Mahlet Afework: Contemporary fashion inspired by traditional Ethiopia

The Mafi clothing line embraces modern approaches to fashion design while incorporating traditional patterns.

Mahlet Afework, or Mafi, is an Ethiopian fashion designer who explores traditional African cultures through her work while embracing the comfortable, western-inspired t-shirt and pants look.

In her small workshop, Afework uses traditionally handwoven fabrics to create her line of women’s wear, accessories, and a unisex shoe line. Although her designs are heavily influenced by the rich cultural traditions in Ethiopia, Afework ensures that her creations also reflect a modern aesthetic.

“I like to bring our history and tradition into my modern design so that we all celebrate where we come from and what we had in the past,” she says.

With over 80 ethnic groups in Ethiopia, Afework says she cannot classify her work as purely Ethiopian. Instead, the country’s diversity is reflected in the range of patterns she incorporates into her designs.

Thanks to globalisation, people are influenced by western designs, says the designer. Embracing this, Afework’s designs reflect the comfortability of street style with an African feel.