Actress. Supermodel. Entrepreneur. Liya Kebede branched into the world of fashion design in a bid to support indigenous weavers in her home country, Ethiopia. Noticing that the local craft-based businesses were struggling, she launched ‘Lemlem’ which is Amharic for ‘to flourish or bloom’. The collections embrace the world renowned Ethiopian hand weaving that is known for its intricacy. Yet the collections effortlessly come across as breezy, lavish bucolic womenswear.The Story
Fashion has the power to effect positive change, a philosophy that is at the heart of the Lemlem brand. Kebede wanted to accomplish two major initiates, namely preserve traditional techniques in weaving and to break the poverty cycle. By incorporating modern style, she partners with local artisans to celebrate the traditional art form to create comfortable yet chic products for women as well as a home collection.
She has even gone a step further recently to do more than the hand woven pieces. While still keeping the production on the African continent, she’s reaching out to other tradition and cultures to provide a platform to showcase their skills as well as attain rewarded employment. More recently, Lemlem launched its Kenya Collection in 2015 which was not only inspired by the local prints, fabrics and environment, but it also tapped into local Kenyan production capabilities. This collaboration built on the Lemlem core and sprit of hand-woven but also incorporated hand-crotchet, as well as silk and jersey pieces for the first time, to the Lemlem brand. Kebede describes this growth and the expansion of the brand, design and production wise, proof that the African continent has so much beautiful craftsmanship to offer to the world. It also showcases the multiple manufacturing opportunities in Africa that are just waiting to be fully utilised.The Cause
Kebede’s philanthropic passion for women shines through her collections. Lemlem also supports ‘The Liya Kebede Foundation’, which was launched in 2005 to help reduce new-born and maternal deaths. This is usually achieved through special promotions where a percentage of the sales goes towards LKFs global campaigns to promote health worker training, maternal health education and advocacy for quality maternity care. She also contributes to women empowerment through job creation.Reaching the Marketing
When she formed Lemlem in 2007, the traditional weavers lacked a market for their goods. The brand has an elaborating stocking system that gets its goods comfortably to the western market. The United States alone has over 20 physical stores that host the brand while it is physically stocked in over 30 countries.
The brand has also tapped into the ecommerce platform through its own website, as well as partnering with 14 successful and renowned online fashion stores such as Net-a-Porter.com, JCrew.com and Barneys.com.What stands out about the Lemlem online store is that it went a step further to include shipping and returns policies on the website. This section covers all the bases from domestic and international shipping to how to handle situations that may arise such as what to include in your returns, defective merchandise and promotion price adjustments. It’s clear Kebede wants to ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible and that each customer is completely satisfied, from the quality of the garments to the customer care. From the cotton grown in the fields of Ethiopia, to the design, technique and skills, lemlem works to create a brand that positively reflects the continent. It goes a step further to ensure that there is a consistent and responsive market for these goods in order to create sustainable growth in the industry.
We leave you with images from her Kenya Collection: