The Estella Couture is a fashion house that uses ethnic, exotic fabrics and ethical materials from around the world to create couture and ready-to-wear garments that meet the fashion tastes of modern day fashionistas. In the past couple of years, the designs created by the Creative Director - Ms. Estella Ogbonna has graced runways around the globe.
In addition to winning International fashion awards and nominations in various other sectors that is not only garment creation, but includes awards and recognitions, and nominations in movie costuming, wardrobe, community development efforts and volunteer activities. Of note recently is the environmentally friendly way that the business modality has changed, leading to the creation of eco-friendly collections and designs that would be launched this year.
More prominent in their recent shows are 'ReStyleCled' collections. Expansion activities has been going on internationally in the past year, leading to the implementation of ethical responsible ways of producing garments, under the fair-trade principles. This ethical
responsible way of production has led to Estella Couture working with local women groups in Ghana, to make their clothes.
How did you get into fashion?
. Wow Honest truth is: I was born with fashion and this is not a cliché kind of talk. As early as 5 years old, I was already seeing fashion everywhere. Mind you, there was not tailor in my family. My mother was working in the bank then and my dad was an Executive at a media house. By age 6, I used the discarded cloth calendar to make a skirt with hand needle and thread. I still remember the cute pink bead I picked up from downstairs that I used to ‘accessorize’ it as a button in front. The sides had the months and numbers, while the front had the image. That image came vividly to my mind in 2005 when I was at a cross road whether to start fashion as a business like my spirit was nudging me to so hard, or to stay in my IT business where I was already making good money and working with the boys. At the end of the day, I will say God simply grabbed me by the collar to deposit me in the fashion world, where I should have been in the first place, instead of bagging all the academic diplomas and degrees.
Tell us how you come to start your own line?
. The short version of this story is that, even though I was in IT and not in the fashion world per se, anytime my mum sent me an African made wear, I found myself tweaking it with hand needle and thread to my satisfaction. And I did this even with clothes I bought in stores as I NEVER wanted to step out and see someone wearing exactly my kind of dress. That I would say made me to restyle any item I bought.
So, I did this and people in church - Jesus House DC noticed and a friend was getting married, needed to make the Yoruba men’s hat-fila. In her words “I hear you can sew”.... I said yes [still don’t know why I did till date]...but I got a sewing machine and made 23 fila in one night, that led to my making more dresses for her bridal train, and then, our Pastor’s wife called me to make a skirt suit for her…… and I found out I had some unexplainable joy while sewing…...and one cool day, I know I heard God whisper to me to just quit my bank job then and be more serious about my fashion designing! That it is my future and a platform HE would use to further my philanthropic purpose in life. And that is how I started the Fashion line. The first name though was ‘Tradishionale Couture’, which I later changed to ‘Estella Couture’....because I and my friends then figured that my name was unique.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
. My design aesthetic is simply elegance in print or anything ethnic and exotic.
Where do you go for inspiration?
. Hmmmm….put me in a fabric store with bales of fabrics all around me and my brain would be sketching 1000 designs in one minute. Lol. I also see fashion in everything around me! On the streets, while driving, even doing the mundane things! In the midst of dirt, squalor, disarray, I see patterns, I see styles…… in my dreams, and I see designs and how to go about implementing the style, especially the complicated ones.
How does that inspiration turn into reality?
. My inspiration turns into reality at the sewing machine, cutting table/floor (i weirdly prefer cutting fabrics on the floor. lol), on the mannequin.
Sketching designs are a waste of time for me, because no matter what I sketch, I will always tweak it at the sewing machine! Unless it’s a client’s wear, then, I stick to the agreed sketched designs. Sewing machine/hand needle is my ‘sketching’. While others draw to sew, I sew the drawing in my mind.
How much does travel influence your designs?
. A lot. That is why I love traveling! As I know that each trip would come with a fresh idea. Two ways I love to travel is by air and road. Road, preferably, as I love to drive, especially on highways with high speed limits. Or cruising at high altitudes in the air.
Also, being in new environments make my senses more receptive to the area and I see more things that inspire me.
I call myself a ‘World Citizen’ as new places, new ideas, new inspirations and new collections is my track.
Can you tell us about your collections?
. Basically I have been working with African and other ethnic fabrics, hence, I stayed ‘Seasonless’, Which means, I have always made clothes you can wear in ALL season. Not in Summer, Spring, Fall etc. But going forward, as I trail off the Custom-made clothes into more of Ready-To-wear, some of my collections would be seasonal.
My most favorite collection at the moment is my JeanKara[denim collection], because it is an idea God blessed me with when I was not even expecting it and I love that people are receptive of it, hence, why we are now in production process to give our customers the best of Ethnic and Exotic denim!
Tell us one thing about design that catches your attention?
. Details! I love a design with details. NOT too much detail, but one that stands out! Sometimes, less is really more.
Is there one thing you don’t like about fashion?
. Nothing really. I love it.
Is there any place in the world you haven’t been to yet but would like to visit from a professional perspective?
. Yes, Asia. I was supposed to have gone there 2 years ago and never made it. That is a place I would love to visit, and my new business partner has invited me to India, and I am looking forward to it. Their bead-works is amazing! I want to see the women who creatively make these master pieces!
How would you describe your personal fashion style?
. I dress according to my mood. lol. If I am in a daring mood, you could find me on a red carpet with a dress that shows like cleavage, legs etc. And If I am in a conservative mood, I could step out in simple sheath dress. On my daily dress code, you are likely to find me in casual dresses, slippers, no make-up, capris pants and tees.
But when I want to dress UP, I could step out looking like a Million dollars! lol
Is there something you wanna tell us about your up and coming design?
. Like I said earlier, JeanKara and my ready-T0-Wear is my project for the rest of the year. So, my new designs are going to fit into those two collections. Some have been cut and just waiting for me to sew and have my samples for the manufacturers.
On the business side, do you think social, economical and technical has affected fashion over the years in Africa, USA and Europe ?
. Of course yes. It’s no longer business as usual. Fashion has affected Social, economic, and technical aspects of life the world over.
. Socially, people are now more alert to trends and styles because the whole world is now one Global village, thanks to social networking and Internet. Gone are the days you stepped out in a dress and only people in your vicinity see you. These days, you can take a picture of your dress right in your dressing room, [bathroom], garage and post on Instagram, facebook, twitter, Pinterest etc. …. within seconds, people from across the world would see you. That’s technical boost to the fashion world. Economically too, people can now also shop from any part of the globe, ecommerce has expanded the economic benefits of fashion.
Manufacturing in other countries or even sourcing for materials for fashionable products from all across the globe has boosted so many countries economy… These days we have software and technical gadgets strictly made for the fashion world etc…..and the list goes on and on.
Do you think hair and makeup makes a difference on a model when promoting your designs? why?
. Definitely! An avantegarde make up on a simple skirt suit would give a totally different perspective to the viewer/buyer. Just as a luxury, glamor ball gown with tussled hair and bare face would ‘reduce’ the value of the dress. Compared to IF the gown was accompanied by a chignon hair do and a glamor make up, then you can sell the dress more. The hair and make-up have to be complimentary to the final look I am trying to achieve.