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How Emily Oberg Kickstarted a Video Career at 'Complex'

... and amassed 132K Instagram followers in the process.
'Complex' editorial producer Emily Oberg. Photo: Emily Oberg

'Complex' editorial producer Emily Oberg. Photo: Emily Oberg

In our long-running series, "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion industry about how they broke in and found success.

Some of our "How I'm Making It" interview subjects have already enjoyed long careers in the fashion industry, like veteran runway critic Eric Wilson and IMG's model scouts of over two decades, Jeni Rose and David Cunningham. Others, like Emily Oberg, are in the earlier stages of carving out their niche within the business. The 22-year-old Complex editorial producer caught our attention through her video work interviewing hypebeasts at Supreme drops, working out with DJ Khaled and producing a 40-minute documentary on Supreme's underground reselling economy. Turns out we were late to the party: With an Instagram aesthetic that's clear (Céline-meets-Nike), consistent (photos are delivered in sets of three) and just unattainable enough to spark thirst, Oberg has amassed a following of 132,000 fans, the sort who aren't shy about taking to the comments section in droves.

We met up with Oberg in early January to talk about breaking into the video world, her side gig running the clothing brand Sporty & Rich, female competition in streetwear and her mission to get young people interested in health and wellness. Oberg has a microphone, quite literally, and she's not afraid to use it.

What is your current job title, and what does that encompass?

My title is editorial producer. It basically means that I am a liaison between editorial and video, because they're very separate at Complex. I'm an on-camera anchor, and I produce my videos as well.

How did you land at Complex?

I was living in Canada, in Vancouver — I'm originally from Calgary. I was just doing freelance modeling and styling work, kind of figuring out what I was going to do next. I went to fashion school for a year, but I wasn't going to do the college thing; school's not for me. I was in this photo shoot — I styled it — that was posted to Complex, and one of the style editors was like, 'Oh, would you ever want to do work for us?' And I was like, 'Yeah, I really want to move to New York. What do you have?' They just happened to have my position open, and then I moved two weeks later.

What was that learning curve like, figuring out how to perform on camera and also write the posts that accompany the videos?

I worked really closely with our news editor at the time, who now works at Mental Floss. He was my mentor; he's the best. I had no real experience in writing, so I would just do some test writing and we'd go over it. It was a long process of learning how to write. And then with on-camera, you honestly just pick it up by doing it. That's why I don't really encourage people to go to school. I don't think it teaches you all the things you need to know, especially in a creative world.

Walk me through all the different types of videos you do at this point. You recently did a full-on documentary about Supreme resellers, "Sold Out," and you've done a lot of videos at Supreme drops, interviewing the kids waiting in line.

Our day-to-day job as a news anchor is to do news stories. We'll do videos based on Complex posts, so we're just reporting on typical news: Something the Kardashians said, or a sneaker release, and heavier news as well. It kind of progressed into the drops, which is great. Now I have my own workout series, "Get Sweaty." I've always wanted to [produce and direct] my own series, so that's really fun — I really want to focus more on that this year. And then the Supreme doc was my baby. That was the first thing that I really directed.

How did "Sold Out" come about?

[It came about] after meeting all these kids and understanding that there's a huge market for reselling; I was like, there's definitely a story to be told. Nobody else is doing it, nobody else is going to do it, because it's so our lane. But we also wanted to make it so that other people outside the Supreme niche community could watch it. And I just realized that all these guys are such good guys, and they get such a bad rap. I wanted to give them a chance to be like, "This is who we are. We're making money like anyone else."

In terms of expanding the audience with the documentary, who were you looking to get at?

I think it's definitely a business story. I think [we got at] more of the style world, too — but like, Vogue vibes, because Supreme has made its way into high fashion in the past year especially. I think the overall sneaker world. And then even parents of young kids, who are like, "Wow, this is a business. My kid could be doing this."

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Tell me about "Get Sweaty." Where did the concept for an interview-slash-workout come from?

I really wanted to do a workout series because after connecting with our audience — I'll respond to them on Twitter, and [in] YouTube comments they're very vocal with their opinions — I noticed that they're very impressionable. But they're very young. They're 14 to 25. I wanted to just get the message across that being healthy and working out and taking care of yourself is cool and you should do it. It's a lot of drinking and drugs and partying at this age, especially in the New York downtown scene. I'm not against it, but that's not something I do. I like to stay home and cook and go to the gym, and I think taking care of yourself and your body is so important. Kids are really focused on buying the latest sneakers and clothes, but it also matters to pay attention to what you're putting inside your body and how you're treating it. 

This was a good way to present it, because it's a rapper, usually, or a talent. It's a funny interview, and you can actually work out [to it], if you wanted to.

I know you have a pretty avid social followingHow much do you think about personal branding when it comes to Instagram? That's a dirty word, but it can be incredibly helpful professionally.

[Instagram] is the new resumé. People are always like, how do you get more followers? And I'm like, I don't know, it's honestly not something that you try to do. Obviously girls can post risqué photos and that will do the job, but I don't think that's the best way to go about it. If you have good taste, that's number one, and then just being authentic to yourself, and being unconventional.

You have a clothing brand, too, called Sporty & Rich. What motivated you to start that?

Sporty & Rich I started almost like... two years ago? I just wanted to make an extension of everything that I like and have the clothes represent that. The sweatshirts I use are the same ones that Supreme uses — I have the same factory in Canada. My T-shirts are made in the U.S. I do limited drops because it's a lot of work with everything I have going on. People are like, why do you do such a hype release? And honestly, I couldn't do more.

The meaning of "sporty" seems obvious here, but explain the "rich" side of it.

Rich is the idea of an unattainable lifestyle that people love and lust over. Things like having nice furniture and the best quality of food. Just investing in your wellness. It's more 'rich in spirit.'

Were you always really into streetwear?

I read Complex religiously when I was around 14. Hypebeast and Highsnobiety I would read religiously every day. And it's cool because there are not a lot of females in streetwear. But I think it's expanded over the past two years, and girls are like, "Okay, it's acceptable to like all this stuff boys like and not be considered a tomboy."

I was going to ask you about being a woman working in a relatively male-focused space.

I would definitely like to start some sort of organization or group where all the cool females in this industry can get together and talk about ideas and inspire and encourage each other. I don't think that there's such close a bond with the females in streetwear now, because, you know, when there are few of you there's a lot of competition.

Right, and sometimes when one woman breaks into a male-dominated field, she might be hesitant to help others, out of the fear that it would jeopardize her position. Even though it shouldn't be like that.

Totally. We can all be there, and we can all exist together, which I don't think is something people understand. I think in terms of competition, you should be your only competition. You should only try to outdo yourself, and not compare yourself to others because that doesn't work and you're always going to be unhappy and dissatisfied with what you're doing, because you're always looking at someone else.

This interview has been edited for clarity and space.