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Liya Kebede Is Summer Swimwear Goals on the Cover of Porter Magazine’s June 2019 Issue



Liya Kebede is the cover girl for Porter magazine’s latest issue!


The Ethiopian model,  initially discovered in 2000 when she was cast as an unknown in a Gucci show by then Creative Director Tom Ford models all black sustainable swimwear looks and gold jewelry, from Mara Hoffman to Fisch and Ganni.

For the cover story, she talks about to Lizzie Widdicombe about changing sustainable fashion, preserving Ethiopian artisanship and becoming an accidental entrepreneur.

Read excerpts from her cover story below

On building Lemlem, a mission-driven business

“I thought I was just fixing something.” She was in Addis Ababa, visiting family, when government officials asked her to tour a market street where weavers sold habesha kemis, the traditional embroidered cotton dresses worn by Ethiopian women on special occasions. The dresses were handwoven, using techniques that had been passed down for centuries. But people were buying Western clothes.

“I saw this huge market with all the weavers, and they had no business,” Kebede recalled. The art of weaving was dying. Kebede had always wanted to help people in Ethiopia, but “didn’t know in what capacity,” she says. The plight of the weavers presented an opportunity to create something that is economically sustainable. “I am completely, 100%, an accidental entrepreneur,” Kebede said. “I had no desire to do a brand.”

On  Lemlem’s growth

Today, Lemlem sells to vendors around the world, from a boutique in The Four Seasons Hawaii to online at NET-A-PORTER. It employs 250 weavers in Addis Ababa and 5% of its sales goes to the Lemlem Foundation, which supports women artisans in Africa. “Every time I see someone wearing Lemlem, I have a ‘wow’ moment – because I know how far we have come.”

On her experience as an ambassador

She’d spent several years as an ambassador for the World Health Organization, focusing on maternal health, and the experience had taught her about the limits of foreign aid: “You’re always needing to come up with money.”

Read the full cover story on

Photography Cass Bird at Art + Commerce

Styling George Cortina at Exposure NY

Model Liya Kebede at DNA

Hair Ward at The Wall Group

Makeup Frank B. at The Wall Group

Production Denise Shenton Productions

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