Interview: William Okpo At New York Fashion Week
We chatted with sister label William Okpo at their Fall/Winter 14 presentation during New York Fashion Week.
One of New York Fashion Week's highlights was sisters Lizzie and Darlene Okpo's presentation. Founders William Okpo, a label named after their Nigerian father, the two presented their Fall/Winter 14 collection with boundless enthusiasm to a thrilled, and very stylish, crowd. With sparkling eyes and huge smiles, Lizzie and Darlene chatted with us about their new collection, their NYFW presentation and their recent Puma collaboration with Solange Knowles, who was present at the event.
Poundo: How do you feel right now?
Darlene: Happy! Really excited!
Lizzie: I mean, there’s a lot that led up to [this moment], we worked really hard on this collection. There are a lot of things that we changed, altered, and it all worked out for the better.
Darlene: It’s hard work because there were a lot of challenges with the show. Every season is totally different and I always get emotional after the show because of all the cameras following us to see the hard work that we’re putting in. It’s really amazing, I had fun!
P: What's your process like as sisters working together?
L: It’s easy and it’s hard. Sometimes, you just want to turn it all off and we just can’t because we were so dedicated to finishing this project, and we live together. Sometimes, Darlene would knock on my door or just text me because she had an idea or I’d text her because I had an idea. So, we can never really turn off, but that's also the beauty of it. We're constantly generating new ideas and we're sisters so it's real love, real spirit in this collection. It’s natural, 'cause we're so family-orientated.
D: Working with your family is easier because we have this telepathic [connection]. I make a face and Lizzie knows exactly what I'm thinking. She'll keep saying 'you don’t like it.' I'll answer, 'I do like it' and she’ll say 'no, your face twitched, your eye twitched.' [laughs]
L: I can read her mind one-hundred percent. Her everything — her mouth shut, her eyes, all of her body completely. She gets mine as well, even through a text message, I’d know what she was thinking at the time.
P: What's this collection about?
L: Oh, it's getting serious now! [laughs] We were thinking of a spring blizzard.
D: It was more about who's living in New York City. We were born and raised in NYC, with a Nigerian background. I hate seeing native New Yorkers just wearing black, period. Sometimes I think that we’re just afraid of color. When Lizzie and I approached the collection, we wanted prints, old prints..
D: [laughs]... and flowers.
L: We wanted to go more psychedelic, with more of a happy and whimsical feel, instead of being too serious.
D: Our personal style is definitely written all over the collection. Some pieces are really Lizzie, some pieces are really me. It’s really the best of both of us, putting two ideas into one. That’s the fun part about it.
P: Do you think that you’re bringing something new to the table?
L: I don’t know. I wouldn’t say new, everyday 'new' is happening. I would say that we’re part of the new movement that is happening everyday. I just think that we’re incorporating more fun into it. Fashion is becoming more fun as we go and I think that we’re part of that. I mean unlimited, limitless directions in design. There’s no sequence to how things should happen. We just go how we feel.
D: It’s really how we feel. It's hard because there are so many designers out there and it takes a lot for a consumer to gravitate to one individual designer. So, it stands out when he sees and feels your personality and your personal style in your designs. Sometimes, you can get caught up in trying to do what everybody else does, what’s on the runway. But, then you have to say 'No, I wanna wear this, I wanna put flowers on my denim for a walk outside,' or 'I just wanna put my socks and sandals on.' That’s us. So, personally, I feel that we do something new. It’s more of a personal style.
P: Where do you find your inspiration?
L: Friends, family, our location, locations we’ve never been to. Often, Darlene is a world traveller. Three weeks ago, she sent me this link “22 Places That You Could Never Imagine.” It was lavender fields, multicolors — it was just these unbelievable places. I looked at them thought that I wanted to teleport to each one. We imagine placing ourselves in places we’ve never been to. Putting ourselves there, we bring ourselves to make new collections.
P: Lastly, about Puma, how was the collaboration with Solange Knowles?
L: Solange was present from beginning to end and she’s still doing it. She was literally directing the photo shoot. She was there scouting models, moving the set. She has a vision, goes it and sticks to it. She’s literally 100% percent what she does.
Wearing their sneaker collaboration, Lizzy and Darlene were their own ambassadors, shining in the beautiful set-up in a massive raw space. The audience was clearly transported by the designs and the staging. We're definitely looking forward to their next collaborations. In the meantime, scroll through our gallery of their New York Fashion Week presentation above. If you want to talk about it, tweet @okayafrica with #williamokpo and #newyorkfashionweek.