His children, the colour navy, the African continent and working with silk are just a few of the things that make the talented Gabonese fashion designer Teddy Ondo Ella’s heart sing
Trying to achieve excellence and leave a legacy is what drives Ella, a Gabon- and France-based designer who made his fashion debut at last year’s New York Fashion Week: Men’s with his eponymous label’s Spring/Summer 2018 Heritage collection.
‘My mother had a fashion store in Libreville, Gabon, and as I got older, I became less impulsive with my purchases and started looking for unique clothes with interesting elements,’ he says. ‘I was drawn to everything in design, from logos and advertising campaigns to architecture and interior decoration. I developed an attention to detail that I later combined with my love of fashion.’
When Ella felt he wasn’t being represented in the world of luxury clothing, he designed a capsule sportswear collection with the brand Only Made in Gabon, which included references to the country and his culture. It was incredibly well received and, after learning more about the production process, he launched Teddy Ondo Ella, a menswear label with a proudly African heritage.
‘For me, fashion is a means of expression, a way of asserting one’s personality,’ he says. ‘Our continent’s full of creative wealth, but suffers from a lack of representation around the world. With my work, I hope to highlight the culture of my country and Africa in general.’
1. The Fiat Tagliero building in Asmara, Eritrea
Designed by Giuseppe Pettazzi in 1938, this is my favourite piece of architecture. It’s a Futurist-style petrol station full of history whose design is a great departure from the standard Art Deco style that defined many buildings of that period in this part of Africa.
2. A painting by Jean- Michel Basquiat
If money were no object, I’d love to own a work by this American artist.
3. Spring/Summer 2018 Heritage Collection by Teddy Ondo Ella
My aim with this first collection was to showcase my passion for fashion and highlight my culture and heritage. I created colourful prints with subtle references, such as rattan patterns, which are influenced by rattan furniture made in Gabon. I believe the way to make creations last is by passing on messages and promoting my culture.
4. Sir David Adjaye, Jay-Z and President Nana Akufo-Addo
These three men are my dream dinnerparty guests, as well as Diddy, Jerry Rawlings and Aliko Dangote. I’d love to have a conversation with them about how to achieve excellence in life.
5. The abacos suit
This is my brand’s signature garment. The original was created in the ’70s and democratised by then-President Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire (now the DRC). The abacos was a way of retaining a suit’s authenticity while denouncing colonialism because although it takes its codes from the classic suit, it’s worn without a tie and is sometimes short-sleeved. I revisited the piece, making it younger and more contemporary so that it can become an essential part of a man’s wardrobe.
6. La Colle Noire by Christian Noir
This is my favourite scent.
7. My parents’ teachings
The lessons I learnt from my parents played a huge role in shaping my life. By teaching me to make the right choices, they prevented me from going astray and helped me become the man I am today.
Photographs: Andrew Dosunmu, GalloImages/GettyImages/Alamy