Silk has long been synonymous with the notion of luxury, and for fashionpreneur Hazel Aggrey-Orleans, founder of Eki Orleans, this was the inspirational starting point for her business. Today, this exciting luxury fashion and fabric brand celebrates the luxurious quality of silk, creating clothing and fabric collections that bring African design to life.
LoA chatted with Hazel this month to find out more about this unique luxury brand.
What does your company do?
We are a luxury fashion brand designing our own African silk inspired prints with which we create ready to wear and bespoke collections. We also produce silk scarves, pocket squares for men, and have created a range of swimwear with our prints on lycra.
We have also tapped into the Bridesmaids market designing bespoke prints with a special meaning for the bride.
"We are a luxury fashion brand designing our own African silk inspired prints with which we create ready to wear and bespoke collections."
What inspired you to start your company?
I remember speaking to a friend who very passionately talked about her role in the film industry and I recall being a little saddened that I couldn't express the same level of passion about my role in the financial industry (marketing), but I took it upon myself to brainstorm ideas that same evening. I have always had a love for culture and colour, and soon after giving birth to my first child and being on maternity leave, I decided to explore this passion and started working with existing fabric travelling to India and Ghana with my baby to explore the existing silk fabrics. I have always had an attraction to the soft luxurious silk fabrics. I created scarves with these textiles and pushed it for a year. It was not until my second maternity leave that I realized in order to enter this very competitive fashion industry, I had to have something unique and that is when I looked to the existing fabrics on the African continent and noticed that we mainly had cottons. I then made it my mission to reinvent and inject a bit of my African journey into designing silk prints.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
People buy into our brand because of the prints. They are distinctive and very soft, gliding on the body. They are not for the faint hearted as we do mix and match colours. Our prints are for those brave enough to stand out in the crowd, as the name Eki itself means Centre of Attraction.
"The team we have work for the love of the brand. They are a mixture of friends and a mentor."
Clockwise: Hazel, founder; Yvonne, brand manager; Betty, stylist; and Anastasia, mentor.
Tell us a little about your team
Betty is our in-house stylist - a trained Orthodontic with a remarkable sense of style and she is responsible for directing our photoshoots. Yvonne - trained in law at Harvard and then branched out to luxury brand management. She assists me with any brand decision making. Samir - he is our external web designer. Anastasia - principal consultant in strategic marketing. She is my mentor and go to person for overall business strategy
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My mom has always believed in the 9-5 work structure, played it safe and has been happy to work for others. My dad on the other hand was more of a risk taker and entrepreneur, always interested in seizing the opportunity to set up a business of his own. I guess I take after him, as I have always had that urge to create a business of my own. I do, however, appreciate the time working in the corporate world as it taught me work ethics. Having come from a marketing industry within the finance sector, I had no experience in the fashion world. Whereas others are taught all the guidelines in fashion school, I came with an open canvas and just followed my instincts and made decisions along the way. I was also very naive in business and made many mistakes. At first I was very hard on myself but over time you accept that it is a must to make mistakes, otherwise you are not growing. When you start a company you do not have the funds to get a team onboard and so I had to teach myself all the different areas of the business. Being an entrepreneur is without doubt one of the hardest roles to take on as you are your own boss and it can be a lonely journey as you do not have the structure of an establishment to support you. I always tell myself though, if being an entrepreneur were easy, every one would do it.
"I have always had an attraction to the soft luxurious silk fabrics. I then made it my mission to reinvent and inject a bit of my African journey into designing silk prints."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
My plans are to expand our textiles and create a mobile Eki Gallery consisting of a workshop and sales pop up - an experience that we take to a few cities. I believe the way forward for fashion brands is to engage directly with their audience and create a space where they can meet their clients directly and build a relationship with them.
Contact or follow Eki Orleans
Why LoA loves it....
The world of global luxury brand building is an exciting one, and it is always so inspiring to see Africa’s heritage so beautifully and creatively represented in the world of fashion and contemporary textile design. Hazel Aggrey-Orleans and her Eki Orleans brand of unique and beautifully crafted clothing and fabric collections, are making the world sit up and take notice. This is definitely a luxury brand to watch over the coming years. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa