Sporting shiny black disco pants, a mustard yellow sheer cardigan, a black felt boater hat and bold black creepers, Jennifer Im with her spunky look is more than your average girl. Walking among UC Davis students as a fourth-year communication major, Im is also a fashion blogger and YouTube star with over 196,000 subscribers.
At 22 years old, Los Angeles-born Im has created a name for herself in YouTube’s fashion community as the co-founder of the channel Clothes Encounters. The channel — a personal video blog showcasing Im’s fashion and lifestyle — is known for Im’s thrift store style, a cheap and ideal way to shop.
“My channel is essentially a hub where you can be more open with your style, and you can [also] see my lifestyle a little bit,” Im said. “You can see the places I go [and] my friends even. You can see the food that we eat. I’m going to branch out once I get more time, but right now it’s mostly about fashion, a little bit about beauty, but it’s just like getting to know me as a person.”
Clothes Encounters was created in February 2010 for the sole purpose of reserving the screen name. However, Im and her former co-host did not begin uploading videos until the following June. After moving to Davis to attend the university in 2011, Im took over the channel and has been working alone ever since. With 147 videos over only two years, the channel continues to grow with an increasing number of subscribers.
With a new video and look every week, Im’s fashion consists of a wide range of styles. However, she said that she is not a “hipster,” and says that the word should be burned.
“I think it’s about putting labels aside and just focusing on what you generally like,” Im said. “Sure, it could be hipster, but it could also be hip hop, country even, metropolitan, clean, sleek, anything. I like everything. It all depends on my mood for that day.”
Im’s thrift store shopping is appealing to broke college students wanting to look fashionable. While other women shop at Forever 21, Im says she buys clothes from thrift stores that look like they might have been from her grandmother.
“Sometimes stuff that I would probably look over at a thrift store, [Jennifer] is always like, ‘Oh, I found this at the thrift store,’” said Paola Tobias, alumna sociology major and Clothes Encounters subscriber. “I’m like, ‘Wow, I never would have put that together,’ but I think her style fits her, and I think it’s very fashionable. It’s fun to see how she interprets it.”
Although some fans say Im’s style is too bold for them with her dark leathers and creepers, they nevertheless enjoy watching her videos.
“I like her style,” said Michelle Tin, a sophomore chemistry major. “It’s more bold than I would do. But it’s nice to see other people’s style, especially when they have their actual defining style.”
Im’s distinctive style, in fact, is influenced by whatever environment she is in. She said that she does not have one source; rather, she takes inspiration from everything and everyone around her before incorporating her own spin to it.
“I was in San Francisco this summer, and I saw this homeless man wearing this camo shirt with leather pants,” Im said. “And I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s a sick outfit.’ So I incorporated a camo jacket into my own wardrobe and the leather with little shorts.”
Im devotes at least six hours a week to brainstorm, film, edit and upload a weekly video, while continuing as a full-time student, hanging out with friends and going to house shows. Im said she had always wanted to live in Northern California, and was therefore excited when she was accepted into UC Davis.
“I just needed a change,” Im said. “I lived [in L.A.] for 20 years, so that’s enough time there. I was like, ‘I’m ready to move, I’m ready for a big change.’ And I’m glad it’s NorCal, because everyone’s a lot more accepting here, and it’s a lot more free-flowing, which I really like.”
The YouTube star has reached international heights, having been featured in UK-based Company Magazine.
“That was mind-blowing to me,” Im said.
On a national level, fashion social networking site Chictopia sent Im to cover the infamous New York Fashion Week last September.
“Fashion Week was really fun,” Im said. “It was really hectic. I met a lot of amazing people, but I feel like I’m going to meet amazing people regardless of where I am.”
Despite Im’s national and international achievements, she remains a bubbly, confident and humble young woman, insisting that she is not a YouTube celebrity.
“She could be someone’s celebrity stylist,” Tobias said. “She’s very intelligent when she talks. I think when you look at gurus on YouTube, they’re not. Not that they’re not intelligent, but they’re not sophisticated in the way she talks or the way she uses words to describe things.”
Im wants to continue Clothes Encounters for as long as possible, hoping that it inspires her viewers to take a jump at different styles. She said that it is a confidence issue and she wants to make her audience more confident.
“You should wear exactly what you’re feeling,” Im said. “If you want to wear all black and wear a fucking blue wig, cool.”
JOYCE BERTHELSEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.