It hard not to get sidetracked when chatting with Darlene and Lizzy Okpo about their label, William Okpo. The two sisters, who are 25 and 22 respectively, are not only talented designers and entrepreneurs, but they are hip, young New Yorkers with plenty to talk about. They’re always saying things like, ‘That reminds me of this one time’, or ‘True story…’, but regardless of the topic things usually come back to their life’s passion: their label.
William Okpo takes its name from the girls’ Nigerian father, who immigrated to New York in 1976 with $80 in his pocket (their mom joined him soon after). One of the things the girls find most inspiring about their father is that even as he was working hard to realize his own American dream, his unique personal style never wavered. The sisters embraced both his work ethic and his sartorial flair launching their label despite youth and limited resources working against them.
Since starting the label, they’ve cut patterns on Starbucks tables, juggled finishing their degrees with finishing their collections (last year Lizzy nearly missed their first fashion week show because she didn’t want to skip class) and learned everything from the bottom up. We chatted to the talented sisters, who stand out for their charming personalities just as much as their awesome hair, about how they’re doing it.
How did you get involved in fashion and was it something you always enjoyed?
Lizzy Okpo: Yes, absolutely. Six years ago we knew we wanted to start a label.
Darlene Okpo: All four of us siblings are really into style in different ways. My brother’s room is full of shoes. It’s kind of gross. But we blame it on our Dad. Every Saturday we would go food shopping and then we’d go to the mall. He would never buy anything for us, but always for himself. We would sit in the store for three hours and he would leave with one tie. He would analyze everything.
L: He dressed Mom. He knows our bra sizes and shoe sizes.
D: If it was up to him we’d be in dresses all the time.