Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Liya Kebede Talks Lemlem & African Roots

Ethiopian model Liya Kebede, who was recently announced as a new member of the CFDA (read about that, here) has been talking about her philanthropic ready-to-wear lifestyle brand, Lemlem – telling of its conception, artisans and aims.

Speaking to Style.com, the stunner and face of Louis Vuitton’s Autumn/Winter’14 range, explained how the brand came about, saying;

“The whole thing came about when I was at home in Addis [Ababa] and walking around with the mayor. He wanted so much for me to do something, and I initially didn’t know how I could give back.

We went through this big bazaar in Shola, where all the artisans work, but the market hadn’t been doing well because Ethiopian people are wearing machine-made outfits on an everyday basis and saving traditional clothes for special occasions like church or a wedding.

We were talking about how amazing all these incredible weavers are, and that got me thinking that maybe I could start a line.”


Lemlem was launched in 2007 with a range of beautiful, African-made childrenswear. Today, Liya’s label focuses mainly on womenswear, with the brand’s current line made of striped, light coverups and separates with hand-made, timeless quality.

Liya talked of her label’s progression into womenswear with Style, saying;

“I had my kids back then already and thought it would be cute to start Lemlem as a children’s line because every mom would love a nicely handmade little dress for her daughter. Then every mom – including me – loved it so much we decided to make the clothes in larger sizes, which is when things really took off.”

To create Lemlem’s, hand-woven pieces, Liya employs local artisans from her hometown in Ababa, which she left at the age of 18 to begin her modelling career in Paris. The artisans use traditional methods to manufacture her line, which is growing in success, with stockists including Barneys New York, Net-a-Porter and Selfridges.

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Of her skilled workers, Liya said;

“It’s mostly men that weave, and the craft is passed down generationally, from father to son, father to son. But it’s women who hand-spin the cotton and do all the sewing. It’s been interesting to see how our weavers have grown to see Lemlem.

When we first started with them, we were so demanding and they thought we were these, like, neurotic New Yorkers. It took a while to really gel and understand each other. Now they’re so proud of the product and exclusively want to work for Lemlem. It was great to see them last time all listening to the radio and throbbing to the music while they weaved.”

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And for Liya and Lemlem, whose motto is “Made in Ethiopia,” roots are always going to be anchored in Africa, with the 36 year old stunner telling Style;

“[Being Ethipian-made] will always be our signature and what makes our story a bit different. Even now as we’re introducing jersey and new categories, we’re going to stay true to our original Made in Africa mission. We want to prove ourselves and prove to the world that there’s a new destination for clothing production.”

Read the full interview, here.


Image source: Lemlem.com

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