It’s very much a wax-on, wax-off tale.READ MORE
It was a perfect-storm moment that first brought Tina Tangalakis to West Africa in 2009. She was working in costume design and wardrobe styling in Los Angeles, but she missed having time to volunteer and contribute in a bigger way. Then a breakup meant rejiggering her life: Instead of spending 10 weeks with a couch and a freezer full of ice cream, she decided to go freelance and make the 20-hour trip to Ghana to see if she couldn’t do some good—and maybe get reinvigorated—there.
Upon arrival, it took her roughly a millisecond to fall in love with the Dutch wax and West African batik textiles she kept seeing. “I started working with seamstresses there just to bring home souvenirs for my sisters, and when I saw the bags I had designed, I realized they could be sold at Nordstrom or Anthropologie,” she explains. So she commissioned 50 of them, and by the time she left, she had inventory, a business plan, and a name: Della, for the first Ghanaian she met upon landing. “I just went for it as soon as I got back.”
To turn this project into a viable business, Tina teamed up with Nii Addotey, an entrepreneur based in Hohoe who helped her hire seamstresses and bring her designs to life, starting with slouchy purses and patterned iPad cases and moving into cropped tees and easy dresses. Tina’s other mission: Ensuring people don’t think of Della as a charity organization. “We want to make relevant fashion that happens to do good,” she explains. Lucky for her, the pieces themselves make that a very easy sell. —jackie varriano