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Hot on the Headrush
- Category: The Headrush
- Published on Friday, 23 October 2015 12:36
At first glance, Chencha, Ethiopia -- an isolated hamlet of bamboo houses situated 300 miles south of the capital of Addis Ababa -- doesn't look like it's the center of anything. It certainly doesn't look like a major player on the world's fashion stage. But then, looks can be deceiving.
The town is home to the Dorze people -- an ancient community of weaving specialists whose designs have reached catwalks as far afield as New York and Tokyo. When Tsehynesh Tara, a weaver who originally hails from Chencha, sees pictures of her fabrics on the backs of supermodels, she gets giddy.
"When I first saw the photos I was so excited. I said: 'Did I really make that? Did I make that fabric!?'" she recalls.
Tara is one of several weavers employed by Addis-based fashion designer Mahlet Afework. The 27-year-old designer employs female weavers from Ethiopia's rural areas. In return, weavers teach her about the history of her country and the meaning behind its fabrics.
"Every season I try to tell these stories with my collections -- I try to learn more about Ethiopia and its beautiful culture," says Afework.
"It's where we come from, it's in our blood."
Mahlet Afework started her career as a model and rap artist before shifting to fashion. Self-taught via Google and YouTube videos, she's gone on to collaborate with cult UK designer Markus Lupfer and has exhibited at London college of fashion.