African Artisans with Global Designs
By Robb Young
LONDON Whether as dazzling couture war paint on a Paris catwalk or as logo-embossed tribal baubles beckoning from the windows of Via Montenapoleone, the "ethnic African archives" have long been a popular source of inspiration at the big designer labels. Genuine, highly crafted, African-made fashion, however, has not always been so easy to come by.
The Ethiopian textile designer Sara Abera is one of the pioneers behind this budding movement. She has retrained hundreds of traditional tibeb weavers and succeeded in reinventing this multi-colored cloth found on shamma robes into an upmarket brand of sophisticated accessories.
Building a Lifestyle for Ethiopia
By Robb Young
“I started by making and selling kitchen aprons,” smiles Sara Abera from a tidy atelier filled with rustic timber looms. “My first big job was to design and supply festive gowns to about 500 children between the ages of four and 11, orphaned by war. They were stationed in a camp far away from Addis Ababa, awaiting the chance to be adopted.”
“As a fresh, young designer, I was so happy to be selected to undertake this project. I stayed among these constantly smiling, innocent faces for more than a week. I was so attached to them that when I completed my mission and had to leave the camp, tears came to my eyes.”