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Emily Oberg On the 'Kith Girl,' Women's Streetwear and Her First NYFW Show

We caught up with the brand's womenswear creative lead ahead of the Kith Sport fashion show on Thursday night.

Ever since Emily Oberg left her three-year post at Complex to take on a creative lead role at Kith Women, she's hit the ground running, working alongside the marketing and design teams to help solidify their message for the female Kith customer. Since the beginning of the year, Oberg has created mood boards for references and inspiration; she oversees, directs and styles all of the Kith Women lookbooks, and has worked to revamp the line's visuals for both social media and e-commerce.

"It's nice to be involved in every part because then there is a clear story that people can follow," Oberg says over the phone. She had just wrapped up casting appointments for the day in preparation for the brand's upcoming show, titled Kith Sport, for New York Fashion Week. "It's kind of like setting the tone creatively, who our girl is and who we're designing for."

So who exactly is the Kith girl? It's something that Oberg and Ronnie Fieg — Kith's founder and creative director — have constantly discussed since she joined the company. Of course, Oberg is the definitive Kith girl, as proven by her Instagram account, filled with a curated mix of vintage Chanel, sneakers and oversize T-shirts for her 244K followers.

"There's also so many girls that aren't like me that I also think are the Kith girl," notes Oberg. "Obviously it's the 'streetwear' girl, kind of like the athletic girl who wears sneakers all of the time. But then also the fashion girl who is kind of just getting into streetwear in the last year or so. They're wearing a hoodie with heels and blending the two, whereas before, streetwear and fashion didn't really collide for women."

Of course, this type of dream job doesn't come without its challenges. Because Oberg hails from a media background, she's learned a lot when it comes to her technical design duties at Kith, such as choosing fabrics and working with factories. (Though, she has some familiarity with producing clothes, thanks to her merch and magazine brand Sporty & Rich.) "I'm just willing to take it all in," she says. "Before my job in media, I didn't have experience in that, so I feel like the best way to learn is by doing. That's how I learned at my previous job and this is how I'm learning now. It's the best way to get a hold of everything."

Ahead of the Kith Sport show on Thursday, we caught up with Oberg about her time so far at Kith, women's streetwear and what to expect from her first full collection for Fall 2017.

With men's streetwear brands increasingly expanding with women's lines, what makes Kith Women stand out?

A lot of brands that have tried to do streetwear for women have kind of missed the mark because they're almost trying to create a mix of street for girls but they're not really paying attention to what they actually want. I think with Kith Women, we're not just designing for the streetwear girl, we're designing for the fashion girl, for the girlie girl, for the tomboy, for the working girl, for the workout girl. So I think it's really diverse. Not every piece is for everyone, but everyone could see themselves in something of ours. I think [Fall 2017] will really show that.

Is there a certain release or project that has been your favorite at Kith?

The Coca-Cola collaboration was a big thing for us. That had already started before I came on board, so that was one of the first things that I worked on with our designers. That was fun because there was a big activation in the Hamptons and then all of the seeding. It was received really well, and it was the first time Kith Women had a line outside of the store. The men's store always has a line — it's just a given — but to see a line for women, it was super cool. Girls don't usually line up for things the same way that guys do, so it was cool to see that.

Kith Women's Coco-Cola collaboration. Photo: Courtesy

Kith Women's Coco-Cola collaboration. Photo: Courtesy

Can you tell us how you've been involved with prepping the NYFW show?

We had the casting and I'm also helping style all of the looks for women, so what jewelry we should do, what shoes we should do and how everything goes together. It's fun because I design this stuff and I had a vision for it, but now I'm able to actually put it together after all these months. I just recently saw everything in the past few days, so it's been nice to have it in my hands and to be able to play with it, to see what it looks like and how you can match it with everything.

What can we expect from Kith Women's fall collection?

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In the past, Kith Women had done a lot of active — that's definitely a part of what we're doing now and what we're continuing to do. So we're doing more active, just updating it after getting feedback from the last collection we did. We really changed a lot and made things better. There's also a lot more graphics; I was heavily involved in that. It's something I like working on.

There are a lot of sweatsuits and a lot of good jackets. I wanted to play with different materials, and there's a faux shearling jacket, which is really nice and warm. We did a collaboration with Golden Bear — one of the best Varsity jacket brands, made in California, super-good quality leather and wool.

There's a lot of color, which I wanted to play with. I know everyone in New York just wears black all of the time — and I used to be like that — but I'm opening up a little bit to mixing and matching colors. We found in the past that pink does really well for us, so I definitely made sure to include a lot of pinks, dusty roses, muted pinks... nothing too crazy because it is still fall. I did a lot of yellow and some royal blues, which I think is super-sporty. I love navy as an alternative to black. Creams, army green, forest green, camel, burgundy. A lot of staple winter colors mixed in with the yellows, pinks and bright blues.

Kith Women's Self-Love collection. Photo: Courtesy

Kith Women's Self-Love collection. Photo: Courtesy

You said you've gotten a lot of feedback on activewear to make it better. What exactly changed?

We changed the fabrics — it's a lot more compression, so it holds you in and is more flattering and it feels better. When you're working out, it holds up. We added a drawstring to our leggings, which I think is really important. When we were sampling, I would wear it working out and so I was able to test it myself and I could really see how it performed. It's just easier that way to make adjustments.

What's your source of inspiration when you're designing for Kith Women?

It's actually interesting because when Virgil [Abloh] released his fall mood board with Princess Diana, she was also on my mood board. She's such a style icon and will always be. I had her in mind, and also the Upper East Side mom. I know everyone loves downtown, but I just love the Upper East and West Side. They're just so stylish and put together, and to me, that's classic New York. Even though they might be wearing a sweatsuit, they have an a Hermès bag and it ties all together. I love that. I love Phoebe Philo; she's always my style icon.

And then just my friends. It's always nice to get their input and feedback and show them things while I've been designing. What do you think of this, or how would you wear this, or would you wear this? Because they also inspire my style. Even my guy friends. I always like to wear what they're wearing and see how I can play with that.

It was also important for me to make stuff that guys could wear if they wanted to. Because we've been in that place where guys are comfortable with wearing girls' clothes because of people like Jaden Smith. It's not as taboo as it once was. We have a lot of men's cuts and fits, and if they wanted to wear one of our hoodies, they totally could wear an XL. That was also something I really wanted to do, so nothing too girlie. Some of it is female-specific but a lot of it is unisex.

Kith Women's Great Jones capsule collection. Photo: Courtesy

Kith Women's Great Jones capsule collection. Photo: Courtesy

In a previous Fashionista interview, you mentioned wanting to start an organization or group for females working in the streetwear space. Has your role at Kith facilitated that in any way?

For spring, we're definitely trying to work with female-focused brands and even in terms of shooting girls who really stand for something. It's really important for me that our models are very ethnically diverse, [as well as including] plus-size and bigger girls. That's definitely something that I want to do. I don't want to be so exclusive and feel like anyone is left out or can't wear our stuff or be part of the Kith brand.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

See the entire Kith Sport runway show collection in the gallery below.