By Aida Solomon
Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Los Angeles (TADIAS) – Long before Ethiopian fashion became vogue in the U.S., California resident Henock Abey, also known as Henock Arada, 26, has been producing innovative apparel designs that incorporate elements of Ethiopian culture with western style. He started his Arada Fashion collection in 2001 to meet the growing demand, especially among young people in the Ethiopian community and beyond, of merging traditional patterns and symbols into elegantly casual, trendy street styles.
Born and raised in the Arat Kilo neighborhood of Addis Ababa, Henock says he “learned how to hustle” at a young age. That explains why it did not take him very long to dive into his art and business after immigrating with his family to Los Angeles as a teenager in 1999. Henock attended Westchester High School, where he says his interest in design, fashion and video communication was sparked.
“I wanted to combine our culture with a modern look to give people something they have never seen before,” Henock says, speaking of his work that includes a popular mini-dress.
He started-out with branded t-shirts depicting the Arada logo and humorous captions such as “I am Arada” and iconic Ethiopian crosses, mostly marketed to a niche customer base at various festivals, online, as well as in stores targeting the African Diaspora community. More recently he has expanded his portfolio to include skirts and bags.
As to his parents’ reaction to pursue his entrepreneurial ambitions at such an early age? Henock laughs before he answers: “My parents are used to me coming up with new ideas, so they weren’t that surprised.”
What started out as a hobby selling graphic t-shirts soon began to grow into a full-time work. By 2002 Henock had staged his first fashion show in Los Angeles to a widely positive reception in the community.
And soon afterwards he took his Made in Arada collection on the road showing in Washington D.C., Chicago, Phoenix, Atlanta, and Dallas. His designs proved to be a hit garnering a following, which includes over five thousand on Facebook. He says his next fashion show will be at the 2013 Ethiopian soccer tournament in Washington D.C. in July.
Henock’s future plans include opening his own store in the U.S. and Addis Ababa as well as giving back to charity and church. “Set yourself apart and don’t listen to the negativity,” he said.
Below are photos courtesy of Arada Fashion Wear.