A FRESH TAKE ON AFRICAN DESIGN
Canadian company teams with model’s clothing line
When you think of Africa, what do you think of ? While exotic safaris and wild animals would be a natural first response for many, Liya Kebede hopes people also think of something more tangible: artisan textiles.
Ethiopia — a landlocked country on the Horn of Africa nestled between Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea — boasts a growing textile industry that began when the country was under Italian occupation in 1939.
Encompassing weaving, spinning and processing techniques, the industry includes numerous publicly and privately owned factories that create clothing for national and international consumers and brands, according to ethiopianembassy.org.
In an attempt to increase the global awareness of her home country’s textile trade — in addition to preserving the art of weaving and promoting economic independence — Kebede became a designer, adding another line to a resumé that already included her work as a model and World Health Organization goodwill ambassador for maternal, newborn and child health.
Kebede launched her clothing brand Lemlem — which means to blossom and flourish in her native Ethiopian language of Amharic — in 2007 with a focus on offering hand-woven and handsewn clothing for men, women and children.
“Lemlem is very much a modern take on traditional styles and textiles I grew up wearing in Ethiopia,” Kebede says. “Most of our collection is hand-woven and sewn in Ethiopia from natural cotton with beautiful splashes of colour.”
The line quickly became a go-to for the global style set, who were searching for brightly coloured and easy-to-wear summer staples that are “relaxed and luxurious,” Kebede says.
With the help of retailers including Net-a-Porter, J.Crew and Shopbop, Lemlem has expanded its manufacturing reach to include Kenya to keep up with demand.
“We’re celebrating Lemlem’s 10th anniversary this year and our goal is to continue growing, making an impact and bringing the best of African artisanship forward,” Kebede says.
It’s that expansion plan, coupled with Kebede’s desire to assist in the growth and strength of African clothing manufacturing, that first caught the attention of the creative team behind the Canadian company Joe Fresh.
“I started talking about what inspires us at Lemlem while I was working with Joe Fresh on a campaign with them last year,” she says.
“We had a light-bulb moment and thought, why not put our creative energies together and create something special for Joe Fresh’s customers?” Fast-forward to this month and Kebede is celebrating the launch of her limited capsule collection with the retailer. The launch includes womenswear and swimwear for children and babies priced from $14 to $39, all in the trademark bright hues — think vibrant blues, fuchsia pink and classic red — and eye-catching patterns that fans of the Lemlem brand have come to expect. “We wanted this swim capsule collection to epitomize summer — bright and happy colours, perfect for a beach vacation,” Kebede says. “I think the baby pieces are especially sweet. I remember how much fun it was to shop for my children when they were so little like that.” Beyond broadening access to the Lemlem brand, the collaboration introduces shoppers to Kebede’s other passion: philanthropy. “Through this collaboration, Joe Fresh is generously donating to the Lemlem Foundation and our mission to help women in Africa thrive, and we couldn’t be more grateful for their support,” she says. Since 2005, the Lemlem Foundation has worked with non-profit organizations in Africa to provide quality care to mothers during pregnancy and childbirth. “I’m so proud that, through these partnerships, we’ve helped over 12,000 women across East Africa give birth safely,” Kebede says. The foundation is also adding to its mission goals by launching new programming to help women entrepreneurs in Africa succeed to increase the number and quality of jobs in their communities. “It’s an exciting time for us this year,” she says. The Joe Fresh Lemlem capsule collection is available at joefresh. com and in stores.
Liya Kebede has partnered with Joe Fresh for a limited-edition capsule collection in support of the Lemlem Foundation.
The Joe Fresh Lemlem collection features bright, bold colours.