cracked. He landed back onto the right side of the road and was rushed to UCLA Medical Center. There… he was induced into a 2 month coma to allow his swelling brain to rest and heal. I came back from Chicago where I was doing a post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University, joined my retired parents in taking 24 hour shifts to make sure that he was never alone. After living in the hospital with my brother for 6 months, he was well enough to come home to my parents. I went back to my post-doc but found doing surgery in my research to be difficult… I cried nearly everyday. I found that my research subject’s struggle for life to be too close to my brother’s. So I started thinking about what else I could do as a career… my husband encouraged me to pursue my love of the arts.
3. 2,000 lbs of clothes. I thought… but what field in the arts? I know I didn’t want to be a starving artist. After careful thought… I decided on fashion design because well… I own 2,000 lbs of clothes. I know this for a fact because when my husband and I moved from LA to Chicago, we had a 5,000 lb limit. I then applied to FIDM.
Who are your current favorite designers and why?
Alber Elbaz. I love his work. The women that wear Lanvin look effortlessly beautiful. And I like his bow ties, I’d like to learn how to tie a proper bow tie from him one of these days if I ever get the opportunity to be in his presence. I love his humble answers [in his interview with Refinery29].
What trends do you hope to see this upcoming spring/summer?
Bright fun colors… primary brights (hot pink, yellow, green, blue, violet) are forecasted to be in trend in SS13, as seen in our collection.
What are your top 5 fashion and/or beauty must-haves?
1. Platform heels: For petite girls like myself (I’m 4’11.5″ tall), I love platform heels for both height and comfort.
2. A go-to faux/leather motorcycle jacket
3. Signature lipstick (which I’m starting to discover only now): a little goes a long way in just punching up ANY look.
Where do you hope to see NAMI in the future?
I’m taking this company one step at a time to ensure that it is sustainable and gains traction steadily. I have lofty goals of one day being a member of CFDA.
Any fashion/beauty advice for Audrey readers?
I’m sorta a tomboy… I don’t wear much make-up but I never leave the house without my liquid eyeliner from Almay, Jet Black, I’ve been using it for 13yrs! My only other item that I use is lipstick but not for my lips. I dab it onto my checks as blush, it lasts longer… something I learned from a magazine when I was 16 and it’s stuck with me ever since! And Carmex… yes, this is for my lips. I’m sorta addicted to its menthol-y cooling affect. Same as with make-up… I want to exude the concept of “effortless beauty”… it’s not too contrived. Many of the most beautiful things on earth just happened naturally.