As loyal Who What Wear readers, you know you’ll be treated to coverage of your favorite tastemakers and trendsetters (Kendall and Gigi, anyone?) on the regular, but it’s also our job to keep you abreast of the industry’s It girls in the making! Take, for example, a cutting-edge photographer or Nicole Richie’s trusted stylist. Their names may not be familiar to you (yet), but their influence is clear, and they’re shaping our fashion landscape with their fresh perspectives.
Five such influencers—Isabella Peschardt, Yoyo Cao, Jamie Mizrahi, Ji Oh, and Emily Soto—all share one significant trait: an exceedingly strong work ethic with a solid commitment to what they do. Interestingly, a majority of these ladies also started their careers uncertain that the field they were interested in even existed, let alone was within reach. But with time, these women remained dedicated to their passions, thus landing them the successful positions they hold today.
Keep reading to familiarize yourselves with all the fashion influencers who are inspiring us right now.
WHO: Isabella Peschardt
If you’re a Reformation junkie, chances are you’ll recognize the face (and curly locks) of Isabella Peschardt, a regular on the brand’s website. The Los Angeles–based model, a stunning mix of Ethiopian and Danish descent, first embarked upon her career at the young age of 5. She has since caught our attention in various editorials for the likes of Vogue, Schon, and Interview Germany—recently adding Juicy Couture and Smashbox to her résumé of campaign work. But naturally, there is more to the rising starlet—who boasts a social media following of 309K—than looks alone. In the coming year, we can look forward to getting acquainted with her musical talent, as Peschardt’s EP is set for release in early 2017.
WHO WHAT WEAR: Who would be your ultimate team of artists to work with?
ISABELLA PESCHARDT: I would love, love, love to be in Vogue Paris. So if on my call sheet, it said Mario Testino, Pat McGrath, Sam McKnight, and Emmanuelle Alt, that would be crazy. I would be so blessed.
WWW: What words of wisdom could you share with young aspiring models? What are the biggest challenges you would want to prepare them for?
IP: There are the obvious ones, like definitely don’t give up. Everyone has a different time in the industry, I feel. I have friends who hadn’t worked in years, and then all of a sudden they’re on the cover of Vogue and doing all of this amazing stuff. So definitely don’t give up, and also don’t take rejection so hard. There are so many different reasons as to why [casting agents are] picking girls, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the fact that they don’t like you. I think that’s definitely hard for women. And then also, keep your business to yourself. This industry is really small I feel, and people don’t necessarily have your best interest at heart. So when it comes to jobs, or just anything, I think it’s good to keep your business to yourself.
WWW: Are there any models you particularly look to for inspiration?
IP: Yes. My number one would definitely be Naomi Campbell. She’s huge for me. She just did this W magazine shoot with Steven Klein, and she’s just so beautiful. You can feel her presence through the shots—it’s insane. In every shot, she can look so different and just bring so much power to it.
WWW: How would you describe your model-off-duty style?
IP: I have the hardest time answering this question because it really does vary based on my mood, but I think I’m pretty much always put together. Even if I’m wearing sweats, it’s always really cool sweats, and I still have a look going on. But I feel most powerful and happiest when I’m wearing faux fur or masculine looks, because both of those things aren’t people’s go-tos. So I feel like being able to incorporate that makes me feel different.
WHO: Ji Oh
South Korea–born designer Ji Oh is an expert when it comes to creating well-structured clothing for women, inspired by menswear. Her eponymous label, which launched in New York three years ago, caters to the girl on the go who is ultimately seeking comfort and effortless-chic options in her day-to-day wear. Earlier this year, Oh was named a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist and was additionally awarded space in the CFDA Fashion Incubator.
WHO WHAT WEAR: Growing up in South Korea, how did fashion play a role in your world? Which people and places did you look to for inspiration?
JI OH: I think my inspiration is more about how people express fashion while they live their life. South Koreans are very practical and utilitarian, I think, and monotones have influenced me a lot. Besides that whole South Korean practicality/utilitarian world, I think comfort is important in people’s lives and how they move. Feeling comfortable is feeling confident.
WWW: When working on a new collection, what does your design process typically consist of?
JO: Most of the time when I’m finishing a collection, I get new ideas for the next collection. When I’m not lucky and my idea is not clear, I ask myself What do I want to design for? Most of the time it does come to me because I try to stay open to a lot of different things and nice surroundings. Each season I try to show a different part of it so it is boundary-less and location-less and all that stuff, but one season I was like, Okay, I want to show the loungewear side of the collection, and then I pushed that side. Sometimes I say, Okay, let’s push the shirting world—the same world, but different parts of it. It is always lifestyle that I am striving for and the woman who just likes to be in between all of those things. I haven’t really chosen Oh, I’m inspired by this era or this painting.
WWW: If you could choose any celebrity or model of the moment to be the face of your brand, who would it be, and why?
JO: I really love Léa Seydoux. She is so great. She’s very sexy, but she’s very boyish. She always looks like she’s not trying to be anything but herself, and that is why I really love her. I think it’s that boyish, sensual attitude of hers—it’s very sophisticated to me.
WWW: What advice do you have for young designers looking to make a name for themselves in the fashion industry?
JO: Not only to have a strong identity but also to be able to trim your ideas. There are so many ideas that often get put into one collection, and that confuses people. Through my learning process, I really realized, yes, you have to have a strong identity, but to make your ideas shine bright, you really have to have other things that complement that strong idea, instead of trying to be strong with everything and make it all loud. Also, of course, believing in yourself and not giving up matter a lot too, being committed to what you do. That’s always going to be very important.
WHO: Emily Soto
In an industry where celebrated female photographers are few, it’s always uplifting to stumble upon the works of rising talent in the field. Emily Soto, born and raised in Florida and now stationed in New York, grew up with a love for fashion that has manifested into a thriving career with a bulky roster of clients. Soto has shot editorials for world-famous magazines, including the must-see “Whispers Under the Sky” from L’Officiel India and many other publications that fall under the Condé Nast umbrella. In the coming year, we look forward to seeing her portfolio expand.
WHO WHAT WEAR: You have successfully had your work featured in such publications as V Magazine, Allure, Teen Vogue, Nylon, and more! Around what age do you recall photography first sparking your interest?
EMILY SOTO: I think for me it happened when I was really young. When I was around 8 or 9, I was more into fashion, so I started dressing up my dolls and doing photo shoots that way. So I think it started at an early age, but maybe I didn’t see it as photography, but more that I had a fashion interest. I would say I always had a point-and-shoot for taking photos whenever I would travel and that kind of thing, but really when I decided to make photography a career was after I graduated school. I had taken some fashion courses when I was going to college, but I was in a small town at the time. I lived in Virginia and didn’t really think I’d ever live in a big city where I could do that as a career. So it was after I graduated and got my bachelor’s that I moved to California and started shooting more and thinking of it as a career possibility.
WWW: Currently, what is your favorite camera to shoot with?
ES: I shoot a lot of different film cameras, and my favorite is probably the Leica M7. I also love the Impossible Project I-1 Instant Camera ($300), and my go-to for digital, I shoot a lot with the Canon 5D Mark IV ($3499) as well as the Sony A7R II. I have a lot of different cameras that I use.
WWW: What would you say is one of the most challenging aspects of your job?
ES: You have to be really confident in your work and your direction. I think it can be challenging in the industry just as a woman, because as a woman, we’re a little more humble, and it’s hard to talk ourselves up. So it’s definitely putting yourself out there but not taking rejection personally, and really just looking for new opportunities, making those connections, and taking risks in your work.
WWW: Where do you draw inspiration for your shoots? Once you receive a mood board from a publication you’re working with, which sources do you often go to in getting your creative juices flowing?
ES: Definitely Pinterest. I’ve been so busy with clients the past few months, so this week I’ve taken a step back to look at older work I’ve done to reflect on it, as well as my new direction, or where I’m going in the next few months. So definitely looking at old Polaroids or work that I’ve done, or looking on Pinterest at my favorite photographers, like Paolo Roversi and Sarah Moon. I love Vogue Italia and looking at all the different editorials there. So definitely keeping fresh and going to magazines here in New York and looking at the trends and photography being done, as well as up-and-coming models and who’s being shot. I love staying fresh with everything that’s going on in the fashion industry.
WHO: Yoyo Cao
WHAT: Digital influencer
Social media personality and designer Yoyo Cao of YoyoKulala.com is known for her innovative, covetable street style. Aside from being one of Singapore’s most recognized digital stars, Cao continues to push the envelope with her fashion-forward ensembles. Just this past August, she also became the first local visionary in her category to pose for the cover of Elle Singapore.
WHO WHAT WEAR: What do you think has been an integral part of building your brand?
YOYO CAO: I think being organic and authentic has been and continues to be important, and also keeping in touch with what's happening all around, like how everything is going digital these days. Also, loving what you do is important because it shows in your work.
WWW: Not only are you known for your personal style, but you are also the founder of Singapore-based fashion label Exhibit. What motivated you to produce this line?
YC: It started as a multi-label store stocking pieces from all over Asia. Gradually, customers started telling us that if this piece was adjusted this way or that way, it would be perfect. So I started thinking Why don’t I create clothing according to their needs, or rather, what real women want? That started the ball rolling, and we’ve been producing collections for three years now.
WWW: What advice do you have for aspiring digital influencers?
YC: I think it is so important to stay true to yourself and never try to be someone else. Be authentic and be passionate about it. Don’t do it because everyone’s doing it. I also think that is important to use your digital platform to spread positivity and good vibes.
WWW: Which social media outlet do you prefer: Instagram or Snapchat? What do you think the future has in store for the digital landscape?
YC: Definitely Instagram. I love photography, I love fashion—I feel that Instagram is a wonderful platform that allows me to combine and share both. The digital landscape is always changing, but I think the “nearest” one that people might want is to be able to really shop on social media, everything in one place without having to switch between apps, for instance. It is something that I want myself!
WHO: Jamie Mizrahi
For celebrity stylist Jamie Mizrahi, it took years of motivation, commitment, and ultimately a positive attitude to establish where she is today. Of course, her ability to seamlessly piece together flawless look after flawless look doesn’t hurt either. The East Coast native, who made her big move out West several years ago, has racked up an impressive list of clientele, including but certainly not limited to Ashley Benson, Suki Waterhouse, Kate Upton, Nicole Richie, and Katy Perry. There’s no doubt in our minds Mizrahi is a fashion force to be reckoned with—seriously, have you scrolled through her Instagram feed?
WHO WHAT WEAR: How did you pave your way into the field of styling? Prior to building your impressive résumé of clientele, where did you work? Who, if any, were the stylists you interned with?
JM: I always interned for places—I interned at Elle magazine, I interned for a bunch of designers, I interned for Albright Fashion Library in New York. Right when I got out of college, I interned for this stylist, Elizabeth Sulcer, and then after that, I felt like I should work at a desk job because I didn’t really understand how it worked, the freelance of it all. I went and got a job at Vogue magazine for about a year, and then I moved to L.A. for my husband. I assisted Petra Flannery, Simone Harouche, and then lucked out in a way, being able to do my own thing working for a company but being the only stylist there.
WWW: What advice do you have for aspiring stylists looking to enter this field?
JM: I would say to take every single opportunity you can and learn from everyone. There’s no right way of doing this job. So I would say pick up things along the way that you think could work for you that you like, and take notes to make it work for yourself. Literally do everything, because there’s no such thing as wasting time in a field that interests you.
WWW: How would you describe your personal style? Where do you draw inspiration for your own look when attending various events?
JM: I always like to go back to the question of Am I going to regret this if I look back in 10 years? And sometimes I’m like, Oh, I’ll probably regret it, but it’s fun and worth it and I like it, and it makes me happy. Day to day, I love black, white, gray, denim—simple, more of a classic, effortless, easy look. I don’t really have time to put together outfits for myself during the day, so I’m always opting for vintage Levi’s, a black sweater, boots, loafers, or the occasional stripe. Things that are kind of timeless. And then when I get dressed up and have time to have fun with it, I have fun with it.
WWW: What do you think will be some of the most dominant trends of 2017? Which current trends do you think will fade in the New Year?
JM: I think that chokers will leave, maybe? I’m hoping. I think graphics for sure will be big; I think statement sleeves as well. I’ve seen a lot of graphic tees with words on them, like Dior has that “Feminism” tee. I think sheer dresses and tops, and this kind of ’80s square-shoulder suit jacket. I think white is a big trend, a lot of khaki and army green. I’ve also seen a lot of ’70s florals from brands like Michael Kors and Gucci.
Which of these influencers would you like to see us cover more regularly? Please let us know in the comments below!