Brighton-based designer's work attracts international attention.
02 Dec 2015
Brighton Fashion and Business BA(Hons) graduate Ong Oaj Pairam’s label is fast gaining recognition in the competitive fashion world. Ong worked with Proenza Schouler in New York and Roland Mouret in London before setting up his own label in 2012 and still works and lives in Brighton.
A dress from Ong’s autumn 2015 women’s wear collection attracted international attention recently when it was worn at a film premiere by Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games actress Natalie Dormer.
Of his time at the university, Ong said it toughened him and prepared him for the business world, but it wasn’t all plain sailing: “It was a tough transition from college to university. I think when you are taught in the same way since primary school, going to university shifts the emphasis more onto you ‘reading’ for your qualification rather than being handed all the information. It’s a tough learning curve.
“You really do get out of it what you put in. Most of the time was enjoyable, but it was hard work and I did have the occasional melt down.
“Tutors and technicians have always been supportive and even after graduating they’ve checked in on my progress and offered advice. When I studied the class size was fairly small so I got lots of time and much needed one-on-one attention.
“The other beauty of studying at Brighton is you’re surrounded by the sea and the beautiful Downs so you can always escape and reflect when you need a break. It’s a city full of culture so you’re constantly being inspired by the everyday.
“It certainly toughened me up and prepared me for the business elements of the degree.”
He advised would-be designers: “If you’re aspiring to set up your only label, you really have to become a true polymath – it’s good to get a foundation in all aspects of fashion design, buying, selling and fashion history, as well as keeping up to date with advertising, social media, content production, PR, and graphic design.
“Also, don’t give up on what you believe in. I’ve always wanted to make modern and innovative eveningwear, all made in Britain and to the highest standards. It’s a niche market but it’s finally paying back. Yes, It would be easier setting up a label making the kind of fashion London is more known for – but that wasn’t me and wasn’t what I’d want to be known for.
Would he recommend Brighton? He said: “You have to decide what’s important to you and the environment you’d excel the best in – is it studying somewhere that your idol had studied, studying somewhere with lots of competition to keep you on your toes, or studying somewhere with lots of kudos?
“Brighton was important to me, I had taken the decision to not study medicine and to do fashion – a real risk in my parent’s eyes. I needed an environment I felt safe in, could study hard and get all the access to the support I needed.
“Brighton was perfect for me. I’d recommend people to give it a decent visit, see if it’s right for them. I think it should be on all inspiring designers’ radar.”
For more about Ong, go to http://www.ong-oajpairam.com/
For alumni information, go to www.brighton.ac.uk/alumni