Forbes : Gabon's 'Heritage' On Display At The NYFWPresenting at New York Fashion Week has a higher significance for the designer than a mere buyer hunt.
The equatorial West African nation of Gabon is best known in America for… fashion? One designer has set sights on making this style prophecy come true. Teddy Ondo Ella presented his eponymous label during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. The collection, entitled Heritage, presented a modern, fresh view of African culture featuring twenty-five looks inspired by the designer’s home country of Gabon. The show began with a traditional Okouyi ceremony around a center stage thatch structure.
The high-energy performers invoked Mamisoba, the masked Spirit of Truth. Presenting at New York Fashion Week has a higher significance for the designer than a mere buyer hunt. “Today, I bring a piece of my country here. The important thing for me is authenticity. There is a lot of use of African culture in fashion. It’s not bad, but there should be credit to where it comes from.” He uses his work as a platform to promote the culture of Gabon and teach style as a universal language. “Fashion for me is one world. When you have good taste, you can be from Gabon or the USA or Tokyo. We are the same people!”.
The collection delivers a powerful statement on the anti-colonization movement in Africa during the 1970s. It comes directly courtesy of the Abacost suits. Abacost, short for French à bas le costume, translates as “down-with-the-suit” and became an anti-colonial style fixture. “The suit was created in a specific way to let the Europeans know that Africans were against colonialism. So, they took the rigorous suit, but wore it without a tie, high collar, and declined short sleeves.” Ondo Ella’s take on the historic garments is decidedly contemporary, well-fitted, and experiments with different fabrics and patterns.
Trending “it” male models Jordun Love, Michael Lockley & Souffrant Ralph walked the runway to a mix of Sade’s “By Your Side” in bright colored shirts paired with matching muted tailored pants. “A lot of brands make dark, dark, dark clothes and it’s boring. Bringing color into my collections is bringing African sunshine wherever I go. My aim is to have people wear these clothes not because they’re African, but because they’re cool, classy and chic.” Teddy Ondo Ella exhibited great promise as an imaginative menswear designer and as great cultural ambassador for Gabon. According to the nation’s CIA profile, nearly 60% of Gabonese population is under the age of 24! That’s a lot of potential and the world is watching!
Co-authored with Jehoshua Brown, MA Fashion Journalism alumnus from the Academy of Art University.