Ayo Edebiri on Taking Risks, Thom Browne and Looking Like Herself

The Bear actor, comedian and writer reflects on her personal style at the designer’s new Jackson Square boutique

In Partnership with THOM BROWNE
Photography by TRACY NGUYEN



“A little spectacle is good. It’s healthy,” says Ayo Edebiri after a chilly morning spent wandering through San Francisco’s Ferry Building sipping coffee. The 26-year-old actor, writer and producer, who plays Sydney Adamu, the young sous chef in the manic and claustrophobic kitchen of a Chicago sandwich shop on FX’s The Bear, is also a stand-up comedian accustomed to navigating her own high-wire acts. She grew up in Boston and studied education at NYU before scrapping her teaching career and pivoting to writing, comedy and acting. Today she is reflecting on the notion of risk.

“My dad says if you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, you’ll feel challenged,” says Edebiri, whose father is Nigerian and mother is from Barbados. “My parents were two people who had to go through the motions a bit because they didn’t have much of a choice. They instilled in me that you have one life—kind of go for it,” she adds. It’s through this lens that Edebiri also views fashion.

Having been raised in a Pentecostal household meant pants and pop culture were forbidden, but she discovered the Japanese street-style magazine FRUiTS and did a “passive study” of the images. “I couldn’t listen to Kanye but loved the idea of a Polo shirt, [and] couldn’t listen to Paramore but loved the punk.” Photographed at Thom Browne’s new San Francisco boutique in Jackson Square, she says Browne’s 2017 Met Gala puffer coat for Solange led to a bit of an obsession with the designer’s “sense of structure and play.” “Solange is one of the coolest people alive, and to see a black woman in that space playing with these things…” Edebiri muses.


“I couldn’t listen to Kanye but loved the idea of a Polo shirt, [and] couldn’t listen to Paramore but loved the punk”


Toile silk twill sport coat, $3,150, tie, $240, and pleated skirt, $2,450.


Wearing pre-fall designs comprised of wallpaper-inspired jade florals, stately gray wool and a dash of lobster red, Edebiri finds Browne’s silhouettes “both real and risky,” as she gets a first look beyond the slat-blind-covered windows of the New York-based label’s new 1,250-square-foot space. The minimalist mid-century office-inspired interiors designed by Flavio Albanese of ASA Studio Albanese—lit with fluorescent tube lighting—include Knoll office chairs, a desk by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, Jacques Adnet seats and lamps atop white Calacatta and Carrara marble floors. Men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, tailoring and accessories join Thom Browne eyewear and his unisex Vetyver fragrance collection. And then there are the neckties. These, Edebiri says, require a team effort. “I remember doing school plays and my dad would tie the tie for me and I’d put it on. I have the concept of how to do it, but it ends up inside out. I can kind of tie a bow tie.”

Now based in L.A., Edebiri is still writing and developing shows and honing her stand-up ideas while also voicing Missy Foreman-Greenwald on the animated sitcom Big Mouth. She just wrapped Molly Gordon’s Theater Camp with Amy Sedaris, and after taking courses at Pasadena’s Institute of Culinary Education to prepare for her role in The Bear’s first season, the actor—along with her co-star, Jeremy Allen White, who plays the tousle-haired temperamental chef Carmy Berzatto—is heading back to kitchen training before shooting the critically lauded series’ second season. “When Jeremy and I were first doing the training, no one knew about us or the show, so it’ll be interesting going back [to culinary school],” she says. As for writing, Edebiri admits her process is more of a pressure cooker than a calm and measured operation. “I shut off all distractions, and as far as trying to create a mood, it’s ‘You’re on deadline,’ that’s the mood,” she confesses.


“So much of my life has been trying to understand myself and accept myself—being true to that and what I enjoy”


Lobster-motif cashmere cardigan, $2,690, backstrap pants, $1,890, and Mrs. Thom bag, $5,490, with merino wool 4-bar socks, $120, and slingback penny loafers, $1,490.


Thinking back on her teenage years, Edebiri says, “So much of my life has been trying to understand myself and accept myself—being true to that and what I enjoy. I’ve spent a lot of time not liking who I was, what I looked like, what I liked.” Now she’s challenging herself to embrace all of those aspects of herself. “Maybe it’s way less energy to try to accept these things,” she says, admitting this enlightened awareness isn’t always possible, but quite often it is. “For my personal life, for my work, for my art, while I have those days, I embrace it.”

This introspective sense of self extends to Edebiri’s personal style as well. Despite her day jobs, “looking like where I come from, the people I know and people I love” remains important to her. “The more I’ve been learning about clothing, I think about the choices we make,” she adds, noting she recently discovered Jason Jules’ Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style (Real Art Press, 2021). Edebiri says the image-driven volume is “about how black people took on clothing that was seen as white, and it was connected to revolt and style.” She’s fascinated by the idea of a suit, of structured clothing. “There’s so many things we attach to that,” she adds. Of Thom Browne’s designs, she says, “I’m down for things that are tactile. Touch is real. It’s not just Twitter and the internet.” Dressed in stripe-emblazoned trousers he created, she adds, “I feel like I can move, I can be myself.” 432 Jackson St., S.F., 415-655-3618.


Feature image: Toile silk twill sport coat, $3,150, tie, $240, and pleated skirt, $2,450.


October 21, 2022

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