Hazel Aggrey-Orleans is the designer behind London based women’s wear label Eki Orleans.
Hazel’s timeless collections fuse vibrant, intricate prints with the delicate texture of silk.
Leading a team of three, Hazel founded her company in 2007. Eki Orleans showcased their Spring/Summer 2011 collection to acclaim at London Fashion Week last month.
Why did you decide to start your company?
I decided to venture into fashion because I like how art and fashion is personal. You can turn your own life experiences into art.
In my case, I bring my African and European heritage into my designs. I started off three years ago with scarves and late last year ventured into dresses.
What was your career path prior to starting your company?
I started off in marketing in the corporate world of banking and worked there for over 8 years but I always knew it was not my passion. It was during my first pregnancy that I decided to pursue my real passion.
Did you always know you would run your own business?
After giving birth to my kids, I knew there was more to life than just banking and working around someone else’s timetable.
Can you tell me more about the inspiration for your collection?
Growing up near the beautiful Atlantic coastline, I have fond childhood memories of Sundays spent by the beach. The lull and the crashing of the waves were always relaxing and serene; a perfect backdrop that allowed me to dream, create and imagine. It is no wonder that for our Spring Summer 2011 collection I found my inspiration in the beauty of these waves.
The juxtaposition of the turbulent and calm nature of oceanic waves is represented in the beautiful turquoise patterns of the collection. Also, the key silhouettes of the collection evoke the flowing imagery of waves heading to shore. Indeed, with waves as my inspiration, we were able to create a collection that is flattering, timeless and simply breathtaking.
Where can I buy your pieces?
Eki Orleans dresses can be purchased at Yates Buchanan, London; Temple Muse, Nigeria; Lola and Agnes online boutique; MsAfropolitan (accessories only) and www.ekiorleans.com.
You just presented your collection at the Untold fashion show as part of London Fashion Week’s events. How long did it take to prepare for your show and what has the response been so far?
The Untold Fashion Show was organized incredibly well and we were told two months in advance of our participation, so there wasn’t really much to plan apart from make sure our SS11 Collection was ready in time.
We started planning this collection in May, so it gave us enough time to be ready to showcase during London Fashion Week in September.
Since the event, we have received press coverage as well as interviews and have been invited to take part in other fashion shows. Buyers are also now more interested and take us more seriously after having participated in this event.
If you could pick one person you’d love to dress who would it be and why?
That’s a tough one, as I normally have two but as you asked for one, I would say Thandie Newton. She is such a graceful and elegant lady.
What are you working on at the moment? Can you describe your typical working day?
Although it is still very busy, things have slowed down a little compared to the madness before London Fashion Week. We are following up with our sales and marketing campaign, as well as getting ready for two new shows in October, the Camer Couture Fashion Show which showcases African designers on October 16 and we will be showcasing our collection at a private dinner for Shell Oil on October 28.
What are the highlights of running your own business?
You are your own boss!
What is the hardest part of running your own business?
You never switch off!
What has been your biggest triumph to date?
Well, we are still a young business but I’d say introducing our first collection late last year and showcasing at London Fashion Week are our biggest triumphs.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Not to treat your suppliers as friends because they will walk all over you. Everything needs to be strictly professional…. but with a smile.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a fashion business?
Drive and determination is essential. You will encounter many hurdles but the key is dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes and try again.
Also, remember you don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take one step at a time.
What are your future goals for your company?
Our goals are to expand our intricate prints and to be sold in various boutiques worldwide.
What, or who, inspires and motivates you?
My mom inspires me as she is such a hard-working woman. I hope to make her proud with the success of Eki Orleans.
Is there any other information you’d like to share?
If I wasn’t a designer, I’d be a travel consultant because I love exploring different cultures.
Hazel Aggrey-Orleans was interviewed by Octavia Goredema, founder of the Twenty Ten Club.
The Twenty Ten Club connects, inspires and supports Black female business owners. If you are interested in becoming a member you can find out more here.