How Dumbo inspired top fashion designer

Ong OajWalt Disney’s big-eared elephant Dumbo is the inspiration for the latest collection from one of the UK’s leading fashion designers, Brighton-based Ong Oaj Pairam.

Ong, who graduated from the University of Brighton with a BA(Hons) in Fashion and Business in 2008, is famed for his luxury women’s wear designs including his film premiere creation for Hunger Games and Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer.

Ong credits his latest collection to the Walt Disney animated movie: The film’s baby elephant was ridiculed because of his enormous ears and after being separated from his mother, Dumbo is relegated to a circus clown act. His only friend, a mouse, helped Dumbo achieve his full potential.

Ong said: “The more I looked at the film, the more I realised it has a lot to do with love and friendship, love between a mother and child. That was the spark.

“Then I started looking into the circus more and more and thinking about the way the circus community is a kind of family. One of the dresses is named ‘Souris’ after the little mouse from the film, because he was the only one who believed in Dumbo at the start.”Ong's collection 2

Ong said he wanted to express his love in the collection for all the women who are important in his life: “It’s quite a personal collection. For example, one dress is an interpretation of a pink carnation which symbolizes motherly love.”

Ong, who worked with Proenza Schouler in New York and Roland Mouret in London before setting up his own label in 2012, works and lives in Brighton.

Of his time at the University, he said it toughened him and prepared him for the business world, but it wasn’t all plain sailing: “It was a tough transition from college to university. I think when you are taught in the same way since primary school, going to university shifts the emphasis more onto you ‘reading’ for your qualification rather than being handed all the information. It’s a tough learning curve.

Ong's collection“You really do get out of it what you put in. Most of the time was enjoyable, but it was hard work and I did have the occasional melt down.

“Tutors and technicians have always been supportive and even after graduating they’ve checked in on my progress and offered advice. When I studied the class size was fairly small so I got lots of time and much needed one-on-one attention.

“The other beauty of studying at Brighton is you’re surrounded by the sea and the beautiful Downs so you can always escape and reflect when you need a break. It’s a city full of culture so you’re constantly being inspired by the everyday.

“It certainly toughened me up and prepared me for the business elements of the degree.”

For more about Ong, go to: https://www.ong-oajpairam.com/

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