Meaning ‘to bloom and flourish’ in Amharic (the Ethiopian language), lemlem is inspired by the one-off handwoven patterns and vibrant combinations seen on the streets of Africa. It’s all about happy colours and chic pieces that are soft to the touch and easy to wear everywhere.
The artisans at lemlem use centuries-old methods to handcraft the label’s lightweight gauze dresses and colourful kaftans from locally sourced fabrics. Each piece is finished with a scattering of vibrant embroidery.
Speaking to H&M Magazine last year, Kebede said: “For me, lemlem is all about materials and textures. It was the first thing we looked at when we started making collections. It’s very important to me how a dress feels on the body. I want it to be soft, comfortable, easy — something that you can wear all the time,” says Liya.
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As well as being a leading light in sustainable fashion, Kebede, 44, is a vocal advocate for maternal and child health, using lemlem to promote access to reproductive healthcare and economic opportunities for Ethiopian women.
The initial impetus for lemlem came from a trip to Ethiopia where Kebede met with a community of traditional weavers who no longer had a market for their craft.
Kebede says: “Our idea is to do something beautiful that gives back to the communities we engage with. It’s about creativity and inclusiveness — taking the richness of an art form and creating something new.
“I feel like lemlem exists in a parallel universe. We’re doing something special, not necessarily in the competitive race of the fashion. We’re focused on sustainability and the giving-back aspect even more than the business itself,” said Kebede.