When Liya Kebede first started out doing runway shows in her home country of Ethiopia, she had to bring her own shoes to the shows. In the ensuing years, she’s gone on to become a supermodel, a designer (her line, Lemlem, is eight years old), and, as of last year, a CFDA initiate. But she had never before designed footwear. When Kebede found herself ogling a pair of espadrilles on Instagram, she got in touch with the brand, Soludos, on a whim. “I got really obsessed with them and I bought two pairs,” she recalls. “I was wearing them everywhere and everybody was like, ‘What are those?’”
That chance purchase led to a collaboration on the ultimate vacation shoe — espadrilles — for (what else?) resort. “It’s a natural fit,” says Kebede. “I think I’m really summery and they’re very summery, in a way.” The eight relaxed styles use Ethiopian-made fabrics, just like her clothing designs do. And best of all, a portion of the proceeds goes to benefit the model’s namesake foundation, which supports maternal health in Africa. Notes Kebede, “In most African nations, childbirth is still the No. 1 reason women die. So we’re trying to raise awareness of that and also find a way to change that.”
Kebede answered our Taste Test to gauge some of her fashion and pop-culture preferences.
What do you love most about your home country? There’s something about the mornings in Ethiopia that’s just very serene. When it’s very early and the sun comes in and there’s a smoky feeling, and the air is very crisp and it’s very quiet. There’s something very magical about the early hours in Ethiopia. It’s worth waking up for.
Favorite vacation destinations? I did Bali a few years ago and I really loved it. Thailand — I was just in Bangkok before coming here, which was amazing. India is a place I still haven’t been to but am dying to go. I know I’ll completely fall in love with [it].
What are your ideal vacation shoes? I can’t get enough of espadrilles, really. I like flip-flops, too. I don’t mind them; I think they’re cool.
Your favorite photographer you’ve worked with? It’s a long list. I’m lucky to work with all of these different ones and contribute in some way and learn from them. I can’t say one.
Cindy Crawford recently released a coffee-table book. Is that something you would ever consider doing? I never thought of it! I don’t know, if it’s a trend, maybe I have to follow. [Laughs.] No, I never really thought about it, to be honest.
Dream collaboration? A swim collaboration, I think.
Slip dresses or caftans? Obviously, caftans.