The Next Generation of Designers: Ella Henry, Saigon

Image by Francis Xavier for Word Magazine

Originally written for Word Magazine, February 2016 Fashion Issue

Ella Henry

Ella Henry Designs

This 23-year-old designer seems to have a permanent smile from ear to ear that is contagious to everyone around her. Ella has always been a designer, and obsessed with fashion, but since graduating from the University for the Creative Arts in London, England, she has been focusing her efforts on developing Ella Henry, the brand.

Ella uses inspiration from her time spent in India, Brunei, Bali and Vietnam to cultivate her line, consisting of swimwear and silk cover-ups. Her pieces offer simplicity in her garment design, while she uses colour and print to add a vibrant complexity to the collection, with a mix of free-flowing, dream-like patterns.

Ella Henry and her contagious smile. Image by Francis Xavier

Ho Chi Minh City has proved to be a source of inspiration for Ella and her print making, as she draws from the contrasts the city has to offer.

“You can tell that Ho Chi Minh City is a [place] on the brink of explosion,” says Ella. “It’s like London would have been in the 1980s, just filled with opportunity.”

Since moving to Vietnam last year, Ella has been finding the balance between the thrill of life in Saigon and the fear that can accompany it as well.

“The designs I’m working on now involve more intricate prints with a depth of colour cut with harsher lines and intense shapes, it’s all about working with the frequency of [Ho Chi Minh City],” says Ella. It’s easy to spot Ella’s use of expressionism in her pieces, as well as her influences from designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Matthew Williamson and Alexander McQueen.

At only 23, Ella recalls her parents encouraging her from a young age to create and feel inspired, with her childhood home filled with furniture made by her mum and a wardrobe filled with clothes made by her as well.

“I would help her pick the fabrics for my clothes and I always had the most colourful and craziest outfits — I loved it.”

Drawing further inspiration from Vivienne Westwood and her “ethical fashion” initiative, Ella believes that is an approach that is preferable to the “fast fashion” that has become the norm in mainstream outlets.

“We need to take a step back and slow down the manufacturing process in order to address some of the issues we face today,” she says.

“Fashion has the power to make you feel magical, but that magic should also come from within yourself to begin with,” says Ella.

After seeing her designs I could definitely imagine anyone feeling magical while wearing them.

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