The inspiring and empowering women behind Paradise Fashion
Historically, the art of handweaving was passed from father to son and, for some of the heavier looms, men remain the primary weavers. However, more recently, as designs have become more sophisticated and patterns more intricate, women have been carrying on the tradition and, with a model that allows for apprenticeship, women can earn a sustainable income as they learn and grow to become exceptional at this beautiful craft.
This is the model we employ at Paradise Fashion. Since 1992, Genet Kebede, our founder and Ethiopian fashion designer, and her largely female team have been designing authentic, high-quality, Ethiopian women’s clothing that enrich the cultural heritage of Ethiopia with modern design. For us, it is a celebration of our history, the opportunity to share the beauty of this tradition with the world and a way to empower more women to live to their full potential with the support of a sustainable income for themselves and their families.
All of our Ethiopian women’s clothing products are developed by our in-house artisans, inspiring and empowered women who are making their communities better places to live and work. These are just a couple of their stories.
“Growing up, I never had a chance to go to school like my six brothers. Instead, I was only twelve years old when my parents forced me to marry our neighbor, a 35-year-old blind man. A year later, both my parents died, and my brothers claimed the inheritance, so my husband and I decided to move to Addis because we heard there were good opportunities there. When we first arrived in Addis, people in the bus station started giving us money. I didn’t realize that we were begging and that people were giving us money because my husband was blind.”
“I gave birth to my first child when I was 15, and by the age of 20, I had three children. The money from begging wasn’t enough for rent and food, so my children and I started living on the streets. To make things worse, my husband left me for another woman.”
“But today, my life is dramatically different. I’m the health ambassador for my village after receiving two years of health education, and I earn a living wage, which allows me to pay my house rent. Working with Paradise Fashion and being able to start my own weaving business rather than begging on the streets allows me to earn my income with dignity while providing me and my family with a better life.”
“I came to Addis Ababa with my family when I was 16 years old. We were starving, and my dreams of going to school and leading a better life were shattered. A year later, I ran away with a man who promised me a better life and, soon after, became pregnant. When I gave birth, I had nothing to feed my child, so I became a firewood carrier for 15 years just to feed my family.
“After learning new artisan skills from an NGO, I joined the Paradise Fashion team. Now, I make scarves, and some people say I’m the best weaver in my group. I built my own house and send all five of my children to school, and they always have enough to eat. I also teach other women in my community about weaving, contraception, and hope. But I’ve also been able to pursue my own dreams… I’ve been able to learn English, and I’m back in school myself.”