Genet Kebede founded Paradise Fashion as a love letter to Ethiopia, and to its artisans in particular. Also the company’s creative director, she is one of the most highly-regarded and known designers in Ethiopia. Kebede created the label in 1992, inspired by her own wedding and the Ethiopian “Hager Lebse” (traditional Ethiopian cloth).
She returned to her homeland after studying design and garment construction in Italy and Argentina. Located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the company brand became known for its signature of interlacing traditional material and process with contemporary tastes.
But this tradition is dying.
Weavers are paid little for their skill and hours of labor, and the younger generation has taken note.
Paradise Fashion wants to change that.
Their vision combines a drive to promote their artisans while expanding its export market. They currently employ 75 weavers, 15 of which are permanent employees. These 15 female employees also handle the stitching and hand-finishing of the products. Paradise Fashion provides several benefits, including medical coverage and education opportunities, to its employees. Out of concern for local weavers’ futures, the company promotes their skills by sharing the unique story behind their materials and products to a growing, more socially-conscious market. The company also believes one way to preserve these precious traditions is to incorporate weaving into technical and vocational training.
“The process behind each product is that all are hand-woven products from cotton, Ethiopian silk, and rayon. The yarns can be hand spun or machine spun. Our weavers use wooden hand looms or metal hand looms to weave the products,” says Genet Kebede.
The intensity of the hand-woven technique creates job opportunities for the artisans, which in turn benefits the buyer with product that is both unique and high-quality. Kebede’s work is known for its turn of elegance and design that enhances the beauty of the wearer, or in the case of items like runners and pillow covers, one’s home. Paradise Fashion relies on the reciprocity between its employees, traditional skill sets, and the modern buyers. Its clients include Ethiopian Airlines and Anthropology UK.
Genet’s estimable work and the artistry of her employees has accrued international recognition over the years. The company has featured in trade shows in countries such as France and Germany, and it currently exports product to New York. The New York collection, in particular, is inspired by hand-woven cotton and silk.
Paradise Fashion will be exhibiting their Paradise Home line as well as products, mainly their line of caftans, from their 2016 Summer Collection at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center from January 31st through February 3rd, 2016.