A FRESH TAKE ON AFRICAN DE­SIGN

Cana­dian com­pany teams with model’s cloth­ing line

Windsor Star - - YOU - ALEESHA HAR­RIS

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.

PHO­TOS: JOE FRESH

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.

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