Power Women of the Diaspora: Designer Fuses European and African Culture for Collection

Germany and Nigeria meet to form vibrant brand

Designer Hazel Aggrey-Orleans, founder, Eki Orleans (Image: Orleans)

Today’s business market is more global than ever, with women making international boss moves from coast to coast.

In a special series on women entrepreneurs of the diaspora, BlackEnterprise.com will bring you highlights on power females who have taken their passions and made them profitable — from North America to Europe to Africa and everywhere in between.

Fashion designer Hazel Aggrey-Orleans (@Eki_Orleans) is the creative force behind the London womenswear label Eki Orleans.

The design house fuses vibrant, intricate prints with delicate silk, bringing to life the designer’s childhood memories of Lagos, Nigeria coupled with her German roots.

As an official partner of the Mercedes-Benz Club campaign, Eki Orleans helped celebrated 60 years of the Mercedes-Benz SL badge and 70 years of London Fashion Week.

BlackEnterprise.com spoke to the British businesswoman about the transition from banking to rocking the runway.

BlackEnterprise.com: What led you to start your own fashion label?

Aggrey-Orleans: I decided to venture into fashion because I love how art and fashion is so personal. With fashion, you can turn your own life experiences into art. In my case, I bring my African and European heritage into my designs.

What was your career path prior to becoming an entrepreneur?
I started off working in marketing in the corporate world of banking. I did that for over 8 years but I always knew it wasn’t my passion.

It was during my first pregnancy that I decided to pursue my love of fashion.  After giving birth to my kids I knew there was more to life than just banking and working around someone else’s timetable.

What’s the source of inspiration for your latest collection?

The latest collection is thoughtfully named ‘Nostalgia’ as I looked to my roots for inspiration. During the creation stage for this collection, I found inspiration in objects that symbolized music and movement.

Through exploring the rich history of Africa, I was taken by the calabash and its importance in African culture. Referencing its sensual shape and its melodic, mellow and earthy rhythms, I created prints that are bold, feminine and striking.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering launching a fashion company?

Drive and determination is essential. You will encounter many hurdles but the key is dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes and try again. Also, remember you don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take one step at a time.

Read more interviews with Black British female entrepreneurs at TwentyTenClub.com.

Octavia Goredema is founder of relocation resource Crash Course City and the Twenty Ten Club, an award-winning networking organization and online resource designed to connect, inspire and support black female entrepreneurs. Goredema has been awarded the title Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by The Queen for her services supporting black businesswomen.

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