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Meet: Ji-Hyun Oh

Group of people smiling to camera
Group of people smiling to camera

Written by
Eleanor Harvey
Published date
19 June 2020

Ji-Hyun Oh graduated from Central Saint Martins (CSM) in 2015, with BA (Hons) Product Design. Since graduating Ohji has set up, porgabé, an eco-friendly luxury lifestyle brand for babies and children.

Ji-Hyun is also the Vice-President of the Korea Alumni Association, where she and the committee organise a wide variety of events and opportunities for our alumni living in Korea.

We spoke to her recently to find out more about her time at CSM, and why she got involved with the Korea Alumni Association.

Woman wearing all-black in front of a pink wall
Ji-Hyun, Vice-President of the Korea Alumni Association

What made you want to study at CSM?

At first, I didn't know which course I'd like, I’d want to do, or what I'd good at. Therefore, I applied for the Foundation course even though I had already started a BA Industrial Design at a university in Korea. It was the CSM interviewer who recommended applying for the BA Product Design course.

Personally, I think you must study in London if you want to study ART AND DESIGN. London is the best place to study art and design because it has the best harmony of commercial opportunities (like the USA), and artistic philosophy (like other European countries). Also, I could see and experience new art and design trends in London.

White teddy bear on a chair
Ji-Hyun's brand, Porgabe

You originally did the Foundation at CSM, and then stayed on to do your BA. What was it about the College, and living in London that you enjoyed so much?

The Foundation course let me realise what I'm good at and enjoyed doing. I took a diagnostic class so I could take classes in various design majors, like graphics, fine art, fashion, jewellery, architecture, and product. So I chose my BA based on what I was good at, as well as I working to gain lots of experience in the fashion industry. I worked as a stylist in All Saints, also I had lots of experience being backstage staff at London and Paris Fashion Weeks and Weekends.

I can guarantee CSM workshops are the best! I learned how to use all the product design machines in the workshops, I even learnt to use Arduino. I was quite an energetic student at that time, so I took workshops in everything, including photo, silkscreen and fashion.

I love London, living in London is quite uncomfortable and quite tough as an Asian, however, I really enjoyed London's weather.

Landscape photo of 3 people, in front of a green flower arch
Ji-Hyun (right, in the green top) at the Korean Alumni Reception 2019

Can you tell us a bit about what you do now?

Currently, I'm doing a variety of things, sometimes I'm an artist, sometimes I'm a designer and sometimes I'm a businesswoman!

I'm the CEO and Creative Director at porgabé, and EOEE. I also work at Studio intO (London), as their Lead Researcher for Central and East Asia.

How did your time at CSM help you get to where you are today?

I became more open-minded in London, especially as CSM had such a variety of creative people; I can accept anything.

People listening to a presentation
UAL Korean Alumni Reception hosted at Foresthill Studios, Seoul

You’re the Vice-President of the UAL Korea Alumni Association, why do you think it’s important for these international associations to exist?

In Korea, connections are quite important, especially university connections. That’s why I started to come to the Alumni events.

After graduation, I had to go back home because I couldn’t get an extended visa. Being back in Korea, I didn't have any connections, I didn't even have many Korean alumni friends. This was because when I moved to London, my English skills were really bad; I had to have a plan to improve my skills as soon as possible. At first, it was tough, but, I wanted to learn English as soon as possible which meant I didn't have any connections when I moved back to Seoul.

I think domestic and international connections are getting more important. Now we can share anything on YouTube and Facebook, and we can also collaborate wherever you are. Also, the UAL alumni network is so huge globally we can help and collaborate with each other.

How did you get involved in the Association? 

At first, I helped with the alumni flea market in Seoul in 2016, when the committee members asked me to join them! Honestly, I don't know how I'm still working for the committee. haha :)

People looking at a stall
UAL Korean Alumni Association organised a Street Craft Week

You and the rest of the Committee arrange a lot of events, and provide the alumni network in Korea with a lot of opportunities to meet-up, and showcase their work. Can you tell us a bit about some of the previous events/opportunities that you’ve organised?

Previously we've had a big event in 2018. We got a funding from the Korea Craft and Design Foundation (KCDF), for an exhibition, art performances, fashion show, and a one-day class where you could learn new crafts. Lots of Korean alumni participated, as well as some overseas alumni.

We always try to make an event that promotes our alumni connection and to share helpful information (like how to apply to get funding or how to put on an exhibition etc.). We also try to promote alumni-run companies and brands, so we get sponsorships. We're always preparing sponsorship's products to give the alumni.

Last year also we held a big social event, which was attened by Jeremy [Till, Head of CSM], as well as a lot of the UAL Alumni department.

We always have 2 events per year, sadly this year we had to cancel the first half term of events.

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