- The Ethiopian supermodel on Tom Ford launching her career and the story behind her ethical fashion label, Lemlem
After Tom Ford cast Ethiopian beauty Liya Kebede in his fall 2000 Gucci show, French Vogue dedicated its entire May 2002 issue to her and she became the first black campaign model for Estée Lauder. Since then, the 34-year-old has added humanitarian, actress and founder of label Lemlem – which provides jobs for African artisans – to her resumé. Here, she talks about the inspiration behind the colorful CR13 collection.
Liya, tell us the story behind your label, Lemlem.
The team and I wanted to preserve the traditional Ethiopian form of weaving, while simultaneously creating job opportunities. Our hope is to add a sense of diversity to the fashion market.
What makes the new Cruise collection unique?
We were inspired by the stripes
from classic Hammam towels, but used unexpected colors such as acid pastels, lilac, citron and silvers on our beachwear, scarves and bags. I'm currently living in the slouchy Mekina pants – they're so comfortable and can be dressed up with heels or down with brogues.
Who is the Lemlem woman?
She's a traveler who appreciates
“My hope is to add a sense of diversity to the fashion market”
style and simplicity. It would be amazing to see Angelina Jolie in Lemlem – her whole family embodies what we're all about.
How would you define your personal style?
Androgynous and relaxed. Put me
The New York-based model's label, Lemlem, creates job opportunities for Ethiopian weaverscredits
Words by Lianne Smallpage. Photograph: Matt Jones/Trunk Archive