Q&A with designers of WILLIAMOKPO
Last night at the intimate Highline Loft, designers Lizzy and Darlene Okpo showed their fall 2013 collection to a packed room of journalists, bloggers and downtown scenesters. As daughters of Nigerian immigrants, Lizzy, 22, and Darlene, 25 were intended to be nurses, if their father had his way. But with a little willful disobedience and plenty of swagger, the sisters went ahead and launched the line WilliamOpko, named after papa himself. Stocked at boutiques like Opening Ceremony and Cloak & Dagger, the line is a personal fave of Solange Knowles, who closed out their spring presenation and also tweeted that she wished she could’ve attended yesterday. We pulled the girls aside to chat about the inspiration for their fall collection, what their dad thinks about his namesake line, and what’s next for WilliamOkpo.
Milk Made What was the inspiration behind the latest collection?
Darlene and Lizzie We always think of the Downtown NYC girl, cause Lizzie and I grew up in NYC and we love the city so much, the style and the freedom of self expression. This season was more about taking that to a more sophisticated place— like, ‘I’m still cool and I also have a pencil dress on.’ At first we were designing for another woman but when you start designing for you, that’s when things really come together. And this season we realized we didn’t have any dresses or blouses in our closet.
MM You named the line after your dad, what does he think of it?
D&L He thinks he’s the creative director [Laughing]. Every season he goes over our fabrications and either rejects or gives them the thumbs up. He keeps saying, ‘I can’t wait to retire so I can be more hands on with this.’ And we’re like ‘We never discussed this Dad, we never had that in mind.’ Leading up to the presentation, he was just as stressed as we were. Just yesterday, he was saying how we have to keep moving forward and that he prays for us and this clothing line every night, and I believe him. He really is very proud of us and wants the best for us.
MM And how has the fashion industry responded to WilliamOkpo?
D&L People love the fact we’re sisters and we’re young. At times it can feel like you’re getting overshadowed by the bigger designers and sometimes people forget about the emerging talent. But his is our sixth collection and people see that we’re still riding it out. We’re not going anywhere.
*MM What’s next for the line?
D&L** Accessories and bags, those are things girls always want. We’ve collaborated with the Brother Vellies, a line out of Swakopmund, Namibia, on our accessories. We also made a varsity jacket out of spring bok fur! We’d never worked with fur before and were a little nervous but we thought ‘Who do you see walking down the street in a spring bok jacket?’, so we decided to just do it. When we saw it up close we were like, ‘Woah, that looks awesome’, forgetting we actually designed it. You get so caught up when you’re creating it that you forget how awesome clothes can be. That’s one of the greatest feelings, seeing the clothes that you designed and really loving them.
**Photography by Tyler Nevitt