lemlem: Iconic Summer Style that Supports Artisan Craft + Maternal Care

Liya Kebede (model and founder of lemlem) Image: Gilles Bensimon

By Staff | Women
Posted Apr 28, 2016

There are always two distinct signs that summer is on its way; bare legs and a glimpse a someone breaking out their whimsical, gauzey pieces from lemlem. The colourful, handwoven pieces with their intricate embroidery make them immediately recognizable.

The style gets its nod from founder supermodel Liya Kebede and the form comes from the traditionally skilled hand weavers in her native Ethiopia. Conceived in 2007, shortly after becoming the World Health Organization’s UN ambassador for maternal, newborn and child health and while on a trip to Ethiopia, Liya originally created the brand as a way to honour and protect weavers who were facing difficulties in the market.  Liya recognized opportunity for Ethiopian tradition to be injected into modern design while employing local skilled artisans.

At that time, Liya shared with NBC

I always wanted to do something. The moment I knew it was right was when my husband and I went back to visit [Ethopia] and I saw that the weavers I grew up seeing no longer had a place to sell their goods. I loved seeing them growing up and I knew there was something I could do.

She further added

It really is a collaborative experience — we design the pieces and they will gives us their honest feedback. We all work together

lemlem, which translates from Amharic into “to bloom” or “to flourish”, began with a collection of hand woven, natural cotton pieces produced in Ethiopia but has recently added new materials to their collection including hand crocheted, silk and jersey pieces and has also begun expansion into other countries on the continent, with Kenya as the first stop. In addition to women’s dresses, tops, bottoms and scarves, the brand also offers men’s and children’s pieces, plus items for home, a shoe collaboration and of course, their infamous scarves.

Plus, all purchases support lemlem’s sister non-profit organization, The Liya Kebede Foundation (LKF) and its work to address the top health concern of women in Africa – access to life-saving maternity care. With its giving partners LKF aims to make childbirth safer by training midwives who provide care near where they source and manufacture. Now that’s a fashion statement: stylish pieces that both support artisan craft and help African moms thrive.

Want to learn more? Carolyn Beinfield, lemlem’s Director of Sales, will be joining an evening of conversation on sustainability with seven other esteemed fashion brands at the EcoSessions: Fashion x Africa mini-conference on May 2 from 7-10 pm at FIT’s Katie Murphy Amphitheatre. Admission is free and open to all, register here. #fashionxAfrica

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