Fikirte Addis: Designing contemporary Ethiopian garments with a traditional soul

Fikirte Addis, the founder of Yefikir designs, is drawing on Ethiopia's rich cultural heritage to create modern, everyday clothing.

From the Series

Fikirte Addis is an Ethiopian fashion designer and the founder of Yefiker Design, a label renowned for its use of the most sophisticated Ethiopian traditional fabrics to create contemporary clothing.

“Since I began designing there has always been a dilemma about whether to stay modern and follow modern trends or to be cultural and in-touch with your identity,” says Addis. She resolves this dilemma by experimenting with different garments, cuts, beading techniques and beading.

“It’s important that [customers] have a touch of culture that still exists in the modern world and it doesn’t have to be too cultural or too modern.”

Artisan embroiderers use centuries-old techniques and hand-operated machines to weave Yefikir’s fabrics.  Women intricately weave the colourful strips or tilf, which are sewn into hems.  “We usually focus on locally produced materials. Ethiopia is a place rich in cotton and it’s part of creating jobs and using the talented weavers and embroiders,” says Addis. “It makes the clothing unique and valuable.”

A self-taught designer, Addis’ clothing is sold on Africa Design Hub, a US-based online store founded to showcase African designs while bridging markets. “I didn’t have a degree in fashion, I actually took a few small courses and diplomas here and there, so I’m kind of self-taught.”

“I think that fashion is self-expression for me. Most of the time it shows how we feel and how we want to feel,” says Addis. “It says a lot about our identities and its actually one way we can create who we are and show it to the world.”