Made in Ethiopia

Ethiopian designers are entering the international fashion scene

Considered a pioneer in Ethiopian Fashion, designer Genet Kebede, founder and creative director of Paradise Fashion, is one of the most well-known and popular fashion designers in Ethiopia. A graduate of fashion design and garment construction in Italy and Argentina, Genet’s savvy entrepreneurial story begun way back in 1992 when she made the then rare decision of starting her own fashion design company in Ethiopia where she would come to “merge traditional Ethiopian cloth and fabrics with modern techniques and trends”.

Genet Kebede Source:Jemal Countess/Getty Images North America via

A couture lover’s paradise, her clothes are designed to bring out the best from traditional hand woven fabrics. Genet’s stylish creations are found across Ethiopia and have become a must have wardrobe item with various product lines including ladies formal wear, bridal wear & wedding accessories, embroidered evening dresses, trousers, shirts, and jackets coupled with flowing hand woven scarves and shawls.

Kebede’s creativity and passion for refined, trendy yet traditional techniques are attributes also found among her compatriots who are also using these skills as tools to penetrate the international market as is the case with Addis Ababa based fashion designer Mahlet Afework Mafi who is the Founder and Creative Director of the fashion brand Mafi.

Mahlet works exclusively with hand-woven fabrics made by women. Her goal is to create clothing and accessories which are fresh and cutting-edge and at the same time very wearable. The designer is also known for working with hand-woven fabrics as a way to give back and to support women weavers who are often marginalized within the male-dominated weaving community.

An inspiration to many, Mahlet Afework Mafi’s career begun at the early age of 16 as a model and musician who later on took a leap of faith and decided to quit her other career prospects to follow her passion and become a professional fashion designer. What is to follow is a critically acclaimed career and a high appreciation for her cutting-edge designs earning her the 2012 Origin Africa’s design award and the 2010 Designer of the Year award from Alliance Ethnic-Françoise at European Fashion Day in Addis Ababa.

Mahlet Afework Mafi Source:

The designer has also tackled the international scene having her designs showcased at African Fashion Week New York in 2012.

It comes as no surprise that these successful brands are aiming for global sales and fostering business partnerships with international companies like Fashion Africa 254 who have noticed the potential of Ethiopian Fashion designers and are investing in the local fashion industry in a bid to bring Ethiopian Fashion to the rest of the world. These international partnerships are geared to help these designers reach the demanding markets abroad through technical and marketing assistance.Such partnerships between Ethiopian designers and international firms have also brought forth programs to train and discover unknown talents an example of which is the Creative Futures Contest, Talented Ethiopian Designers go International, organised by Goethe Institute and the British Council. Open to all Ethiopian designers based in Ethiopia, the competition is a unique opportunity which strives to bring talented Ethiopian fashion designers to the European market and will be judged by an international jury who will select one winner to travel to Europe and showcase his collection to the international market. Currently open for applications, the call which opened on the 15th of February, 2017 will run until the 27th of March, 2017.

With such efforts by Ethiopian Fashion designers, their collaborations and partnerships with international firms as well as being backed by a centuries-old textile industry, local fashion schools and the presence of Ethiopian supermodels on the international scene, Ethiopian fashion designers are ready and well on their way to hit the global fashion industry by storm.

Written by Faith Katunga