Well before African fashion was considered a fashionable topic and the ankara fabric gained momentum in the West the way it has, Ladybrille Magazine predicted “African inspired blouses and dresses will become main staples in the West like the modern takes we see with Kimonos.” We were seen as “very ambitious” with our predictions. Our predictions, however, has proved quite accurate.
We now further predict and believe that Alicia Keys ‘Put it in a Love Song’ video ft. Beyonce, which has both ladies dressed in 26year old American designer Maya A. Lake’s Boxing Kitten Ankara designs, will tip the scale and truly solidify our predictions on a global scale, given the reach and influence of both ladies.
As Western consumers prepare to open their wallets and closets to African inspired designs, like we have never seen it before, the bigger question for us here at Ladybrille is whether African designers will be able to stay competitive and marketable in the West. Will the openness of Western consumers and ultimately fashion buyers translate into more opportunities for African fashion designers? If both Western and African designers now use “African fabrics” to create Western silhouettes, what sets the African designer apart? Who wins in a cut throat fashion industry?
We believe the winners, especially for Africa, are those designers who know how to strike the right balance with the ‘African inspired’ concept. Orleans Designs by London based designer Hazel Aggrey-Orleans “gets it” and does strike the right balance with her Spring/Summer 2010 Collection. The collection which we mark as “Ladybrille Exhibit A” for our predictions is fresh, funky, fluid, fun, functional and commercial.
As the designer herself explains, “African fabrics are traditionally made of cotton or hand-woven silk, highlighting the intricate native patterns. Orleans Designs, however, has cleverly challenged this longstanding tradition by choosing delicate silk fabrics to embody these prints, therby creating more contemporary garments with a greater sense of movement.”
The brilliant Aggrey-Orleans is half-German (mother) and half-Nigerian (father). She was raised in Lagos, Nigeria for seventeen years and subsequently relocated to England to pursue her passion for fashion. We caught up with Aggrey-Orleans for a brief chat about Orleans designs and her design inspiration.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Give us a brief history about your background?
Hazel: Marketing and design has been my career for the last 5 years. Since my first child was born, my priorities have changed. I have been looking for a job that both inspires and allows me to manage my time around my kids. I released a collection of scarves following the birth of the first of two childen and recently launched my first women’s wear collection.
Having grown up in Nigeria and traveled around the world to Asia, Latin America and the Carribbean, I have crossed many different cultures, all of which have in common the use of beautiful bright colours. I think women should serenade themselves with colours. (I) have created movement within (my) West African fabrics bringing these dresses more to life.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How long have you been designing?
Hazel: My collection has been long in the making and has taken 9 months to perfect.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Are your clothes manufactured in London?
Hazel: Yes we currently manufacture all garments in London so we are able to keep a close eye on the quality.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: I noticed your designs are printed on silk dresses. They are beautiful but from a cost saving perspective, you can throw a cotton dress into the washing machine, silk dresses require dry cleaning. Do you plan to come up with cotton African inspired dresses?
Hazel: Yes silk dresses require dry cleaning due to their soft delicate nature but they don’t crease easily. We will most definitely add in other fabric combinations. With our cottons, they will have a softer feel on the body.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Sounds good and creates even more options for our Ladybrille woman. Where did you receive your design training?
Hazel: I am a self-taught designer and my design team is made up of freelance designers. I get my inspiration from top designers such as Diane van Furstenberg and Dries van Noten together with my traditional West African heritage.
Our favorite dress from the Spring/Summer 2010 COCO Orleans Designs collection is the lemon tear-drop shift dress with the ruby red neckline.
Visit Orleansdesigns.com to view the full collection and purchase designs.
Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.