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Supermodel Liya Kebede Introduces Ethiopian Traditionally Woven Clothes To New York's Fashion Market

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Liya Kebede isn’t out to build a fashion empire. "As much as I want it to be humongous," says the Ethiopian super model, "there’s a limit to how big it can get." That's because Lemlem shirts, scarves, and dresses are designed in New York, but made from handwoven materials crafted by traditional weavers in Kebede's home country. That said, "humongous" may be a relative term: Lemlem’s products are already available at boutiques around the world from Manama, Bahrain to Jackson, Mississippi, and at large retailers like Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale's.

The clothing line provides employment for practitioners of a centuries-old tradition that was facing extinction. "I visited an area of these incredible weavers that we’ve always had in Ethiopia who make incredible work but don’t really have the space to sell their clothes anymore," Kebede says in this week's episode of Innovation Agents. "It’s one thing to donate money. It’s a whole other thing to give an opportunity for someone to make his own money." And that's how Lemlem—which means "to bloom" in Amharic—was founded five years ago.