These Scarves and Ponchos Aren't Just Super Cozy — Purchasing Them Helps Support Women Artisans

There's more than one reason to shop lemlem x The Woolmark Company.

lemlem woolmark collaboration
Photo: Courtesy

It's about that time of the year — when the holidays are over, but a biting chill is still in the air — that we begin to dream about going on vacation. And there's nothing better to prepare us for our trip than lemlem's collaboration with The Woolmark Company, which was designed with travel in mind.

If you're not familiar with lemlem, then maybe you know its founder, model Liya Kebede, who, in between posing for spreads and walking runways, created the brand as a way to give back to local artisans in her home country of Ethiopia. Not only are the pieces included in this capsule cozy enough to wear on an airplane or as you snuggle up on the couch, but purchasing them will help give back to the women who made them.

"The Woolmark collaboration offered a terrific opportunity to incorporate wool into a new sustainable travel collection," Kebede told InStyle via email, highlighting the fact that the Merino wool used for these items is 100 percent natural, biodegradable, and renewable. "Woolmark also generously donated to lemlem Foundation’s artisan training programming. With their support, we held a wool master class for our women weavers to learn the special weaving techniques."

Ahead, Kebede tells us a bit more about the lemlem x The Woolmark Company collaboration (which is available to shop now) — plus where she's taking the company in the new year.

lemlem woolmark collaboration

How do these collaborations work? Can you take us through the process of how you work with the weavers?

Each one is a bit different, but it all begins with a good dialogue with our partner weaving workshop in Ethiopia, working together to integrate new ideas and work new designs. For example, in this collaboration, which is all about travel, we had the idea together to incorporate a traditional house called a Gojo, unique to Ethiopia, into the Hani Poncho Wrap. It’s a special piece, perfect for a long plane ride to a dream destination.

Was there a particular reason you used these colors?

lemlem is known for its bright colors and gauzy fabrics, which are perfect for warm weather seasons. Using wool gave us the chance to create a cozy fall/winter collection, and we chose a soft, seasonal color palette to match with grays and neutrals along with a touch of bright colors, calling to mind a crisp, sunny fall day.

lemlem woolmark collaboration

With some of these pieces, 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to the lemlem Foundation, supporting women artisans in Africa. Why was that important to do?

We made the “Giving Scarf” collection to accompany this collection. These scarves were produced by women weavers trained in the wool master class supported by Woolmark. We wanted to celebrate their dedication by channeling 100 percent of proceeds back to them, to support education and service projects that will benefit women at their workshop. Finding ways to help artisan families thrive is at the core of our brand and lemlem Foundation’s efforts.

There are a lot of wraps and ponchos. Any specific reason why?

Because we created this collection with travel in mind, we included pieces that are simple, comfortable, and elegant as you’re on the go — to wrap up while at the airport or to layer over sweaters and coats while out exploring a new place.

What are you proudest of when it comes to this collaboration and your brand in general?

The approach we take to sustainability. Since the beginning, we’ve been focused on helping artisans in Africa have a global market for their creations, and worked closely with our production partners to create good, fairly paid jobs while focusing on circularity in our choice of materials and packaging.


Can you take us through how you would style your favorite piece from the collaboration?

It’s so fun to style the pieces in different ways. I like mixing the Layla blanket poncho with denim and cool boots. For a more formal look, I’ve worn it over a gorgeous suit. More casually, I like to pair the Hani tie-back lounge pants with a chic black turtleneck sweater.

Do you have a one-word resolution for 2020?

For lemlem I’d say “growth,” as we recently launched swimwear for the first time that we are very excited about.

Do you plan to do more collaborations?

We’ve had some amazing collaborations recently with Moncler x Pierpaolo Piccioli, Pierre Hardy, and Sonia Rykiel — to name a few — and we’re hard at work on exciting new partnerships for the year.

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