Darlene and Lizzy Okpo founded the New York based women’s wear collection William Okpo in 2010. Daughters of Nigerian immigrants, the Okpo sisters were motivated by the interplay of their parent’s personal style with American culture.
William Okpo is our father and mother, who have both played a major part in inspiring our style, aesthetic, motivation and courage to do everything we do today. To understand who we are one would have to know our family as we’ve completely embodied their personalities and put it in an entire collection. We did not come from a strict fashion background, we’ve maneuvered through this business off the strength of being confident, strong willed, setting aside any cliché that went with fashion. We truly believe having family as our foundation has kept us focus and on track, obviously with a great understanding that any immoral act we do we would have to face our family first; we don’t want that.
What was your first job in fashion?
Lizzy: interning for fashion label Libertine
Darlene: retail and visual merchandising for Forever21
What influenced you in your early years growing up? music and fashion?
Music and sports. Music was our world growing up. Our older siblings were to blame and our parents were to blame. From hip-hop and r&b to soukous music blasting.
Since you are sisters how do you guys design together?
Interestingly, we’ve gained such a telepathic mindset working these last few years together. We can be in different locations and send a text message about which direction we would like the collection to go and we are usually on the same path. Lizzy does a lot of sketching and concepts and Darlene is great with conceptualizing and making the collection more cohesive. We equally come up with design ideas.
Do you travel to Nigeria or Africa often?
We’ve visited Nigeria in 2012 and prior 2008. Lizzy has traveled to South Africa, Senegal, in 2013 we’ve both traveled to Zambia in conquest to help one of our favorite organization, 14 plus foundation, where we’ve helped build a school. Later this month (October) Lizzy will travel to South Africa and Darlene to Morocco.
What has been the biggest challenges in launching your business?
Being taken seriously. Every room we’ve entered there was an immediate assumption on who were are and what we do. Over the years, we’ve begun to ignore it and continue on. Doing production in New York where there are so many limitations and such high prices. Financing is an on going challenge.
Where do you live and what are some of your neighborhood faves?
We live in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. Brooklyn is amazing. NYC is simply amazing. It’s the city that raised us. Café Rue Dix in crown heights is an amazing Senegalese restaurant, we love! We are quite a tight knit group where we have potlucks at our friends’ homes and laugh all night.
What is your fave piece from your fall collection?
Printed color block wool jacket. (We do not have photos yet because everything is still in production) Mid October photos will be available.
What is the inspiration behind your spring 2016?
Spring is filled with elegance; it may just be the most feminine collection by far.
Where is your fave destination and why?
Our home, we love love love being home. This year we’ve travel a little throughout South America, visiting Brazil, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago. We fell in love with Guatemala as every bit of the country was filled with colorful magic, beautiful culture wonderful people.
What are your fave music?
Lizzy: Everything, I get inspired by music so heavily. I literally listen to everything. From Kate bush to Marissa Monte a wonderful Brazilian artist I’ve heard while in Brazil.
Darlene: Old school R&B and Hip-hop.
How did your collaboration with Solange Knowles come about?
We are all friends.
How was it working with Aurora James for Brother Vellies?
Aurora and our relationship is quite special. We can honestly say we’ve never met anyone like her before. Brother Vellies is secretly the partnership with William Okpo in our dreams, as we feel to every William Okpo look there is a matching Brother Vellies shoe. Ha! We see eye-to-eye, and even if we didn’t I’m pretty sure Aurora could convince us to see her vision. It was seamless working with Aurora. One of the many few collaborations that happened with just several minutes of idea sharing and we turn around and a finished product is standing right before us.