StyleBlazer: Gabonian Designer Dominique Siby On His Luxury Line: “Nelson Mandela Had An Influence On Anybody”

dominique-siby-coverDominique Siby may have launched clothing line Felio Siby late last year, but the brand had been a work-in-progress since the early 2000’s when Dominique and his father Felio (who the line is named after) had a vision to create a luxury clothing line. Originally from Gabon but having lived in both Europe and America, Dominique knew he had to make the line a reality after his father’s passing in 2006. Seven years later, Felio Siby is a handmade menswear and accessories line inspired by African, European and American culture and made exclusively in America. We recently chatted with the Miami-based designer to learn more about his line, the influence Nelson Mandela had on him and who he believes is killing the men’s fashion game.

StyleBlazer: What inspired you to initially create the line? What was your inspiration?

Dominique Siby: The idea of me doing a line was I always thought that I could add something to the clothes I was buying. I fell in love with a lot of different materials and exotic skins like python, ostrich, crocodile, alligator and everything I do revolves around those different fabrics. I will get a shirt and add leather to it or my pants, they’ll have leather pockets. I just like different things. The inspiration behind what I do is to make something different, but fresh for men. Being exposed and having the advantage of living in Europe and Africa and now living in the United States, I know the way of seeing fashion so it’s a blend of all those different countries that are shaped in my head and you see the product that has come from that, actually being exposed to African, European and American culture.

SB: I noticed you incorporate lot of leather and different skins into the line. Is that specifically because you like those different reptile skins, or is there a deeper reason why you use it?

DS: Well python is easy to work with. You can do a shirt, you can do shoes, you can do a bag, you can do anything with python. I just love using it.

SB: Do you import a lot of your fabrics?

DS: Everything has been made in USA. We have fabric that comes from Italy and different places but everything is made in the USA. Now, I’m in the process, because I’m doing handbags now for women and I’m about to have those made in Italy because I went there this week and I had the chance to visit a lot of different factories, a lot of different brands which I’m not going to mention, but there are a lot people over there doing a lot of great work.

SB: A lot of designers tend to gravitate towards New York or Los Angeles being their base. What made you choose Miami?

DS: I live in Miami and there are a lot of diverse people who come to Miami like from Europe, South America, Africa, you have people from all over the place. In New York, it’s a bigger city, in LA it’s the same thing but Miami has the same thing you see in New York and LA as far as people and culture.

SB: Do you mind sharing how African culture has played a part in the clothing line and if Nelson Mandela had any influence on you and the line?

DS: Nelson Mandela had an influence on anybody. He has an influence on the world but he has a big influence on Africa. I’m proud to be African and I’m proud to have been in that area during the time that he was alive. I mean, I’ve never met him but I do know that he’s somebody that influenced everybody. The fight that he had in South Africa like bringing black people up, like giving them the rights, how are you going to be in your own country and you can’t even take the same bus as a white person? He showed a lot of things to people, how to accept and be tolerant. He was in jail for more than 27 years and when he became president, he invited over the person that put him in jail. He was quoted, “If they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” So he’s a person who played a role in everybody’s life. As a tribute to him, I’m planning to design a t-shirt with his face on it.

SB: Wow inspiring! Now let’s switch gears and talk about men’s style today. What do you think are the key items that every man should have in his closet and what do you think is the biggest fashion mistake men make?

DS: A watch is really important. But as far as clothes, a man should have a suit because you cannot wear jeans everywhere, you need to have a suit. It depends on where you go and it depends on location, you need to have a suit, jeans, button-up shirts, t-shirts, I think those are the most important things a man should have and you can wear those everywhere. Like me I have plenty of t-shirts and jeans. Shoes are limitless because it depends on what you like but you’re not going to wear a suit with sneakers, I’ve seen people doing that but that’s not really how you dress. As for biggest fashion mistakes, you have to be able to match the colors that you’re wearing. If you cannot match, to me it’s a mistake. The whole outfit needs to go together. You’re not going to have a yellow shirt and a pink jacket, and blue pants, and orange shoes. There is nothing there. There are some people who you see put colors together and it’s really crazy to me. I’m not here to judge anybody, I’m just telling you what I think is right. [Editors’ note: We believe that men can mismatch colors and prints if it’s done in a unique, stylish way.]

SB: I feel like men are pushing the envelope,I have seen a few men in New York City wearing suits with sneakers.

DS: I see that all the time! I’ve seen that but it’s not fashion.

SB: Right, that doesn’t mean it’s okay.

DS: Yeah you’re not supposed to wear a suit with sneakers, that’s something you learn when you grow up. Your dad or a man tells you what you can wear with certain things.

SB: I really like Felio Siby’s accessories! There is a crocodile duffle bag called the “Cairo” bag that I fell in love with but it’s almost $16,000. My first question was who on Earth is paying $16,000 for a duffle bag? 

DS: Well if you look online, I’ve seen a Tom Ford bag with crocodile that was going for $32,000. If you look at an Hermès Birkin and it’s a crocodile purse, I’ve seen those go for like $50,000. If you look at any purse or any bag that has skins on it, crocodile or gator, I haven’t seen one under $30,000. Those skins have a cost. To make a bag like that, it costs a lot of money and a lot of skins so this is the reason why this bag costs what it costs and I don’t think it’s expensive for what it is. It’s a lot of the work to make that bag, because that’s Nile crocodile and you have to bring it here and make the bag and get the skins to make everything match. It took five skins to make that bag.

SB: Let’s say you only have $1000 to spend on your entire winter wardrobe. Where would you recommend someone to shop?

DS: Marshall’s has some nice stuff. I also like Armani Exchange. Even at H&M, you can find  a lot of things for under $1000.

SB: Who do you think is the best dressed male celebrity?

DS: I like the way Lebron James, Kevin Hart, and Serge Ibaka dress. Also, Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke dress pretty well.