Ethiopian-born supermodel Liya Kebede may call herself an “accidental entrepreneur”, but there is nothing accidental about the offerings of her womenswear brand, Lemlem, which is an Amharic word for ‘to bloom’ and ‘flourish.’ Its latest collaboration with H&M is further proof of this.
“Because we created this beachwear collaboration together right in the midst of the pandemic, it was extra significant to all of us that the spirit of this collaboration and the collection be about a sense of joy, and a focus on what connects us,” Kebede tells Vogue.
The idea of Lemlem began from a walk through an Ethiopian market where Kebede noticed a group of traditional weavers struggling to sell their hand-woven garments. Inspired, she decided to “share the story of the art of handweaving and amazing talent, diversity, and inspiration to be found in Africa,” and started her brand in 2007.
Since then, Lemlem has evolved from a collection of handwoven scarves, children’s clothing, and caftans into a full ready-to-wear line that has enjoyed collaborations with Moncler, Joe Fresh and now, H&M. The clothes continue to be crafted by artisans in Ethiopia.
The Lemlem x H&M collection features summer staples – like crop tops, caftans, and dresses – that marry H&M’s trend-forward aesthetic with Lemlem’s timelessness, doused in summer brights like yellow, orange, blue, and white.
Speaking of the collection, Kebede explains, “Sustainability was at the centre of our discussions from the beginning—particularly around fabric choices. We picked materials like organic linen that gives the collection a light, breezy feel. While this collection is not handwoven, I was excited to translate some of our unique Lemlem elements and stripes into the collection. We learned a lot from one another throughout the process, especially in carefully strategising how to make more sustainable choices and design a versatile collection we hope will be well worn and loved.”
But beyond the physical and moral elements of the collection, there is also a charitable side that makes it all the more endearing. H&M will donate $100,000 to the Lemlem foundation to support the latter’s goal of empowering women artisans.
What does Kebede want out of this collection? “No matter whether on vacation or at home, what I hope most is that it’ll be a lift for people to be able to enjoy these new pieces, making new happy memories getting together with friends and family again”