Black Beauty & Hair catches up with designer Hazel Aggrey-Orleans
Name: Hazel Aggrey-Orleans
Job title: Designer
Company: Eki Orleans
Please describe your label in a couple of lines: Eki Orleans design aesthetic is best expressed as young, fresh, feminine and elegant simplicity. Where were you born? Germany
Where are you based now? London How did you get into fashion design? I am a self-taught designer.
What inspires your designs? My diverse mix of cultures has strongly influenced my design aesthetic. I draw inspiration from all of my cultural experiences. The most notable inspiration comes from my West African heritage. Growing up as a child in the buzzing, chaotic and culturally diverse city of Lagos, I developed a love for bold and vibrant colours.
What is the most difficult aspect of running your own label? It is quite isolated. You also have to be a good all rounder as you do not only cover the design aspect but you are in charge of the marketing, PR, accounts, admin, stock counts etc, so having a business head is just as important as the creative aspect.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business? I will refer to general satisfying moments rather than just one. When you bring out a collection, you may love it and think you will capture the public's attention but you never know. I have been lucky enough to have had the last collections widely accepted - these are hugely satisfying moments for me. Also, most recently launching our Bespoke Bridal prints as well as expanding our fabrics into interiors (we will be showcasing at the ICFF Tradeshow for the very first time this month) has been greatly satisfying moments for me, as it shows a diversity of our fabrics.
What are your hopes and dreams for your business in the future? Over the next two years we would love to have established our brand across Africa, the Middle East, US and some parts of Europe, as we feel those are our primary markets. By this I mean be selling through boutiques and have created a brand loyalty amongst people. It would also be a dream to be associated as THE silk print fabric house especially within the African market. Most importantly we want clients to enjoy our dresses and spread the word as there is no better marketing strategy than first hand recommendations.
What is the favourite piece you have designed and why? My favourite piece has got to be the lime green Thalassa dress. I chose this dress because it gives every woman a beautiful hour glass shape and lime green is my favourite colour. If you could design an outfit for one person, who would you choose and why? One person? That's a tough one, as there are quite a few. I think I would choose Thandie Newton because she is a classy and intelligent lady, who has a love for colours. She would be a great Eki Orleans muse.
What is the most important advice you would give to young people looking for a career in fashion? If you want to turn this into a business, make sure you have funding to last you for at least 3 years. Secondly, you have got to live and breath your label because the glamorous side of fashion is 10% of the job, the rest are long and quite isolated hours of designing and pre-planning collections. It is a competitive industry and so make sure you have that certain edge to your designs or have a USP (unique selling point) which differentiates you from the rest. Apart from that, just enjoy the ride!