In a recent interview with Timid, Jeremy Ho and Peter Hu, the founders of New York-based design studio Ouer, discussed their transformative journey from finance students in Canada to fashion design students at Parsons. Both queer Chinese Canadians, they shared a desire to showcase their unique backgrounds and perspectives that inspired them to create Ouer. The brand, named after the Mandarin term meaning "occasionally," encapsulates their vision of fashion as a special occasion. Through Ouer, they aspire to break free from gendered fashion norms and explore the boundaries of style and self-expression.
Fashion has always been a form of art and a medium for storytelling, but the industry often finds itself hemmed in by traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. For Ho and Hu, Ouer is a canvas for self-expression and inclusivity. Their stylistic exploration is futuristic and sophisticated, stemming from the intersection of occasionwear and the queer experience. It is within this space that they skillfully and thoughtfully incorporate diverse materials and styles to weave an authentic narrative to share with the world.
Jeremy Ho: We really wanted to work with friends and creatives in the industry and to be able to elevate and uplift our voice and creativity.
Peter Hu: We met when we were both in business school in Canada. We both studied finance for undergrad but I really hated it. After I graduated, I thought to myself, “I cannot imagine doing this any bit longer.” I applied to Parsons and we came to find out that Jeremy was also coming to Parsons, so we actually came to school together and got our associate’s degrees at Parsons. We've been in New York ever since.
I figured I had nothing to lose. I just came out of school, I had no job experience. It was a good time. It was definitely a big risk. We'd been friends for a long time at this point. We had our own separate careers throughout the years in New York, but we were living together. And then during the pandemic, we were at home talking constantly about our frustrations with industry or the kind of work that we wanted to be doing. We had spoken about doing something together for a very long time as well. So we decided that we really wanted to jump in. The vibe was just right, and then it feels like the moment was then, and so we did it.
JH: Ouer is based on the Mandarin phrase 偶爾 [occasionally]. We were drawn to it because, first of all, we were drawn to the more extravagant style in fashion and design. We got into fashion looking at Prada, [Alexander] McQueen, and other similar womenswear brands. We wanted to take a piece of that, the idea of dressing up and having a sense of going out in our clothing, something that feels a bit more special. I think the word itself has that sort of “special” feeling to it, because it means “not often or always, but rather, once in a while.”
While I think our style is constantly evolving, I think the essence and mission of the brand is definitely rooted in designing something that feels special. In the landscape of menswear fashion, you see a lot more streetwear brands. And during the pandemic, people preferred to dress down and wear more sweatpants, sweatshirts, and other casual clothes. If you look at our collection, our clothing is definitely a bit more elevated in the way that it's worn, as opposed to a casual sort of setting.
Pete and I also want to tell stories of our upbringing, about being Asian and being a third culture kid. One of the main pillars of what we want to do is also the idea of cosplaying, and exploring the idea that we're always in places that we don't fit in and telling those stories. That's very beautiful in its own way as well. It doesn't tie back to the word or but it has that sort of feeling to it.
PH: For us, we are reimagining menswear, essentially. Menswear has been quite limited in its scope, and it's quite unnecessarily gendered. We wanted to take some techniques, fabrics, silhouettes, or colors that are more traditionally associated with womenswear and incorporate that into menswear, because those things themselves are not gendered. We wanted to take influences from everywhere and not just traditional tailoring and we want to remix it to turn it into something more.
JH: It sounds really cliche, but I would tell them that you just have to go for it and believe in your vision and what's special about you. For a lot of my upbringing, it was a lot about trying to fit in, but I think when you're leaning into something that makes you special—your perspective, the way you dress, the way you think, the things that you like—I think that's a lot more valuable. Use those to your strengths. It's something that I wish I knew when I was younger.
PH: My advice is a bit more practical advice for anybody who wants to be in fashion because it's not an easy industry. If you want to try working in this industry, you better be very passionate about it and never lose that initial drive. Every time I take on a new intern, I always tell them that if you want to work in any industry, the best way to get in is to know everything about it. Information is so free flowing now. It's very easy to find out how this industry works and having that kind of understanding before you really pursue it will help you so much and keep you from being blindsided when you start work. A lot of people imagine it to be more glamorous or fun, and think it’s just making sketches, but it’s actually so much more.
JH: My longest job previously was at Thom Browne. I was there for seven years. He’s definitely someone that I really look up to. I learned a lot working super closely with him. If I hadn’t had that, I might have gone a more commercial route. But knowing what he does really well and how he tells his story and what he wouldn't compromise for were huge learning moments for me. Other than that, just people around us, the creatives we see in New York—they're constantly trying to do their own thing. That was definitely one of the biggest motivations for us to put our foot down and do something for ourselves.
PH: My first job was at a company called Tim Coppens, and it was really just like being dropped in the ocean and having to figure out a way to float. It was such a small company, so you were working on every single aspect in every department and you had to figure it out yourself. I really learned resilience and self-reliance from the experience. I'm confident in solving problems instead of being frustrated by them. My last job was with Phillip Lim. I was heading up a department there. It was a lot of work, but I learned so much about how to make the best product and be thoughtful about every single process and the way that you're doing things. It's so important to be open-minded in that way and not be so boxed in. It's hard when you're working with a bigger company where there's a more structural way of thinking. A smaller company is very flexible and you can make it your own way and constantly have to improve your process. That's a very good skill to have that I learned.
JH: We're working on our second collection, so we're definitely releasing something this summer. But going further ahead, we just want to collaborate more and tell more stories and keep on doing collections and doing what we love.
Disclaimer: This interview was edited for length and clarity.