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Inside Steven Alan

Have a Seat: LEMLEM


  • With a resume that includes philanthropy, modeling, and motherhood, it is no surprise that Liya Kebede’s collection of women’s scarves and children’s clothes, lemlem, is special. While on a recent trip to her native Ethiopia, Liya was inspired to create the line after visiting traditional weavers who no longer had a market for their goods. Lemlem (which means to bloom or to flourish in Amharic) now employees 170 craftsmen, and each piece is expertly made by hand.

    Liya has appeared on the cover of numerous issues of Vogue and in campaigns for Estee Lauder, Yves Saint Laurent, and Lanvin (just to name a few), and is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN’s World Health Organization and advocate for reducing child and maternal mortality. She kindly found the time during a fashion shoot in Paris to answer our questions!

    Is Fall 2009 your first season with the women’s scarves?

    Each season we have done one or two Women’s scarf styles alongside our children’s collection. We got such great feedback on them that we decided to do a full line. The idea for lemlem actually started with the scarves, but we decided to do children’s wear first as I love finding unique things for my own kids to wear. So, creating a full line of scarves feels like we’re coming full circle.

    What is your involvement in the design process? Any particular inspiration for Fall 09?

    Our design team creates the lemlem collection with input from me on specific traditional Ethiopian elements and any silhouettes I would particularly like incorporated into the collection.

    Our inspiration for color comes mainly from Africa and in particular from Ethiopia. There is an uninhibited approach to color there which is very inspirational to me and the team. There is also a traditional culture for colors and certain color combinations – with roots in the various Ethiopian tribes – to carry certain meanings. For instance yellow has a celebratory meaning – it is the color of the sun – and that combined with the whitest of white is a very special combination.

    The key is to take inspiration from traditions and translate them into something understandable and exciting, in our culture. That is where the design challenge lies for us.

    How often do you travel to Ethiopia?

    With lemlem and my charity work and family vacation, I get to go back to Ethiopia a few times a year.

    The versatility of this range is interesting; not just in the various ways one can wear the scarves, but the fact they are traditional to Ethiopia, yet best-sellers in New York.

    I love styles like the Rustic scarf which is really versatile and can be worn as a scarf, used in lieu of a blanket in the park, worn as a sarong at the beach, or tied into a quick bag. In general I am drawn to clothing that is influenced by other parts of the world, and can be used in creative ways inspired by the person wearing it – that way each piece has its own unique story and the clothing reflects the personality of the designer and the owner.

    Finally, do you have a favorite style from Fall 09?

    I love all of them so it’s hard to pick a favorite, but if I had to, I’d choose the Skinny Gabi Scarf!

    lemlem is now available at the following stores:

    tribeca -steven alan annex
    103 franklin st
    t: 212.343.0692

    To view the full LemLem collection go to their website here online.

    post by: emily basenberg

    This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2009 at 2:16 pm and is filed under Have a Seat, New Arrivals. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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