Ouer

All clothing throughout by Ouer. All jewelry throughout by Gentle Storm.

Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Ouer

"We're definitely not fans of quiet luxury here," says Peter Hu, who forms half of New York-based menswear label Ouer along with Jeremy Ho. That much is evident from their two collections, each composed of classic menswear staples reimagined with vibrancy and texture that feel anything but classic. Exaggerated black trousers are paired with sleeveless scoop-neck knits in glittery Lurex, a cropped cardigan jacket in Klein blue features a mandarin collar (and matching trousers), and drop-neck cupro dress shirts allow jewelry to peek out. These choices aren't just eye-catching, they're rooted in a cross-cultural identity that allows Ouer to occupy its own space in menswear.

All shoes throughout by CAMPERLAB

All shoes throughout by CAMPERLAB

That multifaceted experience began early; Ho was born in Toronto but grew up mostly in Hong Kong until college, while Hu was born in Beijing and moved to Calgary when he was ten. They first met when they were at Rotman Commerce business school in Toronto and ended up in New York when they both enrolled in Parsons and found alignment in their fashion perspective. "When we got to Parsons and really got to develop our design sensibility, I think that's when we knew that we were trying to tell similar stories," Ho recalls. The duo bonded over designers they admired like Prada, Dries van Noten, and Nicolas Ghesquière during his tenure at Balenciaga, influences that visible in Ouer, but it was an even earlier experience Ho had that best exemplifies the brand. "I think my first fashion moment was watching concerts in Hong Kong and seeing this amazing queer pop star Leslie Cheung. He was wearing full Gaultier looks with forty-inch long black hair and it was the first moment that I was like, 'Whoa, this is menswear...but it's kind of gender-bending.' It really expressed his individuality and queerness and I thought that was amazing."

Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Ouer
Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Ouer

It wasn't until the pandemic, however, that the duo would fully translate that into their own clothing line. They were living together during lockdown when they found the impetus for Ouer. They both missed the joy of putting together an outfit for a night out and fantasized about better days ahead: "We had so much built-up energy when we were just stuck at home and we were talking about, 'What will we do? What will we want to wear if one day we're outside of the house again, just dressing up again and having places to go?' It just really came from that desire and that moment where we had so much yearning for the outside world."

Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Ouer

They started experimenting with fabrics and colors as they began to form the æsthetic pillars of the brand, resulting in what they called Collection 000. "In the beginning, we wanted to come out with a very particular view that we both really believed in," the designers say. "So it was a lot of discussions and working on drapes and testing silhouettes." Details like a side seam button placket on a silk poplin shirt present the possibilities of wearing it conventionally or switching the styling to a draped look, while vivid pops of magenta and the aforementioned Klein blue punctuate the collection with energy. A surprising point of reference for the first collection drew from the impression Hu had while watching kung fu on television, a cultural touchpoint that intertwines distinct silhouettes, colors, and fabrics in a form of Asian culture that's both familiar and global. "I remember when I was maybe eleven or twelve, we were watching this television series at home and they were flying in the sky with these chiffon shirts and it was all flowy. I was obsessed," he recalls. "Then I would go back to my little notebook and sketch out these flowy dresses and things like that. So I think it was always that fantasy element. This is a world that we were so exposed to and I love a lot of the elements in that." Some of the looks are even paired with yellow Onitsuka Tiger sneakers (à la Kill Bill), underscoring the theme.

Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Ouer
Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Ouer

The second collection evolved with the same type of nuance as the Western appetite for Asian cinema has shifted; while it was once only about the bombastic action stars, it's recently focused more on subtle cultural narratives. The storyline began when Hu recalled a trip from his youth. "I have this memory of in 2004. I was on a French immersion trip to Montreal and on the flight back every single person was watching The OC and it was such a visceral moment for me," he says. "I was like, 'This is so crazy that everyone was just watching this one show.'" Impacted by this cultural moment, Hu wanted to reinvent it from a different lens. "We wanted to mine that California SoCal laidbackness, so the question was really, how do we think about this idea of dressing to fit in—but from a perspective of us fully grown and being really comfortable in our skin and re-looking at some of those tropes that we had to conform ourselves to?" he explains. The resulting looks include polos—a mid-aughts staple—cut with a second contrasting collar and fabricated in that shiny Lurex while black satin cargo pants are voluminous and elegant.

Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Ouer
Seeing the World Through the Eyes of Ouer

As they work on the next collection—set to be revealed in June—the duo wants to continue honing in on those personal experiences. The idea isn't to reinvent the wheel but rather to inject their identities into the fashion that informed them. "I think it's almost more subversive to take something so familiar and change it a little bit and play with the proportions rather than make something super out-of-the-ordinary," Hu says. In making such subtle changes to conventional menswear, Ouer is a pointed reflection of our ideas of the genre and how unique the results can be depending on where the design impetus is coming from. "Part of what we wanted to do was also expand a vocabulary of what [conventional dressing] can be," Ho says, “especially seeing it from the lens of a third culture kid or an immigrant or a queer person—what that wardrobe can look like for us."

For more information, please visit Ouer.studio.

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Ouer
Ouer
Hair by Ubu using Bumble and bumble. Makeup by Nanase Ito using MAC Cosmetics. Models: Brandon Lee at Heroes Model Management and Lilly Vaal at The Industry Model Management. Photographer's assistant: Ester Kim. Stylist's assistant: Shannon Chou.

As a nonprofit arts and culture publication dedicated to educating, inspiring, and uplifting creatives, Cero Magazine depends on your donations to create stories like these. Please support our work here.