Made in ‘insert African country’ is not product tag that we see often despite the fact that there are numerous products that are created of the back of African tradition, concepts or products. Even then, if one does see a made in ‘insert African country’ tag it is not always the case that it benefits local Africans on a significant level. Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede’s Lemlem clothing line breaks this frequent trope. Lemlem clothing produces traditional Ethiopian garments for the world to wear and proves that the made in ‘insert African country’ tag can be a successful and domestically beneficial one.
Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede began her Fairtrade Lemlem clothing line in 2007. The clothing line produces traditional Ethiopian garments made from natural cotton, the proceeds of which go towards tackling maternal health issues within Ethiopia and other developing nations. The garments are ‘made in Ethiopia’ by Ethiopian embroiders and consist of hand-spun, embroidered and hand-woven women and children’s garments.
LemLem which in Amharic means “to flourish “or “to blossom” has successfully introduced Ethiopian fabrics and designs to a completely new crowd- with Lemlem’s garments being sold at Barney’s , Selfridges, J. crew and other stores. Kebede’s stimulus for the creation of Lemlem was the fact that local artisans and weavers in Ethiopia were struggling with locating a market for their services. Kebede thus took it upon herself to maintain the artistry of Ethiopian traditional weaving and provide job opportunities for local Ethiopians.
Lemlem has now developed even further, producing fabric designs and products not only for clothing items but also bedding décor, living room décor and bathroom décor. Whilst the fashion aspect of Lemlem is important, founder Liya Kebede asserts that the foundational goal behind Lemlem clothing “is to create sustainable jobs for weavers at our workshop in Ethiopia”.
With all the proceeds of the handcrafted clothing collection going towards tackling maternal health issues it makes all the more sense that in 2005, Liya Kebede was selected to become the Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health for the world health organization. Liya Kebede has dedicated herself to the mission of reducing maternal, new-born and child mortality not only in Ethiopia but in all developing nations.
Central to the ethos of Liya Kebede’s Lemlem is Ethiopian ownership and creation. More often than not, profitable ventures within the African continent do not benefit the local people however this is not the case with Lemlem. Lemlem’s motto is “Made in Ethiopia”, Kebede explained that she wants to show “to the world that there’s a new destination for clothing production”. Lemlem clothing line proves that fashion; philanthropy and entrepreneurship can be combined to produce something that helps the needs of domestic workers as well as the philanthropic needs of developing nations.
Through Lemlem, Liya Kebede hopes to “inspire economic independence in her native country” and within that hope lays a belief that hopefully all African nations can take something from.
Lemlem proves that African ventures can benefit local Africans and other developing nations whilst gaining international success.