Fashion Talk

by Mahlet Teklemariam

Alem Hailu's Young and Playful Designs

After living in North Korea, India, Sweden and England, why was Ethiopian born designer Alem Hailu so intent upon basing her final graduate collection on her home country? "Ethiopia is in my blood, it's in my heart," explains the petite 28 year old. "It may sound clichéd, but although I may have left Ethiopia at the age of eight, the country certainly didn't leave me. I was always amazed by the beautiful landscapes and the tribal costumes, the colors remained in my mind like a photograph. Earthy greens, sunset oranges and ochre. It wasn't until I was 16 and at high school in Sweden before I realized how I wanted to creatively interpret these inspirations with fashion.

I wanted people to wear my Ethiopia, the Ethiopia in my childhood memories." This creative desire was finally realized in 2001 when Alem returned to Ethiopia, 17 years after leaving, to research her degree collection for the Surrey Institute of Art and Design in England. This collection was one of the few selected and featured at the well renowned Graduate fashion week in London. "I basically just traveled around, re-immersing myself in the beauty of the country. I love to experiment with draping so used the basic geometric shapes from Ethiopian tribal costumes and just played around, draping fabrics around the body to create intricate Silhouettes." Although Alem's style is young and playful, she's very Serious about attention to detail. Not only does Alem design both men's and womenswear, She also creates complimenting accessories, bags and shoes. As well as selling her pieces in Portobello market, London, Alem has also worked for British American Tobacco, Emma Hope shoes and is having her work featured in Black Hair magazine, UK. Oh, and she also makes wedding dresses. Is there anything she doesn't do? "I can't help it," she laughs, "I get inspiration from everywhere. I love fashion and I live to travel. When I'm not working I am flying somewhere. I have been blessed with friends from all over the world". Alem is Ethiopian for the world and she certainly lives up to her name. Currently producing designs for a womenswear company in New York, she will soon be returning to her family in Sweden. She hopes to go back to the country she feels she has never left, Ethiopia. She's also working on establishing her label, "Alem Hailu". Her dream is to open retail outlets all over the world where people can have access to her creations. Alem can be reached via e-mail,

Alem Hailu: Fashion Designer

Internet Links :
The Surrey Institute of Art and Design in England

Make-up by Ron Anderson (environments,styling,floral)

Photography by Tseday Worku