DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: SARAH AHN
Fans of frenzied fare like Project Runway may be surprised to hear a designer utter those words, but that’s exactly what Sarah Ahn told us shortly after her NAMI collection’s 2012 Spring/Summer runway show at L.A. Fashion Week. And, as we soon found out, NAMI’s head designer is actually full of interesting surprises!
To say that Sarah Ahn took a non-traditional path to becoming a fashion designer would be a bit of an understatement. True, she went to FIDM for 2.5 quarters, transferred to Parsons and worked for interior designer extraordinaire Kelly Wearstler, but she also studied biology and physiology – earning a Master’s degree in a year and a half, and a Ph.D. in neuroscience in two years. Interestingly, as she told us, the worlds of science and fashion aren’t as diametrically opposed as we might think.
“Fashion has science. To be a good designer, you have to understand geometry, math, puzzles, and have an idea of how things fit in 3-D,” she said. “That sort of conceptualization takes a lot of pre-meditated thought. I’ve benefitted from being trained to think in that way because those are life skills that can be applied no matter what field you’re in.”
Initially, it appeared as though the fashion world would never know the genius of NAMI. After completing her studies, Sarah worked in medicine in the area of spinal cord research. But when her younger brother suffered a near-fatal motorcycle accident, Sarah had to reevaluate her career path. She took time off to help nurse him back to health, and once her brother had recovered from his injuries, Sarah’s husband encouraged her to return to the arts.
“I ultimately chose fashion because it is inherently a business where you can be creative and have some control. Designing clothes for people offers the intellectual challenge of business coupled with creativity.”
She entered and won the prestigious “Perfect Little Black Dress” contest, and her design was sold as part of the Laundry by Shelli Segal Spring 2011 collection in premium retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom.
“I went to Uena Park and saw blocks of cherry blossoms while they were still in bloom. The blossoms there were bright pink and all of the colors you associate with spring. And when I looked up, the way they moved in the breeze was stunning,” she recalled.
That inspiration is evident in both the color and fabric choices she made for the NAMI collection.
“I chose chiffon for a lot of the pieces because I wanted to translate that movement into fabric as it moves across the body along the runway,” she said. “I want women to feel carefree, light and effortless when they wear my clothes.”
The romantic Spring/Summer 2012 NAMI collection includes a bevy of stunning skirts, delightful spring trench jackets, chambray coolots, and elegant dresses influenced by the Japanese art form origami.
“There’s something meditative about origami and folding paper,” Sarah shared. “In the beginning, you don’t know what you’re going to get, but each fold leads you to the final product. It’s analogous to life and any project, and it’s a theme we’ll probably be seeing in future NAMI collections. I love the simplicity of the design and the sophistication of understated elements.”
One of the understated, elegant elements of the NAMI collection we loved was the incorporation of necklaces made from antique polished door hinges.
“It’s all about the appreciation of the often unnoticed objects,” Sarah told us. “I loved the juxtaposition of romantic with function, and I felt that they added the proper weight, edge to balance the romance of the pieces.
When NAMI debuted at New York Concept Fashion Week on September 13, Sarah Ahn addressed the audience prior to the show. “It was such an amazing feeling to be there, and I wanted people to feel involved and follow along the journey.”
After a successful run at L.A. Concept Fashion Week, the journey for Sarah Ahn continues. A boutique in New York will soon begin carrying pieces from the current collection, and you will also find NAMI soon in a boutique in San Francisco as well as on her online store. Stay tuned for more info and an official announcement of where to buy NAMI in March 2012.
And, as we go to print, Sarah is busy selecting fabrics and developing samples for NAMI’s 2012 Fall/Winter collection and laying plans for its mass production in China. NAMI has also been named the official sponsor of Miss California 2011, who will compete for Miss America 2012 this January! Along with Phillip Lim and Diane Von Furstenberg, NAMI will be donating items to the Divine Design event (www.divinedesign.org) by Project Angel Food, with 100% of the profits from the sales of designer merchandise going towards funding meals for the homeless living in Los Angeles.
For more information about NAMI, please visit Sarah and her group on Facebeook at: www.facebook.com/namiapparel.
You can also check out the NAMI website at: www.onnami.com