APiF: Please introduce your business and your designs.
Hazel Aggrey-Orleans: Eki Orleans is a dynamic women’s wear label known for its bold vibrant prints and soft silhouette. The Eki Orleans brand strives to accentuate femininity and bring out the colorful goddess in every woman.
APiF: When and why did you start designing with African Prints and Fabrics?
Hazel: I started in 2007 with a collection of scarves. It was never on my agenda to go into fashion, but when you are pregnant your mind goes crazy and you start getting all these creative juices flowing in. I knew I wanted to do something where I could bring in my own cultural mixes. And what better way to do this than the art of fashion, as it allows me to bring in my own cultural interpretations of life.
Being half Nigerian, I have grown up around the beautiful Ankara fabrics. I wanted to play with African fabrics, but by entering into this competitive market, I knew I had to do something different. I love the feel of silk fabrics and so I thought “why not try the combination of silks and African prints?“. So we decided to design our own prints by drawing inspiration from Ankara prints and using the luxurious textures of silk. A great combo!
APiF: How do u feel about the new African Prints/Fabric trend?
Hazel: It is amazing to see the growing versatility of African prints/fabrics and how creatively the designers are starting to use these textiles. This is how you distinguish between a designer and a tailor.
APiF: What inspires u?
Hazel: My many travels and my kids.
APiF: Fashion Finds: What is your favorite piece in your closet or of your collection and why?
Hazel: The Thalassa dress, as it brings out the curves in all the right places, whether you have them or not.
APiF: How do you market your designs and how do you make them accessible to a global audience?
Hazel: We market them by speaking to buyers at Trade Shows. We were recently at Paris Fashion Week trade show and this is a great way to engage with buyers and also get some feedback.
Another necessity is to continuously be speaking to the press and getting the dresses published in magazines and on blogs, as well as lending them out to people in the limelight. This all creates a buzz and a desire for the consumer to buy a dress. We also make them accessible by having them stocked in retail stores as well as in numerous online boutiques.
APiF: Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
Hazel: You need to be 100% passionate about making this work as it is a tough industry. You have to have a thick skin as people will criticize your designs – but use this as good criticism to improve your designs. Secondly, you need to make sure, you have secured funding for the first 3 collections at least. Do not expect to come out with one collection and sell. Buyers want to see consistency and growth.