Among the many new fashion designers in Ethiopia with creative designs of fabrics, Lulit’s Hand-Woven Fashion brings environmentally friendly clothes to the industry. The fashion line is known for making attractive plant dyed products in various styles and quality.
Inspired by her travels, fashion designer and creative director of Lulit’s, Lulit Sahle-Michael, obtained her BA in Fashion and Marketing from the University of East London. She also worked in various fashion and textile companies in France, among them Mahalia Kent’s in Paris. That’s where she discovered her passion for the art of hand weaving. Then, she returned home to make her mark on the Ethiopian fashion and textile industry. It’s now been five years since she founded Lulit’s Hand-Woven Fashion.
“I was born and spent my early years in Germany. I then moved to London and lived there for ten years. I also got the chance to live in Paris and Ethiopia. I would say I was highly influenced by the different cultures at the time.” Says Lulit. “As a child, I always loved drawing girls with different clothes on; and I also loved to paint,” tells Lulit on the origins of her passion.
Though it isn’t a new concept for Ethiopia’s fashion industry, plant-dyed fabrics are rare; and it seems only a few people are aware of them. Lulit got the idea during her studies in London.
“It surprised me that one can get such beautiful colours with nothing but [organic plants] so it was very interesting for me to experiment with that. “
“After I was done with my studies, I wanted to continue to experiment with different plants that are found in the Ethiopian flora. What amazed me most was the sheer amount of plants we can use for dying clothes and all the different shades that can be achieved.”
Unlike other regular dyes that have chemicals toxic to the environment, the crafts in Lulit’s are made entirely from plants. They undergo a certain process to allow the plant dye to fixate properly and avoid the risk of colours washing out. Waste products of edible plants such as Avocado skin and onion peelings are among the plants widely used for making dyed clothes. They also use different leaves, the bark of certain trees and turmeric plants. “There is still plenty of room for experimenting with other types of plants,” underlines Lulit.
For raw materials, Lulit’s use high-end wool, bamboo and linen fibres that are not usually found in the Ethiopian market. The product range in Lulit’s are clothing for both sexes: scarves and shawls, throws and Gabis for adults and children; home décor items like cushion covers, curtains, table runners and wall hangings. In addition to that, Lulit’s make timeless lasting pieces that can be worn on any day, but also traditional dresses and outfits for special occasions.
“Most of our customers, especially foreigners, appreciate our products from the environmental aspect. Some even smell the fabric and get surprised that it doesn’t smell like the plant it’s been dyed with,” explains Lulit.
Lulit’s is mostly selling its products locally. Their two shops, with beautiful and cultural interior designs, are located in Addis and Kuriftu cultural village. Lulit’s husband is a talented interior designer and the one behind the handicrafts and decoration in the shop made from wood, branches of trees and ‘Kel’: using what they find in the environment to display their natural made fabrics.
Like other small businesses in the creative industry, Lulit’s Hand-Woven Fashion has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. But the company is catching up as things are slowly getting back to normal. The situation even created an opportunity for them to engage with online markets.
“We plan to expand our workshop based in Legetafo after the COVID19 crisis and hire more weavers and employees to make our fabrics. We are also looking forward to exporting our products and be known for making eco-friendly, sustainable and slow fashion.”