You might recognize Lizzy Okpo if you’ve ever stopped by Opening Ceremony downtown. She’s the girl with braids down to her waist and a constant smile on her face. We’re excited to announce the release of her new label, williamOkpo, a line she created with her sister, Darlene. I sat down with the pair to discuss their debut collection, which OC is excited to be the first to carry!
Alison Kizu-Blair: What’s the story behind the name?
Lizzy Okpo: The story behind williamOkpo is Mr. William Okpo himself. William Okpo is our father, and growing up, he was our stylist. Our father bought all of our clothes - actually, he still does 'til this day. He is so big on quality, fit, and fabric, so it only made sense to name our business after our Sensei.
AK-B: How is it to work with your sister? Do you share duties or do you have separate roles?
LO: I am the design director for williamOkpo, and Darlene is the creative director and simply my director overall. The only problem is that she talks too much.
DO: Working with my sister is really annoying (joking). My sister is my best friend. We both feed off each others energy.
AK-B: Why did you decide to make a line of clothing, not being formally trained in design?
LO: The clothing line idea came from our upbringing. Darlene and I grew up in a household where we had to make do with what we had, and still look presentable at all times. This inspired us to make our own and do for ourselves. As for formal training, I figured there was no use for someone to teach me how to think or be creative when I have the skill to do so myself. I did take classes to improve that skill, though.
AK-B: What is the inspiration behind your first collection?
LO: Immigrants mostly inspired our collection. We are often intrigued by how many young and old immigrants come to America and maintain their own style, rather then assimilate into what they believe is American fashion. Darlene and I happened to come across some old photos of our parents in the ‘70s and we were jealous of how well dressed they were. Even after coming to America, they were able to uphold this great look they had.
AK-B: Who are your favorite designers?
DO: My favorite designers are Alexander McQueen, Phillip Lim and Hannah MacGibbon of Chloé. They all represent a women that has strong natural style.
LO: I really like Rachel Comey
, Charles Anastase
, Tsumori Chisato
, Diane Orving, and Hannah MacGibbon. They have never failed me and have always kept me in the “WOW’ phase.
AK-B: Describe the williamOkpo girl.
DO: The WilliamOkpo girl is in her own world, where she walks to her own beat. Her style is innate and full of simplicity.
LO: And not to mention really cute, obviously.
AK-B: Do other aspects of culture factor into your design choices? Music, art, film, travel, etc.?
LO: All of the above. I usually have my iPod blasting or a tune in my head when designing. I do have a collection of beautiful images, such as paintings, drawings, and photographs before me while designing. Weirdly enough, when designing this one dress and a few other designs that incorporate horsehair, I was watching The Simpsons
on a plane. Bart was the inspiration of the flowing shape of the dress. Thanks for reminding me.
AK-B: Do you have a fashion icon?
DO: I am loving Shala Monroque.
AK-B: How did you dress when you were little?
LO: I was really sporty between the ages of five and thirteen years old, when I couldn’t shop for myself. Once I was able to take charge of my style, all hell broke loose. Some people told me I dressed like a grumpy old lady who had lots of cats.
AK-B: You’re a 20-year old designer. How do you think that affects the way you and other people approach your collection?
LO: I see my age as being a disadvantage in some cases. I feel that some people may not take me seriously because I am young. I never understood why waiting because of my age should be an option. My age doesn’t make me less capable, just more motivated.
Check out the williamOkpo collection in person at OCNY and OCLA!