African Style

Menbere Alemayehu weaves Ethiopian and Western influences while focusing on social responsibility.

Photograph by Duane Perry

African Style

Menbere Alemayehu makes textiles by making a difference. Alemayehu’s Menby’s Design trains women in Ethiopia as weavers and seamstresses while providing good pay and healthy working conditions. The women use their skills to create boldly colored home and fashion accessories such as table runners, blankets, scarves and bags according to Alemayehu’s designs.

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“My inspiration comes from local old weavings, traditional jewelry and old churches,” she says. “I usually look at Western magazines and catalogs for trends in Western styles and colors.”

Alemayehu studied fashion and apparel

at the University of Delaware, then started a dress making business in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1992. One of

her textiles graces the wall of the UD department of fashion and apparel studies. “Hopefully, Menbere’s success as a designer and head of a fair trade business will inspire others to make a positive social impact through their careers,” department chair Marsha Dickson says.

Alemayehu sells products from Menby’s Design at Studio 24 (

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20231 John J. Williams Highway

, Lewes, 644-4424), Village Imports (

165 E. Main St., Newark

, 368-9923), and Delaware Art Museum (

2301 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington

, 571-0220).

—Katie Ginder-Vogel

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