Fashion blending both African and Far East Asian cultures with a pinch of Western mainstream influences is today’s topic on my blog. Snubbing mass-produced disposable fashion, Oriental African, online fashion retailers, instead offer to both men and women of all sizes, responsibly sourced and ethically produced fashion from independent grassroots designers. I recently caught up with Mary Akpeki, creative director & co-founder, to find out more ….hi Mary!
Hi, my name is Mary.I’m a co founder at Oriental African and a student at Kent University.
What inspired you to set up your brand, Oriental African?
My niece because she represents a mixed heritage of Korean, Nigerian, and British cultures. This made me realise there is a gap within the fashion industry, these three distinct cultures are already powerful on their own and have vibrant styles, prints and patterns. So my sister and I began to imagine how we could infuse these influential prints together and that’s how Oriental African was born. We were also really passionate about helping African and Asian designers who wanted to reach a wider audience in the West.
Have you always had a passion for fashion, or did you have other career aspirations when you were younger?
Yes I’ve always loved fashion and love dressing up, styling pieces together. I was lucky enough to have African print clothing growing up, that my mum would bring back from Nigeria and I was able to style these with western clothes from shops like H&M etc so that’s where my interest in fashion really started to grow.
Your online shop retails a fashion blend incorporating both African and Far East Asian cultures. What items are proving popular amongst your customers?
We have a shirt that blends Chinese frog buttons and African print, a ripped dashiki hoodie that channels the Yeezy collection, and Dashiki longline shirts which are really popular in the entertainment industry right now.
Out of all the outfits that you sell, do you have any favourites?
I really like the co-ord sets that I have, the OA crop top and trousers or bra-let and skirt they can be styled for both work and leisure and I think that represents my style.
Snubbing mass-produced disposable fashion, you consciously only showcase independent grassroots designers. How do you make sure everything you offer is responsibly sourced and ethically produced?
Quality checks, we insure we buy all the fabrics, that we give them the fair price for it and they are all ethically sourced and all the money we make from the clothes a percentage is given back to the designer.
As your clothes are from two distinct parts of the world, I am going to put you on the spot and ask whether you have a favourite country? What place is number one on your travel bucket list?
What place is number one on your travel bucket list?
Thailand – because the beaches look so beautiful and I love Thai food. I’ve always wanted to go to Bangkok.
Your company is based in England – are your designs available to purchase worldwide?
For now they’re not but within the next few months we should be able to ship worldwide,so watch this space.
When adding outfits to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional styles or bits of all those?
All of the above factors contribute and inspire us for each piece of clothing we put on the platform.
Hypothetically speaking, who would you pick, dead or alive, to be the “face” of Oriental African?
Beyoncé is really an amazing personality and we also love Keyonce who impersonates her really well.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Ankle length boots, choker, high waist jeans, Bardot tops and our OA Lere bomber jacket.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)
ASOS and New Look
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Well I’m creating a range of African print swim suits and I would to steal one and take it with me on holiday. Timberlands.
Boots or Shoes?
Boots because they go with anything and I love versatility when it comes to fashion.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Oriental African.
Fabulous speaking to you Mary and I wish Oriental African every success in the future. So, dear readers, what do you think of “blended” fashion? Do you like the ideas that Oriental African are promoting? Have you ever mixed an expensive designer dress with cheap shoes bought at a garage sale for pennies? Teamed a tankini top with jeans for a night out? Worn your partner’s shirt as a dress? Do share your stories – I’d love to know!
Photos have been published with kind permission of Mary Akpeki/Oriental African