Gelila Assefa Puck
Gelila Assefa Puck is an internationally known haute couture designer and global Creative Director. She is an award-winning philanthropist recognized for her advocacy for children, women with HIV, and increased opportunities around education.
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Gelila immigrated to the United States to escape the oppression during the Red Terror in Ethiopia. After completing undergraduate studies in Business she went on to earn a degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising from Trade Technical college in Los Angeles.
Her life-changing career opportunity began when she met her lifelong mentor, James Galanos, who continued to help shape her career moving forward. Gelila went on to have success with her own boutique in Beverly Hills selling hand-sewn, boldly colored gowns and bustiers with sophistication and edge that always incorporated hand-woven silk and the geometric patterns of Africa.
She is also known for her collection of simple, classic ostrich clutches and colorful crocodile bags, which were handmade in South Africa. In all of her designs she proudly supported the African economy using local materials and fabricators. In addition, she sourced her ostrich and crocodile materials from animals that were not just being killed for their skins. Gelila has since evolved her passion as a designer into her role within the family business, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, and prioritizing raising her two young sons. So as to not leave fashion behind, she has chosen to maintain a private studio and consults other brands on fashion and lifestyle.
As the Creative Director of Wolfgang Puck Worldwide she oversees all creative direction of brand, which includes the fine dining group, lifestyle brand, consumer retail packaging and all creative related materials. Under her leadership, she is responsible for pushing the brand forward and bringing renowned architects such as Frank Gehry, Thierry Despont, Jacques Garcia, Massimiliano Locatelli and Tony Chi into the restaurant designs. Gelila has also used her creative sensibilities and passion for the arts to integrate the influence of exemplary local and globally known artists into the dining experience. She believes that both your physical and intellectual appetite should be nourished when dining in a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. This has been exemplified through a museum-quality curation at CUT Beverly Hills and many more of the brand's restaurants. As an advocate for Los Angeles based artists, she uses her platform to support both emerging and established artists. She has done this through high profile events and curated experiences featuring Los Angeles based artists such as John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Mark Grotjahn, Catherine Opie, Sterling Ruby, Alex Israel and many more. Her most recent work can be found at the new Spago Las Vegas at the Bellagio Resort & Casino, where she collaborated with Milan based architect, Massimiliano Locatelli.
In 2010 she founded the Dream for Africa Foundation, a 501(c)(3), as a way to honor and provide support to the people of Africa. With a mission aimed to empower passionate and hard-working individuals in Africa to find a path to self-sufficiency, DFFAF has successfully built and sustained a vocational training center that is currently educating more than two hundred and fifty students in the areas of sewing and garment manufacturing, computer training, microfinance and more. In 2018, DFFAF began supporting under privileged women living with HIV/AIDS. Funds granted by DFFAF are bringing hope and opportunity to women who would otherwise have no means for supporting themselves. Through building knowledge, skills, assets, capabilities, and financial conditions, the quality of these women’s lives is dramatically improved. More than one hundred and seventy-five women are currently being served through funds granted by DFFAF. The children of these women are also provided with much needed basic education through these funds, so that they too may have the chance for a bright future. More than three hundred and eighty family members are currently supported under DFFAF.
Gelila also cares deeply about the community where she is raising her family. She serves on the board of trustees for Children’s Institution Inc., which serves more than 24,000 children and families living in Los Angeles. They strive to break through the barriers of poverty and provide hope to the community they serve. Currently, she and along with the co-board members are in the middle of capital campaign to fund the Frank Gehry designed building in the city of Watts. She takes great pride for making this happen for the city of Watts. “When a community sees a beautiful treatment center built by one of the most sought after architect Frank Gehry in Watts neighborhood that is just for them, knowing the dynamic of that entire neighborhood can change for better. It was the easiest call to make.”
She has been the recipient of the Children Champion Award from the Children’s Institute Inc. and has been honored by Girls Inc. and ESSENCE for her philanthropic accomplishments. She is currently serving as an ambassador to Ethiopia on behalf of Global Citizen to champion poverty and education in the country.
For the past 17 years, Gelila and her husband, Master Chef, Wolfgang Puck, have lived in Bel Air. The couple have two children, Oliver (13) and Alexander (12).