As fashion continues to be increasingly all about the audience, YouTuber Jenn Im is stepping into the competition with today’s launch of her own label, called Eggie.
Seven years after a creative rut spurred her to start a lifestyle vlog, the Californian now has a social footprint of 4.1 million and more than 183 million views on her YouTube channel “Clothes Encounters.” Collaborations with Calvin Klein, ColourPop Cosmetics, Levi’s, Macy’s and Clinique have led to her own clothing debut. Through the global fashion company Instaco, Im is now pitching her lifestyle collection, a compact assortment of girly and gender-neutral styles, through the Eggie site.
Asked about her popularity, Im said, “I just take it day by day. I feel like my brand has been pretty consistent. My brand is just to be myself. I wear some quirky pieces. It all just comes gradually. It’s not as though I say, ‘OK, next season I’m going to be this.’ It all just has a natural flow to it.”
During a preview in New York last week, the influencer said, “These days styles are so ADD. Fashion is so quick and people are able to morph into whatever they want to look like externally. It’s about who you are as a person inside. You are the one rocking the clothes, not the other way around. So, yeah, I think it’s all about the audience,” she said. “I’m not just selling a T-shirt. It’s a part of me. With the clothing line, it’s a tangible object that physically connects me with all my subscribers and will just help my community grow.”
While up front about Instaco’s senior designer Angela Yea, who oversaw the collection, Im was also frank about how she wound up on YouTube in the first place. “I started YouTube because I was kind of in a creative rut, really. I was going to community college. All my friends were going to prestigious universities. I just felt kind of stuck,” she said. “YouTube was a place where I was just able to share and express myself without any grades or any criticism. Back in the day, YouTube was a really small community and it was so cool. It was just a way for me to have something that was my own.”
Her offline self seems to be as spirited and positive as her online one, but not in a media-trained way. Speaking of her South Korea–born parents her voice broke ever so slightly. And again when she explains how her fiancé Ben Jolliffe left London (and his band “Young Guns”) to move to L.A. “My parents are blown away. Growing up, I feel as though I was always the random child. I wasn’t really good at anything. Obviously, I had a huge love for the arts and fashion but they didn’t see a career in that. They were very traditional [asking], ‘Why can’t you do engineering? Aren’t you good at science?’ I was definitely a late bloomer,” she said. “To finally say, ‘Hey, this is the end result. I’m doing this, I’ve built this name for myself.’ They are beyond proud of me. I have my parents to thank for everything because they immigrated here from Korea and they gave me this life in America where I was able to start my own line and even create my own job with YouTube.”
Her mother is a bank teller and her father is in apparel manufacturing, though she chose not to consult with him. Hints of her heritage are in the name “Eggie,” which means baby in Korean, a role she related to in her family and among friends, until she realized she had babies of her own — as in subscribers. Nicknamed “Jeggie” for years, Im said her brand is not a riff on “Gudetama,” Sanrio’s lazy egg character. “I love him. He’s so cute but we’re not related in any way,” she said. Pulling an off-the-shoulder top and skirt from the rack, she said of its print, “This is Korean melon, the chamoe. I grew up eating these all the time.” And motioning toward a jumpsuit printed with the Korean national flower, the mugunghwa, Im said, “I just love this flower so much. It’s so fragrant.”
Priced between $25 and $79 to be attainable, all of the items are limited runs, with new drops expected monthly. As for what Im might say to envious designers on the pay-your-dues route of design school-internship-entry level jobs, she responded: “For me, it’s about having a connection with your audience. I spent eight years building my relationship with my subscribers. So even though I didn’t go to school for pattern making, I was building a great team around me,” she said. “I’ve always felt that fashion was for the high and mighty. You need to wear the designer brands to be editorial or cool. I just wanted to make a line that was really inclusive for everybody regardless of your gender or what fashion box you’re confined to.”
As a child Im imagined life as a cartoonist but her entry into the workforce was less enchanting. “I worked at Forever 21, Johnny Rockets, two smoothie shops, a bakery — basically a lot of customer service so I thought I might be a manager or something,” she said. “Working at Forever 21 was really intense. I lost 10 pounds just from rushing around. But I learned to fold clothes really well and it made me appreciate my job now. It’s really grueling manual labor. It definitely humbled me. Whenever I am shopping in stores now, I try to be as aware as I can that I’m not going to dig through everything. People literally spent two hours folding that.”
Im will show Eggie shoppers how many ways the collection can be styled, and encourage them to repeat outfits. And she won’t be giving up her role as an ambassador for Goodwill, where at 14 she learned to find dupes of what she couldn’t afford. “I found a way to make it fit with staples, safety pins or I’d cut it. I want to encourage people to do that because there is a lot of excess of clothing these days,” she said.
Whether dressing as Adele Bloch-Bauer in a Gustav Klimt-inspired painting or vlogging from The Broad Contemporary Art Museum, Im said she has no agenda. “I just do it because I like it. If people see you enjoying doing something it inspires them to catch on if they’re interested. I never want to force people or influence them about what they like. I can only showcase what I like and if they are interested, then they will follow,” she said.
A year out from her wedding in Malibu, Im is trying to picture herself in a different setting. “When I was young, I was never like, ’This is my dream wedding. This is my color scheme.’ I never thought I would get married to be honest. But when you meet the right person it just makes sense,” she said. “Now I just have to develop my taste for wedding dresses. I don’t even know where to start. I guess Pinterest.”
As for whether she might design her own wedding dress. Im said, “Maybe. That could be really cool. Maybe Angela could help.”