Liya Kebede teams up with H&M with a collection showcasing Ethiopian artisanry

Jessica Carvalho explores how the designer infuses Ethiopian values into the fashion industry.

As excitement steadily bubbles for days in the spring sunshine, it also brews for the release of H&M’s latest partnership with Liya Kebede. Kebede is best known as a supermodel, philanthropist, mental health advocate and the founder of artisanal brand lemlem, the source of inspiration for the bright and mostly linen pieces due to hit the stores towards the end of this month. 

The announcement of the collaboration comes in the wake of a wave of controversy H&M has faced over the lack of size inclusivity in the high-street giant’s collaboration with Irish designer Simone Rocha and the mistrust around its sustainability pledges. However, anticipation remains high for the collection, featuring striped colourful pieces which capture the essence of the artisan-driven brand. 

Debuted in 2007, lemlem – which stands for ‘bloom and flourish’ in the Ethiopian dialect of Amharic – aims for a sustainable and ethical approach to fashion, characterised by giving back to the very community that serves as inspiration to Kebede. The brand is a key provider of employment to local weavers, ensuring they have not only a steady income but an opportunity to revive Ethiopian design. This is the pillar of sustainability that lemlem hopes to bring more attention to, but Kebede does not shy away from the important conversation surrounding the use of harmful fabrics – the collaboration with H&M features sustainably sourced linen, Tencel Lyocell and recycled polyester. 

Lemlem coexists with a foundation of the same name which has been making education, employment, and healthcare easily accessible to female African artisans since 2006, and Kebede aims to raise awareness to the brand itself and the noble efforts of the Lemlem Foundation. In a statement, she says she hopes to “give a new perspective to the world” and put a focus on the “sustainability and giving back aspect” of the fashion. 

Lemlem x H&M is due to launch online and in selected stores on April 22, prices ranging from £7.99 to £34.99.

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