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3 questions with Lem Lem founder Liya Kebede

11.24.19

Supermodel Liya Kebede has been an inspiration to us for as long as we’ve been in the industry. She’s an accomplished model, designer, and maternal health advocate. She was inspired to launch Lem Lem in 2007, following a trip to her native Ethiopia where she met a group of traditional weavers who no longer had a market for their craft. Through Lem Lem, Liya is committed to elevating artisanship and expanding production and jobs across Africa. Women are at the heart of Lem Lem and she aims to help them thrive within its workshops and beyond. 

As the fashion industry wrestles with notions of sustainability, Liya’s core belief that there are indeed opportunities in creating a small number of “beautiful, unique” pieces for consumers who want fewer, better-made clothes, is refreshing.

We are honored to be introducing Lem Lem on Golden Edit, with this new Resort collection, which Liya says is inspired by “the eclectic, bohemian traveler who has a luxe holiday spirit.” The Wibi sundress and Tigist pants are some of our all-time favorites! 

 

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR MISSION TO REVIVE ETHIOPIAN ARTISANSHIP THROUGH LEM LEM?

I began lemlem after a trip to my hometown, Addis Ababa. Traditional weavers were losing work as the trend toward fast fashion hit Ethiopia. Creating lemlem was my way of helping preserve their livelihoods by bringing this beautiful art of weaving to the global market. Sustainability is at the heart of our business model and our Foundation works alongside the brand offering training in job readiness and skills, and health services to women artisans along our supply chain. 

YOU BEAUTIFULLY INTEGRATE ETHIOPIAN WEAVING INTO MODERN SILHOUETTES. CAN YOU SHARE YOUR PROCESS?

I think there is a place in modern fashion for traditional techniques and craftsmanship. Ethiopia is one of the few places left where handmade clothing is still very much part of everyday life. Weavers incorporate design elements that have been passed down for generations. We work closely with our artisans in our design process to incorporate these elements into our lemlem styles, to share this rich, beautiful history with our customers. For example, for the launch of our first-ever lemlem swim line this fall, we selected a few of our unique Ethiopian hand woven emblems and partnered with a French fabric mill to recreate them in unique jacquard swim fabrics. The result is a stylish, chic swimwear line that complements our beautiful resortwear.

AT GOLDEN EDIT, WE'RE ALL ABOUT SUNNY TRAVELS. WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO ESCAPE, TO CHASE THE SUN?

I love Bali – I find it magical and charming and I'd love to retire there one day. Another one of my favorite trips this year was a visit to Mexico. I stayed at Cuixmala, an incredible eco-resort set in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It was a gorgeous, relaxing place where I could enjoy the sunshine in my favorite lemlem caftans and catch up on my reading.

Liya LemLem
Liya
Liya
Liya

Oh, hi there sunshine!

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