African Designers For Tomorrow 2018
Fashion Africa 254 (FA254) funded by GIZ, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GmbH) assigned by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, is discovering and promoting the best Ethiopian designers for a better sustainable future!
The most talented designers will come to the Berlin Fashion Week in July 2018 and will exhibit at the Green Show Room. View the list of the designers below.
Former hip hop singer and model Mahlet Afework set up her own fashion house in Addis Ababa in 2011, placing time-honored fabrics, style and sustainability at the forefront of her brand. Exploring a fashion frontier where heritage and culture meet contemporary style, Mafi uses traditional techniques of cotton production to produce casually chic and versatile women’s wear with a distinctive twist. Her use of organic Ethiopian cotton hand woven by female artisans also aims to give visibility to the pivotal role played by women in Ethiopian culture, as well as supporting women weavers who are often marginalized in the male-dominated weaving community. Her designs have won a following with celebrities, statesmen and other prominent figures in Ethiopia and won her numerous prizes, including Origin Africa’s design award at the Hub of Africa Fashion Week in 2012 and Creative Future organized by FA254 in collaboration with Goethe Institute in 2017. She plans to bring her collection to the U.S. and Europe in 2018.
When founded in 2008, the primary mission of Ayni’s was to develop the skills and create job opportunities for women in Ethiopia. At the same time, working with traditionally handmade fabrics, Ayni’s integrates long-established and current design elements in both a contemporary women’s fashion collection and a range of traditional Ethiopian styles. More recently, the label expanded into leather bags, handcrafted accessories and sandals, jewelry and home accessories. Ayni’s has been featured in magazines and newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, My Fashion Magazine and Fortune Weekly. In 2012, Ayni was also invited by Hilary Clinton to participate in the AWEP (African Women Entrepreneurship Program) at the U.S. State Department, and also designed a custom handbag for the then secretary of state.
Meron Addis Ababa
Design enthusiast Meron Seid founded the leather production company Leather Exotica in Addis Ababa in 2010, introducing the firm’s branded product range Meron Addis Ababa in 2017. Available in Leather Exotica’s physical and online stores and in international markets since 2015, Meron is known for its fashionably sustainable products in hard-wearing Ethiopian leather styled with a clean yet sassy look. Seid started designing at the early age of 13, earned a diploma in drafting and then a BA in Computer Science from Addis Ababa University. She went on to study fashion design at Next Design Institute in the Ethiopian capital, following that up with a graphic design degree in Delhi, and courses at Oslo’s School of Fashion Institute and Parson’s School of Design in New York. She is now focusing on managing and diversifying Leather Exotica’s product range, which includes all manner of leather bags for women, men as well as a back and fanny pack for children.
Handcrafted in Ethiopia, Samra is known for leather bags and jackets that use natural hides in unexpected designs. Established in 2011 by Samrawit Mersiehazen, the company took a premium positioning from the start, running counter to the widely held belief there was no market for high-quality leather products in Ethiopia. Similarly, Samra didn’t shy away from bold designs, arguing “quality leather is nothing until it is designed and used well.” Colorful accents, geometrical or figurative insets, uncommon shapes and color combinations have become hallmarks, but so is functionality. For three consecutive years running, the company has been selected to supply briefcases for The African Peace and Security Meetings. Samra is also committed to protecting the environment with its zero waste strategy.
Afar is a luggage and accessories brand of Village Industry, a textile factory founded in 2009 in Addis Ababa as a knitting plant and now involved in printing, sewing, dyeing and finishing. Afar benefits from four generations of Italian textile production know-how. Its parent company from Prato, Figli di Michelangelo Calamai, moved part of its production to Ethiopia a decade ago. Afar’s luggage and bags have an authentic natural look and a story to match. The materials are primarily local in origin: most of the cotton used is grown by small farmers using only traditional techniques: Naturally colored linen is processed with natural techniques and minimal energy use, and linen bio-composites (linen fiber combined with high-performance resins) are employed to make rigid shells for travel bags. Vegetable tanned leather from Ethiopia’s Zebu cow, the ancestor of all bovines, is a by-product from animals not raised for skin or meat but which spend their lives roaming the countryside, and all parts of their horns are also made use of for buckles and accessories. Afar bag production is a “job of hands” from preparing the fabric to cutting the leather, some of the stitching and most of the finishing. Colors derive from natural pigments, and screen printing is done by hand.
One of Ethiopia’s fashion pioneers, Genet (Mimi) Kebede founded Paradise Fashion in 1992. Designed to bring out the best from traditional handwoven Ethiopian fabrics, Paradise Fashion has not only delighted local style enthusiasts familiar and fond of the country’s textiles. Easy-to-wear tops and dresses with a shawl or caftan feel in airy yet sturdy cotton cloths have a beachwear aesthetic that resonates the world over. Like many Ethiopian fashion enterprises, social responsibility is a natural part of the business. “We design and promote excellent, authentic Ethiopian hand woven products globally and by doing so enable sustainable livelihoods for our local artisans,” says Kebede. “By being trend conscious and catering to individual customers, we are able to design authentic and unique Ethiopian hand woven products that are modern,” she also notes. Rounding out the Paradise Fashion assortment: scarves, shawls, customized women’s wear and home décor.