One look at Johan Kyle Ong’s designs is all you need to know that he isn’t playing around. Fresh to the scene and filled to the brim with raw potential, he’s already notched some major Philippine celebrities wearing his threads.
OJK goes to school everyday and is sick of seeing everyone wearing the same designs and blending into the crowd. “And that’s fine, because they want to show the world they take themselves so seriously,” he says, quoting The Devil Wears Prada, “But that’s not me. I don’t feel like I necessarily want to blend in with everyone. I felt uncomfortable wearing this boring jacket. I wanted to get more creative and wear stuff people’s never seen before.”
It all started with a denim jacket that he vandalized with graffiti style text and markings. He wore it around and easily got noticed for its provocative style. This pushed OJK to produce more. “I was shocked because I wasn’t used to my family and friends liking my jackets, let alone these influencers.” Since his brand started rolling, local celebrities like James Reid and Donny Pangilinan have started taking notice.
This is why the fresh designer is so careful with approaching exposure and collaborations. “Even if there’s a slight thing I feel that isn’t OJK, I won’t do it.” While he does have profit in mind, and wants to appeal to wider audiences, he commits to his branding and style above all else. “When the vision isn’t carried by other brands, models, or photographers, I can’t agree because it isn’t authentic.”
It’s difficult, finding exactly what defines the essence of OJK, especially with his lack of experience and recent arrival to the scene. He’s still in high school, and a lot of brands and artists have already approached him for work and deals. Johan stressed the importance of finding a support system as a source of advice. “OJK” has to tread the fine line between banking on his niche as a young designer, and churning out designs that’d deserve the respect even without context.
“Being 15, I do admire the title, and received overwhelming response after people found out about my age,” he says. “But I’m hoping that the longer I do this, I can grow past the title. I’m aware how marketable this age is, but I don’t want that to overshadow what I do.”
It’s not about achieving fame or success quickly, especially if it’s at the expense of his artistic integrity or self-respect. With Senior High around the corner, Johan has the long game in mind. Big plans are ahead, but he hasn’t gotten to the nitty gritty of it all. “I do have a dream for OJK, though: seeing people enjoying my clothes around the streets, and inspiring the youth to be loud and themselves, but that could be years down the road.”
With up-and-coming artists like OJK disrupting the fashion landscape, it’s a given how bright our future is. Stick around and keep your eyes peeled, because this kid has grand ambitions, and his eyes on the throne.