photo by Michael Thompson for Jedroot



alek wek 1933
The Legacy Continues...

AW: As soon as I did that, I just started getting inspired again. . . Moving here to Brooklyn started everything . . .   and I started getting inspired and I thought why not bags?

It's just amazing when you really have fun with it how far you can go with it. But for me, it's not really the case it's more really the familiarity . . .   like the travel weekend handbag or the brief case that was inspired by my father or the clutch that was inspired by my mother.

She isn't a woman of so much but a woman of whatever she has; adjusting in exile, exile before the 60s, growing crops and trying to survive with 5 or 7 kids at a time. So that's what I pour my inspiration into it.    

I've been told that the 1933 attached to your label has sentimental value to you. Do you mind sharing?  

AW: When naming the line, I didn't just want to name it Alek Wek. You know because for me it was something a lot more personal.   . .   my father passed away . .   .but I wanted to focus on the day he was born so that's where the 1933 comes from.

Alek, here you are. You've been modeling for a while, and then you make the sudden transition from fashion model to fashion designer. Was that relatively easy for you?

AW: I have to say at first, it was not easy. The persistency was there but it's not easy because it's not like you going to model in the city and the next day, different cities. You don't really have a responsibility. Having a business is a responsibility and it needs even a 110%, where it's not just about you.

It's about the teamwork. It's about kind of understanding where you are going, where you are. That's definitely something . . . that was very educational for me .   .   .   If anything, it really adds to your knowledge and it makes you really humble in a way to appreciate that it's not just being able to do a show or do a shoot. There are so many elements that go into it. . .

Did you receive any formal education as a designer?

AW: Yes. I studied at the London Institute for three years and got a diploma. I continued with more studies but was not able to continue because of modeling. It was hard to work with my peers on class projects with my modeling.   . .but, I enjoyed going to galleries. I didn't have that opportunity when I was in Sudan. I learned a lot of things at the galleries and that every aspect of what we studied really means something. So, my studies gave me the experience needed and it all makes sense now.

What kind of woman accessorizes with an Alek Wek 1933 hand bag?

AW: You know, I thought of that before. I think it's somebody that knows what quality is and has their own personality. It could be older, it could be younger. I mean we've had all these discussions in our meetings where it's a travel bag so does that mean my friends or my mother can carry it?

She could. So, I really want to keep the bags how I started it and how I really have fun with it. Some seasons if I don't feel like there's enough inspiration that's going on, I don't really feel like putting something out there for the sake of it. So, I think it's someone that really knows when they buy something, they understand it's not just a beautiful bag but the art that goes into it.

What challenges do you face with the dual role as a fashion designer and business owner?

AW: Finding the right loyal people that get it. People who believe in the line and in the concept. You have to understand your finances before venturing into it. I am starting something incredible and very personal. My father is not here but he is here in spirit. Staying balanced and not burning your bridges.

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