“Our clients are very important to us,” says Hazel Aggrey-Orleans. The German-born designer talks to Zen about what inspires her fashion collections, the celebrities she is looking forward to working with and has a few important points for young designers looking to make it big in the fashion industry.

Eki+Orleans+Interview+With+Zen+Magazine (2)Hazel Aggrey-Orleans is the founder and designer behind the women’s
wear label Eki Orleans. Her work is one of the most powerful
and empowering in the African fashion industry

Zen Magazine: What makes the Eki Orleans brand stand out from all other fashion brands in the world?
Hazel: We take our time to tell a story with every print we design and make sure that story is executed to perfection in our dress designs. When you purchase a piece, you buy into our Eki Orleans prints. We also take the time to involve our followers on our journey, where they get to come behind the scenes with us and experience the chaos and fun we have. And lastly, our clients are very important to us and we would like to say that we offer a great and quick service.

Zen Magazine: How many years have you been a designer?
Hazel: Since 2007

Zen Magazine: Does your African heritage influence your fashion?
Hazel: Living in Nigeria has allowed me to bring my own personal experiences into the prints I design. Very often the prints we design tell an African story and so having lived on the continent, allows me to tell the story as I have experienced it. There is therefore an African element to every print we design.

Zen Magazine: You love using silk in almost all your collections. What’s your bond with silk above other fabrics?
Hazel: The reason we started with silks and later fell in love with them is because we wanted to re-interpret the already existing African prints, which were on cotton, onto a different fabric. Silk was the most obvious textile as it is a natural fibre and works perfectly in hot climates. It also allows the colors to pop as it has a glossy feel and lastly, it just feels beautiful on the skin. Once you wear silk, you’ll know what I mean!

Below are a few of our favorite designs by Hazel:

Eki+Orleans+Interview+With+Zen+Magazine (1) Eki+Orleans+Interview+With+Zen+Magazine (3) Eki+Orleans+Interview+With+Zen+Magazine (4)

Zen Magazine: Where’s your favorite place in the world for buying fabrics?
Hazel: We print our own textiles, so we don’t necessarily buy fabrics but now and again we do add plain textiles to compliment our silk prints. It has got to be the UK or Italy.

Zen Magazine: What lessons have you learnt so far in fashion?
Hazel: The biggest lesson I have learned is that it is OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and can grow.

Zen Magazine: Every year you release 2 collections. What can expect to see in your 2015 collections?
Hazel: The Autumn Winter collection we just launched was a very exciting journey, as it was a collaboration with another designer – José Hendo. It is important to keep reinventing yourself and stepping outside your comfort zone in order to grow and that is exactly what I wanted to do with this collection. Doing a collaboration with another designer is a very intimate experience and so it’s not something I went into lightly, as you need to ensure you get on with the designer. For the collaboration to be a success, there can’t be any room for competition or ego. We had talked about it for a long time and in December 2014, we decided to just go ahead with it. I couldn’t have chosen a better designer to collaborate with because I have learned so much on this journey. Our next collection in 2015 will have to continue this journey of growth.

Zen Magazine: We need to talk about African fashion. What do you love the most about the fashion coming out of the continent?
Hazel: I love the colors! I also love the creativity and that we are pushing boundaries and experimenting with different fabrics. African fashion is much more than tribal prints! We have our own story to tell and I love the different ways in which African designers are choosing to narrate theirs.

Eki+Orleans+Interview+With+Zen+Magazine (1)“Young designers need to find their unique selling
point and make sure it comes out in every collection
they design,” says Hazel who operates from
both Lagos and London. (Photoby Albert St Clair Photography)

Zen Magazine: Describe African fashion in 3 words.
Hazel: Creative. Inspirational. Global

Zen Magazine: So would you say African fashion is here to stay?
Hazel: African fashion is not a trend. As there is continuous global pressure on African designers to compete with other international designers, I truly believe African fashion is here to stay.

Zen Magazine: Which celebrities would you love to see rocking Eki Orleans?
Hazel: We’d love to continue to dress Thandie Newton. In addition, on our list of celebs are Lupita Nyong’o, Kate Middleton, Beyonce, J-Lo and Will-I-Am. Yes, Will-I-Am, he’d be a great Eki guy! He’s so eccentric and cool and we would be happy to start a men’s line for him.

Zen Magazine: What are prices like at Eki Orleans? 
Hazel: We do try and make it affordable and offer a SALE section and introduce special offers from time to time. The prices ranges from £45 and go up to £600+

Zen Magazine: What’s the most important thing every young designer needs to know?
Hazel: Patience – it doesn’t happen overnight, Financial backing – you need to have put money aside for a few collections because people don’t buy into your designs immediately, USP – find your unique selling point and make sure it comes out in every collection you design, Story – do not just design pretty garments. They need to tell a story. People want to see how your design thoughts translate into your pieces and lastly, be passionate and have fun with it. It shouldn’t feel like work!

To view more beautiful looks by Eki Orleans, visit: ekiorleans.com
Join her social media handles on Twitter: @Eki_OrleansFacebook: Eki Orleans and Instagram: @ekiorleans01