Five questions with Hazel Aggrey-Orleans

1. What influenced your latest collection?
With this latest collection ʻNostalgiaʼ, I found inspiration in objects that symbolized music and movement. Through exploring the rich history of Africa, I was quite taken with the calabash musical instrument and its importance in African culture. Referencing the sensual shape of the calabash and its melodic, mellow and earthy rhythms, I created prints that are bold and feminine. Each print tells a story and coupled with the delicate draping, curve-enhancing and flowing silhouettes of the collection, I created a design narrative that invokes the feelings of joy, freedom and sensuality associated with the rhythmic sounds of the calabash. As a result, this collection allows the wearer to celebrate history in a modern, fresh and high fashion way. 
2. Tell us your story, what made you decide to become a designer?
When I was pregnant with my first child I knew working in banking wasn’t going going to be my life. I knew I had to find something that inspired me more. As I am of mixed heritage, it was important to do something which allowed me to express my cultural background and what better way than to do that than in art. So in 2007, I started designing scarves, using African and Indian fabrics. In 2009, I decided to expand into fabrics and dresses. I knew I had to come up with something different to compete in the already competitive world of fashion. I love African prints but as they are always on cotton, I decided to experiment and print them on silks. The response I got was amazing and that is when I launched my first collection. 
3. You were at the Arise Magazine Fashion Week this year and also last year. What was it like to be there for the second year in a row?
It was a great experience. Having showcased last year is never a guarantee for me that I will be invited again and so I am always very honoured to be invited again. It is a fantastic platform for designers of African heritage, with African inspired collections, and even those who are neither, to come together and display their work to the world. The show has grown, the models are stronger, the catwalk is better, there is more press… the list continues. It is also extremely inspiring to see what other designers are doing. There are so many strong designers who showcase there, which really gives me that drive to push harder collection after collection. ARISE Magazine Fashion Week is something I would definitely recommend and love to take part in again and maybe one day be able to go with them to NY!
4. How many languages can you speak?
English, German and Spanish
5. What’s in store for Eki Orleans in 2012?
SS13 Collection! You finish one and you launch into the next. We are trying to secure ourselves more boutiques worldwide. We had strong interest in some European stores, which is great. Our aim is to be stocked in at least 4-5 new shops by the end of the year. 
We also want to share our fabrics with everyone and not just restrict it to our collections and have therefore just recently launched our Bridal Bespoke prints. If you have any picture or inspiration you would like transformed onto our gorgeous silk fabrics, you need to get in touch with us. Our aim is to be known for our intricate prints and to have a following of women who want our dresses because it makes them feel beautiful and be the centre of attention.  
Eki Orleans
Hazel Eki Aggrey-Orleans, the award winning designer, is the creative force behind the high-end London-based fashion-label Eki Orleans. Born in Germany, raised in Nigeria and educated in London, her design aesthetic has been strongly influenced by this diverse mix of cultures. She draws inspiration from all of her cultural experiences, most notably, however, from her West African heritage.
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