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Not So Traditional Dress

Before covid, when travel was fun, an intriguing trip to Ethiopia, saw me taking part in Design Week Ethiopia. Whilst there, I shopped, of course, and came back home with some amazing hand-woven cottons and trims. I used these fabrics and trims in the Travels Afar collection and it practically sold out. I’d hoped to get more of this fabric to produce a Travels Afar Season 2 collection, but alas, the corona virus - it’s very real.


I thought to make use of the few yards I had left and created this dress, the Habesha.

Habesha is a term that refers to people of Ethiopian and Eritrean heritage. The cotton for this dress is super soft and super light. Better known as shemma, it’s the lightest of the Ethiopian cottons I procured, and is used when making one of their popular traditional dress. Originally, the cotton is packed into four or eight layers of cotton and the traditional dress is cut using all those layers. I wanted to see how many layers less I could use to make a garment, and two layers is as many as I could reduce to, before the delicate fabric became too flimsy to work with.

Unlike the traditional Habesha Kemis, this Habesha dress is long, fitted, and ankle length, with short sleeves, and a habutai silk lining. Using lining made the two layered cotton garment less sheer and gave it more structure. And instead of applying the traditional Tibeb trimming, I used a woven lace trim to put my own personal spin on the dress.

The Habesha is an easy to wear dress whether lounging at home or enjoying a quick café break with a friend.


Shop the look, available online now.


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