Sabine Getty
Susan Miller
John Pawson
Hannah Weiland
Alex Eagle

This Semaine we are lucky to spend some time with Liya Kebede, the iconic Ethiopian supermodel. Since being discovered in her hometown of Addis Ababa as a teen, Liya has not only encountered success as a model but also as a philanthropist. One sustainable step at a time, inspired by her own personal experience and her strong desire to make a change, she became an influential maternal health advocate and ethical brand owner.

Her modelling breakthrough came when Tom Ford asked her to walk in Gucci's autumn winter show in 2000, and her catwalk presence has been uninterrupted since. She has been photographed by the best, from Patrick Demarchelier to Steven Meisel, appeared three times on the cover of the US Vogue, and featured in countless International ad campaigns (The latest, the Calvin Klein’s new Eternity Campaign with Jake Gyllenhaal is already iconic). She was also the first black woman to represent the Estee Lauder beauty brand in 2003 (and now L'Oreal ambassador), a campaign which ignited the discussion of racial diversity in the fashion industry.

But Liya wasn’t ready to settle. “I always felt a sort of responsibility: ‘What are you going to do for your country?’”. It is during a trip to visit her family in Ethiopia that she found the answer to this question. “The traditional craft of weaving was in decline, and I thought, maybe I can help” she smiles. With this in mind, she founded ethical clothing brand “Lemlem,” in 2007, which has a very special meaning to her that she reveals in the podcast - yes, no spoilers. Handspun and embroidered locally, mixing traditional patterns with a modern twist, she aims at supporting economic independence for talented local artisans, as well as protecting the craft and ultimately changing people’s opinion on products “made in Africa.”

After being a goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organization for six years, Liya set up her namesake foundation, which, in tandem with leading African non-profit Amref Health Africa, aims at reducing maternal, newborn and infant mortality in Africa. “Even though I was having my child in the US, It was in the back of my mind: Am I going to survive childbirth or not? And I remember when I brought it up to my American doctors, they thought it was ridiculous. I didn’t know it was something so normal, not to die. It was a huge awakening for me.”

Big subjects are not something that scares Liya. As an actress, in 2009, she portrayed Waris Dirie, the Somali born model, in the film adaptation of Dirie’s best-selling autobiography: The Desert Flower. Tackling the delicate subject of female genital mutilation, the movie received a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival.

In 2010, Liya was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People”. “It’s funny; I am not quite sure who you are talking about when I listen to you listing this” she laughs as reel off her achievements. “Every project I do is a kind of extension of who I am. It is very natural”.

When we ask her what is next for 2018, she answers: “Definitely a lot of conversation like this” smiling. In this week’s very special podcast, you can hear for yourself, the integrity, coherence and consistency, between Liya’s personality and her major career achievements. So head to the link (above) now where we, with Liya, discuss education, creativity in the fashion industry and how social media is killing the mystery...

By Marie Winckler for Semaine.



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Get the look

Get the look

Get the lemlem

This get the look section is completely inspired by everything Lemlem stands for. Celebrating sustainable fashion, each item is forward thinking and wonderfully stylish, completely perfect and adaptable for any situation.

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Tips for Change

You don't have to be a supermodel to make a significant change in the world. Whatever you are doing, and wherever you are, you have the opportunity to make a difference and these tips are adaptable to any situation to help you make that change.

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How to build your platform


"Fashion gave me a great opportunity to promote lemlem's mission to create jobs for artisans in Africa and preserve their traditional craftsmanship. We try to help our customers see Africa in a new, positive light."
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How to find your cause


"Focus on the issue that is the most meaningful to you - and think about how you can channel your talent toward it."
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How to seek sustainability/transparency


"Sustainability for me is; creating good and lasting jobs for artisans in Africa, giving the traditional art of weaving and other techniques a place in contemporary fashion and influencing the way the fashion industry perceives Africa."
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How to stick to your beliefs


"I think what’s important is that you do your best everyday."
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How to gain support


"Talk with organizations that have expertise working directly with communities and issues you care about. Ask how you can help and start building partnerships."





It's important to look after the world... and of course your hair. Which is why it's great that these essential items are the perfect tools for change and for maintaining glossy locks.





There is rarely an opportunity to ask such quickfire, probing questions to one of the world's most famous models, so of course, you'll be thankful that we've done it for you...

What are your favourite qualities in a person?

Intelligence and the desire to help others.

What quality do you wish every human being was born with?


What is your favourite song to wake up to?

I’m into Hotel California right now.

If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Any Ethiopian dish.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?


What skill have you always wanted to master?

Playing an instrument or singing.

Would you rather the ability to fly or to be invisible?

Fly, I could avoid airplanes.

Other than your own, what is your favourite Instagram account?

@lemlemnyc @lemlemfoundation

What was the last thing that made you laugh?

My kids.

Finish this sentence: The world would be a better place if…

... we could all just get along!



Shiro We’t Recipe

Shiro We’t is often considered an essential part of the Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. This recipe, in particular, is rather special, as it comes directly from Liya's brother Samson. It's a chickpea-based sauce, that is eaten with injera... It also happens to be one of Liya's favourite dishes.


  • 1 cup spiced chickpea powder
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 green pepper sliced (optional)
  • Salt for taste



In a medium cooking pan, sauté the onion in the oil until it gets slightly brown.


Add water and wait until it starts to boil.


Once it boils, add the garlic and sprinkle the chickpea powder while stirring continuously to avoid small clumps.


Then lower the heat and cook until it thickens and oil starts to surface on top.


Add the green peppers and serve on the Injera.


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Exploring Ethiopia

It is rare to stumble upon such a thorough travel guide for Ethiopia, especially from a local like Liya... For this reason, this is the ultimate guide for anyone who's heading to the country any time soon.

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General Wingate Street, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Mount Zuqualla

8°32'16.193" N 38°51'9.525" E

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Shiro Meda Market

Toward Entoto Hill, Addis Ababa 0251, Ethiopia

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Lake Langano

(off main road from Addis to Awassa), Langano P.O.Box 460, Ethiopia

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12.0309° N, 39.0476° E

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Hilton Hotel

Menelik II Ave, Addis Ababa 1164, Ethiopia


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Dehna hugni!

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