lemlem x H&M: Meet Liya Kebede

lemlem x H&M: Meet Liya Kebede

”lemlem is a label of love."

Seven years into her high-profile modelling career, Liya Kebede had no plans of launching a fashion brand. But she saw an opportunity — creating contemporary designs with traditional techniques and at the same time stimulating work opportunities in her native Ethiopia. Being a changemaker at heart, Liya Kebede didn’t look back.

14 years later, lemlem enters our world with a collection of recognizable lemlem pieces; casual and chic garments designed to be worn with ease on all occasions. The kaftans, dresses, swimwear and other breezy essentials are made from more sustainably sourced materials like recycled polyester, Tencel and organic linen, and feel soft against the skin. Now as before, the driving force is the same for Liya Kebede: to think new and enable change. We talked to the ’accidental entrepreneur’ about hope, gentleness — and who is changing the world right now.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE LEMLEM TO THE H&M COMMUNITY? 
”lemlem is a label of love. Our idea is to do something beautiful that gives back to the communities we engage with. It’s about creativity and inclusiveness — taking the richness of an art-form and creating something new.”

YOU CALL YOURSELF AN ’ACCIDENTAL ENTREPRENEUR’ AND ARE MOTIVATED BY CHANGING PEOPLE’S LIVES. FASHION IS A COMPETITIVE BUSINESS; HOW DO YOU NAVIGATE? 
”I feel like lemlem exists in a parallel universe. We’re doing something special, not necessarily in the competitive race of the fashion. We’re focused on sustainability and the giving-back aspect even more than the business itself.”

”lemlem is about originality and bringing on new ideas. It’s important to give a new perspective to the world and tell people a story they haven’t heard before.”

TELL US ABOUT THE LEMLEM X H&M COLLECTION. 
”We’re really hungry for colour, especially given this very strange year that we’ve lived through, that has been so grey and heavy. The lemlem x H&M collab is about freshness and lightness, bringing back the sun. It’s about sisterhood, friendship and family, celebrating commonalities instead of looking at differences. It’s about love, and care — caring for our environment, each other and ourselves.”

IN THE MAKING OF THE CAMPAIGN, YOU’VE RETURNED TO THE IDEA OF SOULFULNESS. WHAT DOES SOULFULNESS MEAN TO YOU?
”I guess it’s something that touches your soul. I like this feeling of going inwards and connecting with our soul and what it’s yearning for. It’s about the gentleness and softness of things. The little things that put a smile on your face.”

HEARING YOU SPEAK ABOUT YOUR PASSIONS, IT’S OBVIOUS YOU’RE INSPIRED BY YOUNGER GENERATIONS. WHAT WILL THEY TEACH US?
”I think we’re all looking at the next generation of kids today. They’re so much more active than our generation, a different breed all together. They’re so involved and engaged and aware — they’re really changing everything. It’s funny how it’s not about the adult world anymore, it’s about their world and us having to adjust to it. It’s hopeful.” 

”That’s the community we’re hoping to reach — this liberated, limitless mentality of people who are interested in taking care of the earth and taking care of each other. They have a lot of sensitivities that are close to lemlem.”

THE MATERIALS OF THE LEMLEM X H&M COLLECTION ARE MORE SUSTAINABLY SOURCED. WHY ARE MATERIALS IMPORTANT?
”For me, lemlem is all about materials and textures. It was the first thing we looked at when we started making collections. It’s very important to me how a dress or a T-shirt feels on the body. I want it to be soft, comfortable, easy — something that you can wear all the time.”

”Through H&M, our hope is to have more people aware of our brand and be part of our community, so that we can create more opportunities for artisans to become independent and break out of a circle of poverty. In my definition of sustainability, this plays a huge part.”

Keep your eyes on our Instagram for a peek behind the scenes of the making of the lemlem x H&M campaign. 

The collection is out in selected stores and online on April 29.

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