Frequently decked out in the world’s most esteemed clothing, supermodel Liya Kebede faced a difficult truth on a trip to her native Ethiopia: Gorgeous workmanship did not have the same commercial value there. Local artisans constructed magnificent weaving compositions, but the garments no longer had a market. “I saw that these incredible artisans were struggling to find work,” she says. “It was sad to see not only that they were losing their source of income, but also that the craft of weaving was slowly dying in my home country.”
Lemlem was Kebede’s answer to this gap in the marketplace. Using woven fabrics, clean silhouettes and plenty of Ethiopian cotton, the label creates jobs and production across Africa. Kebede also established the Lemlem Foundation, which partners with organizations including Amref Health Africa to address issues such as maternal health and female empowerment. “This can help lift a new generation of women artisans and their families out of poverty,” Kebede says.
She says her goal is to make Lemlem a positive case study for helping the fashion industry recognize Africa as a source of production. In addition to women’s clothing, Lemlem offers menswear, children’s apparel, home goods and accessories, including a new collaboration with Pierre Hardy that combines the designer’s shoes and purses with Lemlem’s fabrics.
“Pierre and I have been friends for years, and this collaboration was born out of our desire to create and design together,” Kebede says. “Our classic Lemlem stripes on his bag and shoe styles were the perfect mix of our brands and really complemented each other.”
Available at retailers such as Surf Bazaar, Tenet and a new collaboration with SoulCycle Bridgehampton, Lemlem will be out in the Hamptons once again this season, along with its founder. She says: “A perfect Hamptons weekend would consist of lots of beach time with my friends and family, a trip into town for some ice cream and a leisurely dinner at home with friends.” Her balance of relaxation and creativity is fitting for the founder of Lemlem, which appropriately means “to bloom and flourish.”
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