Photo by Steve Gripp

Spotlight: Model Meron Mamo is Putting Ethiopian Clothing on the Map

We spoke with the model and fashion designer Meron Mamo about symbolizing and communicating Ethiopian vitality to the world.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Ethiopian model and fashion designer Meron Mamo and her brand Adey Abeba. On the runway, International model Mamo spent years wearing fine garments from global brands, only to crave the fabrics and styles she grew up with. Noticing the gap in Ethiopia’s representation in the fashion industry, Mamo launched Adey Abeba in 2020. Named after Ethiopia’s indigenous “New Year” flower, the heart of Adey Abeba lies in celebrating Africa’s heritage, domestic textiles, and the potential to create sustainable fashion houses on the continent. Made for the free-spirited and adventurous woman, the brand makes use of traditional textile techniques of hand-weaving and shemane to create unique and vibrant iterations of the Ethiopian styles Mamo longed to see. Each garment is made from pure Ethiopian cotton sourced from home, allowing luxury and sustainability to exist equally. Mamo works directly with local artisans, keeping a close relationship with community and her culture, as she is based in New York City.

We spoke with founder and creative director about promoting and celebrating African heritage on a global fashion stage.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What was your first creation and how much have you grown since?

My initial creation for Adey Abeba was the Abyssinian dress—a geometric pattern dress that is commonly seen in Ethiopian traditional arts and symbolizes everlasting life. The Black Abyssinian dress is ankle-length with detailing splits on the side, perfect for a casual everyday look. It was a modest beginning, but since then, Adey Abeba has experienced remarkable growth. We have expanded our product line to include a diverse range of clothing and accessories, and have established a strong presence in both local and international markets. Our team has grown, and we have been able to create sustainable employment opportunities for local artisans. It has been an incredible journey of growth and learning.

What are the central themes in your work?

The core themes in my work revolve around celebrating African heritage and promoting sustainability. I draw inspiration from Ethiopia's rich cultural heritage and strive to incorporate traditional Ethiopian textiles, techniques, and motifs into modern, contemporary designs. Additionally, I am deeply committed to sustainability and ethical fashion, using locally sourced materials, supporting local artisans, and minimizing our environmental impact.

What would you do differently if you could start over, and why?

Looking back, I would have focused more on sharing my story with the press. While we prioritized building a strong customer community, we didn't emphasize press coverage as much. Press is crucial for building community and gaining exposure, so I would have included it in our strategy from the beginning. It's not about doing things differently, but rather adding more focus on press coverage.

What do you believe sets African designers apart from the rest of the world?

African designers bring a unique perspective to the fashion industry, drawing inspiration from our rich cultural heritage and diverse traditions. Our creations often feature vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and unique textures, setting us apart from the rest of the world. Additionally, African designers often prioritize sustainability, ethical fashion, and community empowerment, adding a distinctive social and environmental consciousness to our work.

Can you talk about your relationship with colors and accessories?

Colors and accessories play a significant role in my designs for Adey Abeba. I am inspired by the bold and vibrant colors that are often found in African textiles and traditional attire, and I strive to incorporate these colors into my designs in unique and creative ways. Accessories also hold importance in my designs, often integrating the design of accessories into the clothing itself. In the near future, we are excited to be adding more accessories to our line.

Where do you seek inspiration and how does it find you?

I seek inspiration from my Ethiopian heritage, the rich cultural traditions of Ethiopia, and the natural beauty of the country. I am constantly inspired by the diversity of African textiles, the craftsmanship of local artisans, and the stories behind traditional Ethiopian clothing. Inspiration often finds me through my travels within Ethiopia and around the world, interactions with local communities, and through research and exploration of traditional textiles and techniques. I also draw inspiration from global fashion trends, contemporary art, and nature, which I infuse into my designs to create a unique and modern aesthetic for Adey Abeba.

man on beach holding monkey

Photo by Shamayim

Image courtesy of the artist via Usher Nyambi

Spotlight: Prudence Chimutuwah Is Narrating The Rise of the 21st-Century Woman

We spoke with the Zimbabwean contemporary artist on adding color to the rise of female empowerment and commanding attention.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Zimbabwean painter and collage artist Prudence Chimutuwah. The mixed media art and collage enthusiast centers her creativity around the empowerment of African and Black women as we continue to make strides toward true freedom. Navigating a patriarchal system and ultimately strengthening their capacity to grant resilience and joy to the world around them, Chimutuwah's artistic depictions of the female form offer a hopeful glimpse into a bright, woman-centric future. In her early years, the artist gained inspiration from prominent and fellow Zimbabwean female sculptors Seminar Mpofu and Colleen Madamombe, choosing to major in painting and sculpture at the National Gallery Visual Arts School in Harare as a result. Chimutuwah's career has taken her to exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates, France, Nigeria, South Africa, and more, winning numerous awards along the way, including from the Zimbabwean National Merit Awards (NAMA) and The Delta Gallery Foundation of Art and Humanities. In 2019, Chimutuwah sold out an entire collection to one sole collector, on her opening night. Since then, the collagist continues to highlight and honor the women around her and the ways in which they choose to exist in the world.

We spoke with Chimutuwah about demanding attention, engaging your audience, and believing in a future worth fighting for.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell us about the project that first inspired you to create?

The first project that inspired me to create was an exhibition called 'Purple Rhythm' by a Zimbabwean artist named Calvin Chimutuwah -- my husband. It included his paintings and some of my mixed media artworks, and it was about celebrating the streets and people of Harare. It sold out! Which pushed me into exploring my own work further.

What are the central themes in your work?

My work is about the emergence of the 21st-century woman as she steps out, and up to take charge in spaces seemingly dominated by males. My body of work exists to narrate, describe and inform the audience about the evolving world of women, and how we exist in patriarchal societies.

Where do you seek inspiration and how does it find you?

I’m informed and inspired by the everyday lives of women; their economic aspirations, desire for spirituality, need for attention, and energy for hustling. Witnessing all of this around me inspires me to tell their stories through my work.

What do you believe sets African artists apart from the rest of the world?

I believe that African artists mainly draw their inspiration and narratives from their own experiences and stories which then gives their work more depth. It's a form of storytelling.

Can you talk about your use of colors and accessories?

I am fascinated with bright colors. I use neon pigments a lot as they command a presence and compel one to look. Colorful African textiles dominate my women’s attire, as it's where I feel most at home. I paint my subjects in portraiture, fully figured and naturally expressing themselves in engaging looks and poses. I focus my art on the joy of being an African woman.

What’s something you wish someone told you at the beginning of your journey?

I wish I had a better understanding of the fact that being a creative is a full-time job that requires a lot of work and focus.

Image courtesy of the artist via Usher Nyambi

Zimbabwean contemporary artist Prudence Chimutuwah

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