Hazel Eki Osunde is a German-Nigerian fashion designer who now resides in the United Kingdom. She is the founder and creative director of EKI, an African-inspired luxury silk print fashion brand.
Osunde designs prints that narrate positive African stories. She believes fashion can be very impactful. Fashion “can light up a room and also create a platform for change. It is powerful and it can be used as a tool to educate consumers on the importance of matters,” she told Business Africa Online.
Despite her strong love for designing, her career trajectory started in the bank. She spent a decade in the banking hall until she fell pregnant and “found a new meaning to life.” It was during this period that she convinced herself to follow her passion and build an empire out of it.
Prior to that, a friend passionately talked to her about her career in media and she realized she hadn’t put much love into the work she was doing. “So, I ventured on a journey of discovery. It soon dawned on me that I had a love for textiles, designs and nostalgia for Africa. And that’s how it started,” she said.
Osunde’s designs have a clear African influence and it is printed on silk to give them an international appeal. What is more, her garments are flowy and can be worn casually or dressed up.
Born in a rural town in Germany but raised in Nigeria, Osunde said the inspiration for her designs is drawn from Africa, adding that she always taps into nature, culture or travel and narrates the story from an African point of view
The uniqueness of her brand comes from the interpretation of her prints, she said.
“I don’t design prints for everyone, nor do I follow trends. I pick shades and colors that I am drawn to and know my customers like. The designs of our dresses are quite simplistic and classic allowing for that commercial appeal. I believe with the bold EKI prints are balanced out with the styles we choose,” said the German-Nigerian designer, who recently presented her latest collection in Lagos, Nigeria.
Being someone who respects nature, Osunde incorporates sustainability into her brand. “All of our printing is done digitally as it consumes less water and ink. It was a conscious business decision to opt for digital rather than litho printing, even though the latter is less dear. For us the long-term effects on the planet pay a higher price,” she said.
Her advice for young designers just starting out is that they should keep it creative, small and not overstretch themselves financially until they have created their clientele base who not just likes and follows their pieces but also purchases.