DC Designers: Estella Ogbonna

Check out our style feature, DC Designers, where we highlight a local designer who has caught our eye.

An Estella Couture design.

What: Custom-made ethnic and exotic couture clothing.

Who: Estella Ogbonna, a Silver Spring-based designer originally from Nigeria. She worked in computer network administration until 2006, when she decided to pursue a full-time career in fashion design.

Where to buy it: E-mail Estella at or call 301-915-5927. Online sales will be available by the end of the year on her Web site,

Back to basics: When she realized that fashion design was something she wanted to do full-time, Estella—who began sewing and designing when she was a child—took classes to hone her skills and tried to get her clothing into stores. Even now, she continues to look for opportunities to grow; she’s planning to take a short program in Milan in the near future. “It’s the home of fashion,” she says. “I’m going there to learn the ways of taking my business to the next level. Having a talent is not the same thing as making a business.”

An ethnic touch: Estella started her business because there was a local demand for culturally rich African designs. She takes traditional and ethnic themes and creates colorful clothes that she says are modern and trendy, so they’re seen as not just African but also stylish. The majority of her designs are for women, although she sometimes designs for men, too: “For women you get to work with the curves, complexion, the colors—and that’s what I love to do.”

Most memorable moment of her design career thus far: At a 2006 fashion-show fundraiser, Estella received a standing ovation when she took her designer’s walk down the runway. “It’s really something I’ll never forget,” she says. “It feels good to know that people from all nationalities and backgrounds appreciate what I do.”

On the local fashion scene: “It’s definitely something very upcoming, and right now it’s different,” she says. “Three years ago, DC wasn’t so into fashion as it is now. People are very conscious of what they wear now.” Different groups for fashion designers have also popped up in recent years, which Estella says has allowed local designers to be more united.

Estella’s faves:
Place to shop for clothes: The Limited, Cache, Georgetown.
Place to shop for shoes: “Wherever I see a good deal—because I’m crazy about shoes!”
Restaurant: Phillips Seafood on the Southwest DC waterfront.
Favorite place in DC: H2O Restaurant & Lounge.

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