“I think I buy one new denim piece every week,” said Darlene Okpo, who, with her sister Lizzy, designs the New York label they named after their father, William Okpo.

“I see you in denim every day,” said Lizzy to Darlene.

“Not yesterday.”

“You had that denim jacket on.”

“Oh yeah,” Darlene paused, “and it didn’t even go!”

The sisters, each in pieces from their latest collection, laughed and then re-focused. “Looking at it, you wouldn’t assume that it’s denim, until you touch it,”  said Lizzy about what she and Darlene had on – their Ezi cape shirt, made of the palest gray Japanese denim, with the Levi’s she bought at the once-famous and now-closed Canal Jeans thrift store on lower Broadway, and their Jazz Ruffle Gaucho shorts, respectively. “It’s not everyday you see a belted cape-shirt fabricated in denim.” Or shorts that ruffle at the knee like big ball skirts, either. I loved these pieces, and the bell-sleeved top, trench, and trousers they’re offering in denim this season, too, mostly because I’ve never seen anything like them before. A round of applause, please, for Lizzy and Darlene.

What do you love most about what you wore for our shoot?

Darlene: The shorts remind me of being in a tropical place for some reason. They’re called the Jazz Ruffle Gaucho, and I love that they’re a statement piece – the ruffle just gives them so much character.

Lizzy: My top, the Ezi cape shirt, is one of my favorite pieces in the collection. It reminds some people of a kimono, I guess. I love it because of its structure and versatility. Most people said they are open to wearing it as both a jackets and a shirt. But it’s only a shirt in my eyes. My jeans are Levi’s I’ve had for over seven years. One of my favorites. They will deteriorate into dust in a few more years. I love that they’ve been my go-to item for so many years. They’re worn and torn specifically for me. I can’t imagine how irregular the knee and butt rips would look on someone else.

If your denim could give us one word of advice about style – maybe it’s something you’ve learned while working with denim or designing your collection – what would it be?

Darlene: Be free.

Lizzy: When cropping jeans, cut them and throw them straight in the wash before wearing them. This makes the frays soft and beautiful.

Okpo sisters

What about denim as a fabric makes it a good fit for the clothes you design?

Darlene: It’s so versatile. You can dress it up or down.

Lizzy: It’s universal. Denim makes a good story anywhere. The denim we used for this collection was so special because of the wash. Looking at it, you wouldn’t assume that it was denim, until you touch it.

What do the denim pieces you design do that no other denim pieces in the world can do?

Darlene: Inspire others to be creative with their style.

Lizzy: It’s not everyday you see a belted cape-shirt fabricated in denim. The denim in the collection was designed with sophistication and elegance, giving our customers the ability to wear it to a cocktail event and not feel like they are dressed down because it’s ‘denim.’

Okpo sisters

Lizzy, what do your Levi’s jeans know about you that no one else knows?

That it takes only five minutes for me to make a mess on my clothes.

What’s the most memorable place your Levi’s have been with you?

In the mountains in Cape Town, South Africa, scared as hell, but having the time of my life.

What’s the weirdest place?

The stinky Glastonbury festival in London. Smelled like poop; it was muddy and gross with hundreds of thousands of tents and people camping out.

What’s the best possible ending you could imagine for your Levi’s?

Lizzy: Never ending, so reincarnating them into a couch pillow would be best.

Okpo sisters

If you guys could go anywhere in the world in your William Okpo denim pieces tomorrow, where would you go?

Darlene: Lima, Peru

Lizzy: Brazil. I’m dying to go. Otherwise, a lavender field in a different country. Or, hiking through a tropical forest.

What’s the best possible thing you could be doing in William Okpo denim right now?

Darlene: Being fabulous.

Lizzy: Traveling or building. We enjoy building.

If you could give each of the pieces you wore for our shoot to someone, who would you give them to?

Darlene: I would give them to my niece Kendel, because she is so sassy.

Lizzy: My children. Learning the importance of passing things down in our family. We don’t have children yet, but we will be sure to preserve the cuteness for the next generation.

Fill in the blanks: Denim is to William Okpo what _________ is to _________.

Darlene: Water is to plants.


William Okpo, 6 Fulton Street, New York, 10038; 212-482-8869; go to williamokpo.com.