Liya Kebede is an accomplished supermodel, actress, designer and maternal health advocate. Kebede’s clothing line, lemlem, is available at select retailers worldwide and expanded to include a home collection last year. lemlem is a fresh, chic and modern clothing and home line with a spirit undeniably African. Then line is handmade in Ethiopia from natural cotton and is rooted in tradition.
Best advice: do what you love and fight for what you believe in. Biggest challenge: learning how to affect change. I was incredibly lucky to have met deeply supportive people at the early stage of my career including Tom Ford, Anna Wintour and Steven Meisel. They pushed my limits and allowed me to grow not only as a model, but also as a person. They are both a striking model of believing in yourself and having the drive to get what you want.
DI: 6 items that are on top of your must haves for spring 2014 season?
Alexander Wang Clutch
Lemlem Tebteb Jumpsuit
Saint Laurent Suit
DI: You have gorgeous skin…. What are your favorite go to beauty & skincare products?
Nothing beats drinking plenty of water and getting rest. L’Oreal also has wonderful lotions and BB creams that I am happy to have in my regimen including their Age Perfect Hydra Nutrition Day/Night Cream. Generally speaking, I want to spend my time with my children, so I always like to keep my beauty routine and fashion routine as quick as possible. Beauty-wise, anything that can be used for more than one purpose is key, such as using a little L’Oreal Glam Shine lip gloss to smudge an eyeshadow to make it more dramatic for evening.
I’d say Jane Birkin has had quite an influence on my style.
DI: You travel a lot as a model… what is your packing trick and what you never leave home without?
My packing trick is to keep it simple. Dress up an outfit by switching out your sweater for a great jacket and tossing on some heels instead of oxfords. I will never leave home without a cozy lemlem scarf to brighten up an outfit, remind me of home, and keep me warm on a chilly plane or set.
DI: Where is your favorite travel/holiday destination?
I always love to return home to Ethiopia. My family has had incredible vacations in Paris and Nevis recently as well.
DI: What is your fave hotel and why?
Lately I am really loving The Mark on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for it’s casual elegance.
DI: When did you realize that you can use your celebrity and empower other women thru your lemlem brand?
As soon as we saw mothers reacting to the uniquely beautiful children’s pieces and asking when we would start making clothes for them, we knew we had something special
DI: What is the story behind lemlem?
The brand’s inspiration really arose during a trip back to Ethiopia, where I am from. While visiting traditional weavers who no longer had a market for their goods, I felt a strong need to preserve their art form. I wanted to do that while simultaneously creating job opportunities. Meaning “to bloom” or “to flourish” in Amharic, lemlem is handmade in Ethiopia from natural cotton and is rooted in tradition, but woven with a modern touch. Our aim is to add a sense of diversity to the clothing market while fueling prosperity in another. I’m very proud that lemlem provides another voice for African causes as well as a beautiful embodiment of its traditions and culture.
DI: What is the biggest success since launching lemlem? and who helped you along the way to get there?
Seeing the line evolve from children’s clothing to women’s, men’s and our home line has been so rewarding. The line would simply not be possible without the incredible weavers working alongside me. Also the champions who believed in our mission from the get-go have been immeasurably helpful.
DI: Tell us about the work of the Liya Kebede Foundation & maternal health care?
I created The Liya Kebede Foundation, with the mission to reduce maternal and newborn mortality and to improve the health and wellbeing of mothers and children worldwide. We support safe motherhood programs that help women in developing countries access the full range of health services they need before, during and after childbirth.
DI: You’re a wife and a mother of 2 … how do you achieve work-life balance?
I truly take it one day at a time and remember to be grateful for all of the challenges and opportunities that my family life and work life present to me. You can plan all you want but then plan to have nothing go as planned!
DI: lemlem brand is known for it’s traditional stripes …. how would you incorporate IMAN Home Fabric Istanbul Sunset in your decor?
I would love to use the IMAN Home Fabric Istanbul Sunset in Luna to make some gorgeous pillows to mix with my lemlem pillows or on a chair in my home.