Introducing PONTE CITY; an open wardrobe to the expression of self-identity
I’m walking up the stairs of a high rise council estate in West London on my way to meet Reginald Sowah, the man behind up and coming brand, Ponte City. I first came in contact with Reg around two years ago, when he gifted me a navy blue trench coat entirely out of the blue. It was particularly memorable because he’d accidentally sent it the wrong address, and a local florist has got in touch up to say she had a parcel in my name. I remember being totally taken with the cut and design aspects, it had a structured cuffed pocket on one side, while the other had no pocket at all. I’d almost instantaneously become infatuated with the brand and wanted to know more. Eventually me and Reg linked up via Instagram and I learnt about his journey as a designer, leading to this point today, on my way to his house to conduct this very interview.
Upon first inspection it seems like a strange place for us to meet, but when I learn about the thought process behind the brand and the sense of community which is rooted at it’s core, there seems no place more fitting. After greeting me and ushering me inside, he leads me to a small rack in the corner of the room which holds his SS19 collection. It’s a small 6-piece offering, but big things have small beginnings, and there’s no one that knows this better than Reg.
We quietly and poignantly thumb through his designs and mull over his sketches and fabric samples, which are stapled to a cork-board next to his bed. From his window there’s a vast view of concrete; tower blocks climbing high into the sky. The perfect backdrop for a brand that bridges that gap between community and luxury.
I sit down on the couch and Reg takes a seat opposite me. We begin…
Tell me a bit about your upbringing.
I was born in Ghana and moved to north west London at the age of 10. I was always interested in the arts. Through painting and music composition, I discovered myself. I was part of a music production company throughout my time at university but was quickly turned off by the ‘music business’; and then I discovered fashion. It speaks to me at a greater volume than music production and I’ve been in the fashion industry for around four years now.
You didn’t have any fashion experience before launching the brand, so tell me a bit about how you learnt about the mechanics of a brand.
My introduction to the communication of beauty came from my mother, a woman who is modest in her sense of style but with a meticulous attention to detail. I much admired her as a young boy and still do to this day. But for the business of fashion, I had to educate myself. It was important for me to understand how to communicate design to others. I now take my time to understand how people like to wear their clothes.
Did you have a specific moment when you realised you wanted to be a designer?
Believe it or not I did not create or design anything for a year or two when I started the brand. Representation is important to me and the story I wanted to tell within my clothing was about more than just aesthetics. I used to screen print T-shirts but then I sat back and thought, ‘what exactly do I want to say and communicate to others’. Throughout my childhood, I was raised to be proud and taught the importance of self-care; these are some of the values I want to share with others.
Where did the name of the brand come from?
I’m fascinated by communal spaces; I grew up on a council estate and live among a diverse set of tenants. This allowed me to be able to interact with many different people from all over the world. However, I believe these types of people are misrepresented and often stereotyped. I want to present a different image, a true image of dignity and beauty. Discovering Ponte Apartments, which is one of the biggest residential blocks in Africa, reminded me of my home life and how similar it is. PONTE CITY the brand is not limited, it is accessible to aII. There’s a Ponte City in Poland, Japan, Asia, everywhere and people tend to forget this.
How do you envision the man of the brand, who is your customer?
It is all about strength, being confident. London can be a tough place to live and it can be physically demanding to keep up with a high work load and maintain a good standard of living. You must have a strong character to live here and be prepared for anything! I am Imagining a sports/tailored image emerging from that.
Where did the inspiration for your SS19 collection (Pictured) come from?
I’m looking at Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colours”, not for biblical reference, but for its endearing nature. I am looking at refugee camps and the various ideas of luxury and what is considered home. Through that there became a space for and understanding of the “hand-me-down”. Fashion becomes more than just a piece of clothing. It is heritage passed down through generations.
What can we expect from PONTE CITY in the near future?
PONTY CITY is a global story; I think when you are talking about representation, one medium is not enough, so the door is open for other vectors of communication. Whether through film, plays, or varied exhibition installations, the conversation must continue. I have just completed a collaborative film piece with SOMEWHERE FILMS which will be released this summer. This film will be accompanied by an exhibition, open to the public for free.