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article imageCultural clothing from Ethiopia in demand

By Nicole Weddington     Mar 25, 2014 in World
Twenty-something female designers in Ethiopia are steadily weaving their way to the international retail platform. The budding entrepreneurs are garnering serious fashion recognition.
Tesco, a major online and physical retailer based in the UK is touting Ethiopia’s potential for the clothing industry by calling for new regulations to make factories safe.
Tesco’s trading director said industry standards in the country had to be well regulated and ethical in order for Tesco to establish a clothing chain in Ethiopia. Several large retailers, including Tesco, are announcing their disappointment in Asian factories, which have proven highly unregulated and dangerous.
Young women learned design early on
Wedding dresses and other designs are crafted by young Ethiopian women, who are already trained simply because of their cultural backgrounds. Although they lack a formal education because fashion and design programs in Ethiopia haven’t been developed to match the level of Western schools, the women have a lot going for them. They were surrounded by Ethiopian clothing growing up and subsequently, learned tailoring and how to embroider.
A traditional Ethiopian dress could take more than a week to craft. Strips of brilliantly-colored cotton fabric are sewn together to make the patterned cloth. Other decorative items may be added, such as shimmering threads. Ethiopians are known for wearing the homespun garments at traditional affairs like holidays.
Yefiker Design has two missions
Fikirte Addis has fashioned clothing since her high school days. She created her own label in 2009. Yefiker Design is a modern version of the more traditional Ethiopian clothing. Addis is eminent in staying close to her culture, yet flexible enough to be daring. Her ideas are inspired by tradition and everyday citizens. Her clothing line includes wedding dresses and casual attire.
Addis has another twist — she is also a psychologist. She prefers to use Yefiker Designs as a tool for disadvantaged children. Her campaigns raise awareness of child issues. For example, Addis held fundraisers and coordinated fashion shows to call attention to child
Transitioning designers to worldwide recognition
The real goal, however, is to catapult the young female designers into the worldwide retail spotlight. Designer Markus Lupfer has served as a mentor for Ethiopian women since 2010. He said the designers are gaining international attention because of the demand for cultural clothing. Many Ethiopian designers, however, have not made it to that level.
Yefiker Design and others plan for retail overseas
Addis is planning to expand Yefiker Design to grow her business. She is interested in Ethiopia’s potential as a country and said the fashion industry is changing Ethiopia’s image. Her aim is to boost Yefiker’s online presence with the result of exporting garments overseas to virtual and physical boutiques. Addis believes going international is the answer to keeping the fashion industry in Ethiopia alive.
Designers like Addis are looking to make a difference for Ethiopia. Designer Gigi Fresenbet began with a fascination for Ethiopian hand-loomed fabrics. She now operates one of Africa’s luxury brands in clothing. She has worked with major retail labels worldwide.
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