Promote

Prêt-À-Poundo: Eki Orleans' West African Desert Horizon

Read a short interview with Eki Orleans's about the new collection for Autumn/Winter 13.


Born in Germany, raised in Nigeria and educated in London, Hazel Aggrey-Orleans is the driving force behind the label Eki Orleans. Being exposed to so many cultures, it's easy to see the multi-sided influences on her designs. One thing that we always acknowledge is bold and vibrant colors — for Aggrey-Orleans, Eki Orleans is "best described as young, fresh, feminine and elegant simplicity" and, certainly, bold. Wspoke with Hazel below

Will you introduce yourself?

My name is Hazel Aggrey-Orleans. I am the designer behind Eki Orleans. The label was first started in 2007 with African inspired scarves and then towards the end of 2009 we launched our first fabric prints and designed our dress collections.

Eki Orleans Autumn Winter 13 Prêt-À-Poundo

What was your inspiration for this new collection?

The latest AW13 was inspired by the migration of butterflies towards the desert horizon. It was a continuation from our SS13 Butterflies collection. It's a journey of  [that] butterflies [take] through West Africa – you'll see a design similar to a river which represents the river Niger – up towards the desert. The butterflies gravitate towards the sun in the desert. With Eki Orleans, the prints tell the story and then the garments follow in line with the inspiration. We used orange and yellow, which are desert colours, as well as royal blue, a colour often worn by the locals in the north.

What materials do you use?

Silk.

What is your masterpiece of this new collection?

The dress, which represents the whole inspiration behind this collection would be the one below as the prints are placed in such a way that you clearly see the migration of butterflies towards the desert sunset horizon.

Eki Orleans MasterPiece Autumn Winter 13 Prêt-À-Poundo

How are you feeling now that your collection has been released?

Once a collection is released, it is always a nervous feeling because you are putting yourself out there to be loved as well as criticised. I've learned that I cannot please everyone but as long as I'm true to the brand and we continuously release collections that are consistent and of good quality, I'm happy. There are collections I am more pleased with than others. As a designer, it's all about the state of mind you are in for the creative inspirations to flow. Generally, it's a sign of relief once a collection is out but also a realization that we need to start working on the next.

 

Which African singer or band would you like to see wearing one of your pieces?

Nneka Lucia Egbuna.

What do you think are the current trends for AW13?

I 'm probably not the right person to ask because I don't follow trends but I was pleased to see designers being more adventurous with their Autumn Winter collections in terms of adding colours. I particularly loved PPQ’s use of colours as well as Samantha Cole’s choice of vibrant prints. Prints are definitely still in this season.

What tips do you have for aspiring fashion designers?

I would say two things: 1) Make sure you have funding to last you at least 3 seasons as buyers want to see you grow before they start investing in your brand. 2) Make sure you have a USP (unique selling point). It’s not just about designing pretty clothes but clothes that tell a story. There are so many talented designers out there but what sets you apart from others is that something special that you offer which is unique to you.

Determination and hard work, as well as quick turnarounds are key. I often hear of talented designers when approached by potential buyers, press or stylists, fail to respond or deliver on time. They need to understand that fashion is a very competitive industry and if you don’t jump when an opportunity arises, you may loose that contact for good.

How does it feel to be featured in Prêt-À-Poundo?

It’s always a great pleasure to be featured on a new fashion site or magazine. This is our first feature on Prêt-À-Poundo and hopefully we will be able to please your audience with your designs.

Describe your AW13 in one word.

Prints.

A word about Okayafrica.

Okayafrica is a great news site for Africans in diaspora.

Popular
Pictures courtesy of Maeva Heim

Maeva Heim is the Founder the Beauty Industry Has Been Waiting on

The 31-year-old founder of Bread Beauty Supply is changing the conversation around haircare for textured hair.

It's nearing 9 p.m. in Australia, and Maeva Heim is dimly lit from behind and smiling warmly at her computer screen, ready to talk shop. We're here to discuss hair care, namely her brand Bread Beauty Supply, and how black beauty has made the globe smaller.

The 31-year-old is the founder of Bread Beauty Supply, a haircare line that encourages all textures and curl patterns to come as they are. "We don't want to tell you what to do with your hair. Enough people do that already," Heim says of Bread's brand philosophy. "We are just here to provide really good products for whatever you want to do with your hair at any point and not dictate to you how things should be. We're just women making the good products. You're making the good hair, and that's it. We're not here to define the rules."

But it's impossible to talk about recent strides in beauty products for textured hair without talking about the summer of 2020. In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd in the United States, a crescendo of cries rallied through global streets asking for not just equality but equity. The world watched with scrutiny as black boxes filled social feeds and brands made pledges to diversity. Those calls pinged from executive boards to the shelves of some of the world's largest beauty retailers. Meanwhile, after years of formulation, fundraising, and perfecting formulas and ingredients during a global pandemic, Maeva Heim introduced Bread beauty to the world in a perfect storm of timing and execution. The July 2020 launch filled a wide gap for Black beauty between homemade beauty products and behemoth beauty brands as Heim focused on an often under-explored direct-to-consumer middle.

Lauded on social media for their innovative packaging and nostalgic scents (the brand's award-winning hair oil smells like Froot Loops), Bread is a brand that makes hair care basics for not-so-basic hair. Typically, women with textured hair have not been included in the conversations around the idea of "'lazy girl hair" with minimal and effortless maintenance and styling - something Heim wanted to change. Part of Bread's mission is deleting category terms from the brand language – e.g. 'anti-frizz — that the brand feels unnecessarily demonizes characteristics that are natural to textured hair.

Photo courtesy of Bread Beauty

Born and raised in Peth, Western Australia, to an Ivorian mother and a French father, Heim grew up as one of the few Black kids in her neighborhood. Her days weaved between school and helping her mother run her braiding salon, one of the only of its kind in 1990's Australia. From sweeping floors, answering phones, and assisting with product orders, Heim's introduction to the world of beauty was rooted in the practice of doing.

Heim would go on to study business and law at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, before working in marketing at L'Oréal, followed by an internship at Procter & Gamble in Singapore. But it wasn't until her relaxer exploded in her luggage during a flight between New York and Chicago that she began to think seriously about not only her personal hair journey but also about the beauty industry's gaps.

After ditching chemical hair-relaxer and returning to her natural texture, she pitched her idea to Sephora and, in 2019, was selected as one of the first-ever Australian participants in the Sephora Accelerate program, securing a launch deal for both in-store and online.

But what's most striking about Heim, aside from her penchant for focusing on the brand and the consumer, is her focus on the innovation gaps for Black beauty products. Uniquely shy on social media but poignantly focused on every nuance of her brand and serving Bread's prior overlooked customer base, Maeva is the founder the beauty world has been waiting for.

*This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

Sudan Declares State of Emergency, As Military Dissolves Transitional Government

As the North African country edged closer to democracy, Sudan's military has seized power.