Our designer: Hazel

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? (Background, aspirations…)

My background is languages and financial marketing but I transitioned into fashion, as this is where I found my passion. I worked in the financial industry for over 8 years but knew it was never my passion but it allowed me to gain a business head which I then used to go into fashion. Unlike most people who have studied fashion and are super creative, I come in with a marketing head and think of sales in every design I create. 
It was never my dream to be a fashion designer. Instead, what I loved was translating my own life experiences into art. With this I mean, I design prints that tell a story, and are a part of my life journey. It’s a personal journey I have chosen to share with everyone. 

Did you think you would become the person you are when you were younger? (Personally and professionally) 

I never had a certain path designed in my head. I have always been this extremely shy person but becoming an entrepreneur has really forced me out of my comfort zone, as I have had to do things I could always shy away from, whilst working for a co-operation. Now, being the face of the brand, I have to represent it in the best way I can. I think you need challenges in life in order to grow. 
I have always been very focused, stubborn and driven that it doesn’t come as a huge surprise to me that I decided to become an entrepreneur. 

Could you tell us the Eki Orleans story? How did it happen?
I remember meeting up with a friend and talking about work and I recall her talking so passionately about her work as a film director, that I came back home feeling quite deflated and knew from that day onwards, that I had to create my own future, something I really enjoyed doing. So, the next few weeks I came up with the idea of designing my own scarves, combining African prints with Indian silks – two cultures that play around with colour beautifully. Two years later, with no experience in fashion or print design, I then started designing my own prints on silk. I am a true believer of just trying and learning along the way. I have learned so much from my first prints and dress designs and I feel I have now found my identity in fashion. 

Why fashion rather than another branch?
You can express yourself in art. You can tell a story in your designs. It becomes an extension of you.

How do you see yourself personally and professionally in 10 years?

I would like to be seen as the biggest African fashion designer worldwide, as well as stocked in shops internationally and on major runways.
Personally, I would like to still say I love what I do but still have time to enjoy life. At the moment, the company cannot function without me but in 10 years, I would  like to have structured the company that it can run successfully without my daily imput. There is no point having a successful empire if the company cannot function without you. It becomes a job, rather than a passion.

What would you recommend to someone who wants to create their own business in fashion?
You need a lot of passion, focus and determination. It can be very lonely at the start and you have to develop a thick skin, as you will get a lot of rejection at first but the longer you prove to the industry that you are here to stay and are developing your craft, you can succeed. 

What is your main goal with Eki Orleans? 
My main goal is to create a brand with a social conscious and a brand that women want to associate themselves with. I would then like to grow to become the biggest African fashion brand and build an empire that can create jobs for working mothers. Being a mom myself, I know how the work industry operates and likes to make you think like you cannot combine motherhood and work. Once I am big enough, I would like to offer jobs to women who want to work part time or need to work from home, as there is a market to cater for these women.

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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