Heritage is one the fashion industry’s favorite words. Many longtime brands turn to their heritage and archive for inspiration, new collections, or to revamp after they have lost their way. Teddy Ondo Ella debuted at New York Fashion Week: Men’s his spring 2018 collection that channeled the heritage of Gabon, where he was raised, and introduced the country’s customs through his namesake tailoring line.
Teddy introduced the first collection with a traditional Gabonese performance, complete with music, acrobatics and dancing. Then followed a bright and vibrant spring collection that was centered on traditional Gabonese pieces like sarong wraps, as well as the abacos, a 1970s African suit that was a symbol for anti-colonialism. The elders of Gabon exclusively wore the abacos, which means “against the suit,” and the style was worn without a tie and with short sleeves. Teddy updated the style for his collection by slimming the fit and taking a sporty direction.
Playful prints like blue huts and hills, Afro picks, lemons, and floral patterns are general, while silk shirts with the word Gabon, patterns of fruits and flowers indigenous to Gabon and CFA currency prints directly reference Teddy’s home country.
“I’m bringing authenticity,” said Teddy. “This is my culture and this is my country, and I want to bring this authenticity because it’s more or less the history of Africa.”
Born in Congo but raised in Gabon, Teddy Ondo Ella split his time between the Central African country and France, often traveling with his mother to Paris on buying trips for her store, Teddy boutique, in Gabon. Teddy later opened a sneaker store, Sneakers Club, in Libreville and launched an urban line, Only Made in Gabon, in 2012.
The urban line helped inform Teddy on the process of manufacturing, but he wanted “to go to another level,” with his tailoring collection.
Authenticity and pride is paramount in Teddy’s first tailoring collection. Growing up in Gabon and in France allowed him to understand that the two countries have much in common and are inspired by one another.
“When I was in Gabon, we wanted to be like Americans or dress like rappers, but when you go overseas you begin to think about your country,” said Teddy. “I thought, let me try to mix the European culture with African culture, because we have a lot in common. That’s why I think people will understand where I want to go.”
Teddy added that he chose to debut in New York City because the US market “gives chances to newcomers.” The designer still plans to show in Paris and Milan in the near future.
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