The Story of lemlem

(lemlem) n. 1) hand made in Ethiopia from NATURAL COTTON. v. 2) [AMHARIC] Bloom, flourish.3) Ethiopian HAND WEAVING is world renowned for its intricacy and luxurious texture. lemlem preserves and celebrates this ART FORM by EMPOWERING and partnering with local artisans. 


Supermodel/actress and maternal health advocate Liya Kebede founded lemlem in 2007. The brand's inspiration arose during a trip to her native Ethiopia. While visiting, Kebede met traditional weavers who no longer had a market for their goods, Kebede felt a need to preserve their art form while simultaneously creating job opportunities. Meaning “to bloom” or “to flourish” in Amharic, lemlem is handmade in Ethiopia from natural cotton and rooted in tradition, but woven with a modern touch. It aims to add a sense of diversity to the clothing market while fueling prosperity in another. Recently expanding beyond the hand woven category while still maintaining production in Africa, lemlem provides another voice for African causes as well as a beautiful embodiment of its traditions and culture. 

By employing traditional weavers, we’re trying to break their cycle of poverty, at the same time preserving the art of weaving while creating modern, casual, comfortable stuff that we really want to wear.
— Liya Kebede


Seeing our weavers at work on their looms is mesmerizing. The beauty of our products lie in the intricate weaving patterns and the incredible care taken by each of our weavers.
— Liya Kebede

Each lemlem item begins in the hands of our exceptional artisans. They invest in locally grown materials and fabrics and we partner with collectives that use traditional techniques in hand weaving, crochet and embroidery to create a beautiful, contemporary look. They are committed to preserving traditional craftsmanship while expanding production and job opportunities across Africa. Their core hand woven collection is made in Ethiopia. Hand-crochet, silk and jersey pieces are made by our newest artisanal partners in Kenya. 


Liya Kebede is an accomplished designer, supermodel, actress and maternal health advocate. She features on multiple American and international Vogue covers, in runway shows and major print campaigns for top designers, and is a global brand ambassador for L'Oreal. Alongside lemlem she leads The Liya Kebede Foundation for mothers. In recognition of her body of work and philanthropic efforts, Kebede was named one of Time Magazine's “100 Most Influential People” in 2010.


Liya Kebede launched the Liya Kebede Foundation, a non-profit organization, in 2005 to reduce maternal and newborn deaths.  The Foundation conducts global advocacy campaigns and partners with leading organizations to provide quality maternity care in underserved communities. It promotes health worker training and maternal health education to connect more women to care. Learn more about how this helps women who need care the most. 


In 2015, the lemlem story grew to include production in Kenya. Taking inspiration from the local environment, prints and fabrics were designed to build upon the core handwoven collection, while maintaining the same lemlem spirit. Hand-crochet and effortless silk and jersey pieces were introduced into the collection for the first time. The growth within the line, as well as the expansion throughout Africa, further carries out Kebede’s mission to share this beautiful craftsmanship with the world, in addition to employing local skilled workers. This expansion demonstrates the variety of production capabilities in Kenya, and drives the lemlem mission to showcase the opportunities within African manufacturing.


Women are at the heart of lemlem.  That’s why we’re so passionate about helping them flourish both within and beyond our studios.  We proudly support our sister non-profit organization, The Liya Kebede Foundation, and its work to address the top health concern of women in Africa – access to life-saving maternity care. With its giving partners LKF aims to make childbirth safer by training midwives who provide care near where we source and manufacture. 

5% of all sales and proceeds from special promotions support LKFs work to help African moms thrive. Learn more