Top model and activist Liya Kebede and designer Pierre Hardy are partnering on a new footwear and handbag collection for Kebede's Ethiopian-heritage brand Lemlem.
“It came about very naturally and very organically,” Hardy tells British Vogue ahead of the June 1 launch date. “Liya and I met three years ago, and I wouldn't say we were 'friends', but we were very happy every time we passed one another. As a designer I thought it could be a challenging and interesting experience to join our brands and see what the result could be. And basically, we matched because I love her!”
Lemlem was born a decade ago when Kebede met a group of traditional weavers in her native country who no longer had a market for their work. Fearful that their craft would become extinct, Kebede launch Lemlem. Starting small, her collaboration with Hardy could lead do a significant venture. “I find him super original and super talented in what he does. It was wonderful to connect the artisans of Ethiopia with the artisans in France, and to create a bridge between these two worlds," the model says about Hardy.
The first step was negotiating the texture. “Lemlem fabric has a hand-made cotton feel that I never use spontaneously,” Hardy explains. “In Ethiopia there’s a natural way of doing things compared to our industrial European way of making a collection. Making the two meet was interesting.”
The Pierre Hardy x Lemlem capsule collection features two footwear styles (one block-heeled sandal, one trainer) and two handbags (one fringed clutch, one bucket) in three color ways that bridge both brand identities, and stay true to Kebede’s mission to create a circular weaving economy in Africa. “When you think of charity and aid, there is always the big problem of how you can make it sustainable. By teaching people a new craft they can get out of a vicious circle of poverty.”