Fashion in Ethiopia | An Interview With Yefikir Design

. . .art and fashion bring all the diversity of the world into one humbled and harmonized oneness enforcing a positive impact on the world. . . – Fikirte Addis,  Designer, Yefikir Design

Fikirte, you have an interesting background. You are a psychologist and a designer. Tell us how you got into the business and how both occupations work for you. 

I started designing in high school enjoying the freedom of creating and experimenting with different designs and fabrics. This hobby and passion has now slowly developed and turned into opening my own label, Yefikir Design, in 2009 after the birth of my first child.


The most important thing is to know what you have on your plate and make sure that you prioritize. Aside from my career, I am also a mother of three wonderful kids so having great and supportive people around me along with a good time management does the trick for me.

Yefikir has been advocating for child labor free products for a while now.  And recently, together with the fashion designers association and ministry of social and labor affairs, the progress to establish safe thread certification is almost completed. I also volunteer as a psychologist. Psychology is an important part of my life; it has made my life better and broadened my understanding so it affects how I relate to people in general.  Psychology and designing are actually complimentary. Psychology helped me establish many socially responsible production systems like child labor free products, ensuring fair payments and also creating job opportunities for mothers.

photo Kyle Lamere | Yefikir Design 7

How available and competitive are textiles and manufacturing in your local market and Africa as a whole? Do you feel the government and local community are developing the necessary infrastructure to fuel the fashion industry growth?  

We work with the hand woven Ethiopian textiles that are abundantly and richly produced within the country, still not denying that it does need quite a bit of development. The fabrics made in various parts of Ethiopia where weaving is widely practiced are of finer aesthetics and quality. While there is still room for improvement when it comes to technology and infrastructure, the support and attention from the government is encouraging.  I had the opportunity of participating in the “WE ARE AFRICA FASHION SPECTACULAR” organized by South Africa Art and Culture Department last May and I was very amazed at how African countries Government’s involve and support their fashion industries.  Also, the African fashion week is doing an amazing job in terms of creating opportunities for African designers to work and grow together.

You develop beautiful designs that women around the globe would want. If it is important to reach an international fashion consumer, how do your designs maintain their cultural heritage while adapting to western influence?

I get inspiration from the authentic and beautiful Ethiopian culture that always has a unique story to tell and we tailor it to fit the today thought and way of being. Because I am part of the today world, I feel that I am grounded and guided by the beautiful culture and tradition and my journey of finding my balance are the concepts you see in the designs.
Ethiopian fabrics are well known for their sophistication, colorfulness and uniqueness. Yefikir Design is mainly known for turning this fabric into tailored made and fashionable designs without losing its cultural touch for the modern day women. It is important for me not to lose the connection I have to my culture, just giving it a modern twist and bringing it to the international fashion arena. The main fabrics used in all my designs are handmade cotton and the designs are to give comfort with style. Fikirte gets her inspiration from the Ethiopian culture and vibrant environment to reflect the everyday life of the people.  She designs from casual to wedding dresses mainly for women.

photo Kyle Lamere | Yefikir Design_MG_1539 photo Kyle Lamere | Yefikir Design_MG_1896-2 photo Kyle Lamere | Yefikir Design_MG_1474-Edit

Exposure is the key in building brand awareness. A fashion business has many options of exposure. I see you have participated in fashion week shows both locally and abroad (Caribbean fashion week).  Tell us how that exposure impacted your business. 

The first thing was getting international exposure and finding out that there is a huge potential market and fashion appetite for traditional Ethiopian clothes. So getting into that network of designers and other professionals in my line of work is valuable. Secondly, it gave us the opportunity to give the best of Ethiopia to the rest of the world. Thirdly, it gave me a great learning experience; I learned different cultures, new ways of working both as a designer and as a business woman.  But most of all, I got to see how art and fashion bring all the diversity of the world into one humbled and harmonized oneness enforcing a positive impact on the world.

photo Kyle Lamere | Yefikir Design_MG_1775-Edit photo Kyle Lamere | Yefikir Design_MG_0667-Edit photo Kyle Lamere | Yefikir Design_MG_0987-Edit

I know the Ethiopian culture inspires your designs. How would you describe today’s fashion in Ethiopia? 

It is growing and becoming more encouraging now more than ever. The market is becoming more open to innovations and creativity making it possible to spread your wings and stretch the limits of being an artist. Ethiopia, being a very proud nation in its culture, interprets that energy into wardrobe endemic to one specific area. That gives a unique direction to Ethiopian fashion that is targeted towards the tradition.  Moreover, it makes a very significant contribution in terms of improving the livelihood of all those found within the value chain; spinners, weavers, crochet makers, embroiderers, designers, etc.

photo Kyle Lamere | Yefikir Design edit

Thank you!

EDGE congratulates you, Fikirte Addis, on your significant contribution to the fashion community and the community at large.  We wish you and Yefikir Design continued success!

Model Photo Credit: Kyle Lamere | Courtesy of Yefikir Design

More on EDGE Out of Africa and Africa | The Emerging Market series.

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