Cover Love: Liya Kebede for Bazaar

After receiving the US April 2008 issue of Bazaar, I rolled my eyes and kept flipping through my mail. Seriously, US Harper’s is really killing my faith in fashion mags. Luckily, the UK issue of Harper’s is as refreshing as the new season, featuring one of my favorite women, model, designer and activist–Liya Kebede! This cover just oozes spring.

I love Liya because she is just Liya – no pretense, no antics or hitting people with cellphones. More than just a supermodel, at 30, she is an activist, designer, wife and mother to two beautiful babies, Suhul (7) & Raee (2), who is on the way to becoming a model herself. Check her out after the jump.

I came across a interesting article in Cookie Magazine while at the doctor’s office recently and found it online, hopefully the Harper’s article elaborates a bit more about her recent endeavors….

One of Liya Kebede’s proudest achievements came in the mail. Among the bills and catalogs was an envelope with designs for the tags to be sewn into every garment made by Lemlem, her new children’s-wear line. And there, in plain letters, were three little words that amounted to one big triumph: made in Ethiopia.

Bear in mind, the Addis Ababa native—who now lives in Manhattan with her husband, Kassy; their 7-year-old son, Suhul; and their 2-year-old daughter, Raee—has bragging rights to a few other accomplishments: In addition to being a top model (she first made a name for herself in 2000 on the Milan runways) and an actress, she was named a World Health Organization goodwill ambassador in 2005 for raising awareness of health risks to mothers and children in the developing world. In 2006, she launched the Liya Kebede Foundation (for which she received our Smart Cookie Award last April) to address the same concerns.

But those Lemlem tags represent what Kebede hopes will be part of a sea change for her home country: “It’s wonderful to be able to donate and help people,” she says. “Yet at the end of the day, Ethiopia has to get out of poverty by economic power and by giving people jobs—it’s like that expression, ‘Give a man a fish … teach a man to fish….'” She views Lemlem, which exposes local weavers to Western markets, as a small step in what will hopefully be the start of an industry. The clothes themselves reflect Kebede perfectly: modern and tailored to the fashion-forward set—albeit a set that’s size 6X—but also calling on Ethiopian traditions (lemlem means “to bloom” in Amharic). “They’re chic and ethnic,” she points out, “made with traditional techniques like embroidery and hand weaving.”

As might be expected for a woman juggling several jobs, there’s no such thing as a typical day for Kebede—except letting Raee crawl into her bed around 2 a.m., then seeing Suhul off to school several bleary hours later. When she works from home, Raee is often underfoot, “so everything ends up taking that much longer,” she says. But no matter what, she plows ahead: “Whether it’s the foundation’s needs or a speech I have to give or modeling, things get done according to priority. Sometimes I feel I should get more organized, but then I think, Why fight it? This is my system: Just do what needs to be done next.” It’s understandable, then, that as flattered as she is when moms ask about Lemlem designs in grown-up sizes, she also gets a bit stressed out: “I think, Oh, no, don’t get me started on a women’s line. I am way too busy right now.

Lemlem for women…judging from the kiddie stuff, it’s definitely desired.

Check out the article and more images of her and Raee here.

The Liya Kebede Foundation

Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington