Supermodel Liya Kebede On Her Career, Personal Style & More
THE OUTNET.COM launched an exclusive summer edit of 17 limited-edition styles. The designer pieces are all travel essentials ? perfect for a stylish getaway.?THE OUTNET.COM customer travels extensively, taking between 6-9 holidays a year. The exclusive edit appeals to her inner globetrotter, evoking holiday memories and inspiring future travels. Whether it?s a day at the beach, sightseeing on a city weekend or an alfresco evening by the sea, the edit further underscores THE OUTNET.COM as the go-to destination for vacation essentials. Shot in the south of France, the summer edit featured Liya Kebede, Ethiopian-born model, philanthropist and clothing designer, as the face of the campaign.?We interviewed the stylish model and philanthropist to find out more about her.
TRAVEL & PACKING
THE OUTNET: You travel a lot. Where are your favorite destinations?
LIYA KEBEDE😕 I love, love, love Turkey; I think Istanbul is incredibly magical. The south of France, Positano, all those places ? I love it! I also just did Bali, which was incredible. I went there after seeing?this is totally cheesy but I?m going to say it?after seeing Eat Pray Love! I was like, ?I need to go to Bali. I need to experience that!? It wasn?t exactly the same but it is really, really beautiful and picturesque.
TO: Where was your last holiday?
LK😕 I went to St. Barth?s ? I was just there for work. It?s nice too.
TO: What are your packing essentials?
LK: I?m really not good at packing! I?m not organized in a way where I?m like, oh I?m going to wear this on this day, you know? It?s always about what I feel the day of! And it never works out. So I always just want to throw in all my things that I always wear, just to be safe.
TO: And what are the pieces that you always wear?
LK: A lot of t-shirts, a lot of white, and then my essentials, like summer pants. I?m quite casual. Flats, shorts ? I take a lot of LemLem stuff.
TO: Do you tend to over or under pack?
LK: Over pack, always! And then I realize I?ve used like, a tenth of what I packed. The top layer!
ESCAPE / VACATIONS
TO: You live in New York. Where do you go to take a mini vacation when you need some time out?
LK: I?m testing it out a little bit. With the kids, we?ve gone to Connecticut a little bit, the Hamptons sometimes. I think with New York, it?s hard ??you almost need to get on a plane. I don?t know the north [of the state] much, but people tend to like it.
TO: What has been your most memorable holiday?
LK: I think every time you get to go on holiday somewhere beautiful, it?s always nice.
TO: When you look back, what are your personal highlights from your career so far?
LK: There are so many different moments! Obviously my first Gucci show with Tom Ford, my first shoot with Miesel, American Vogue cover, French Vogue cover, Est?e Lauder, L?or?al. Big milestones!
TO: Do you have any style icons?
LK: I think I learned a lot on the job ? more than anything, you know? Working with amazing designers and stylists and watching closely how they put things together ? it?s amazing! We?re so lucky to have free education on set! I really learnt everything on the job.
TO: Do you have any favorite trends in fashion right now?
LK: I find jewelry is really getting interesting. It?s getting it?s own moment. I feel like we?re really pushing it and it?s becoming intimate and personal, but then really bold at the same time. It?s taking on its own life ? I had never noticed it before and now it?s become so modern and so cool; I like that. I used to be scared of jewelry because it was so big and now, even if it?s big, it?s cooler; it feels like less of a show.
TO: How does it feel now that LemLem is in its eighth year?
LK: It feels crazy, I can?t believe we?ve been doing it for that long! I feel like we definitely started something ? it?s a trend, which is really interesting. People are looking at Africa and that?s really cool ? that was kind of the point. All these people who are doing arts and crafts-y things are now looking at this and going, ohhh, interesting. It?s empowered and given ideas to a lot of small brands in Africa, and that was the whole point in a way so it?s really nice.
TO: Did you ever foresee how much of an impact it would have?
LK: I didn?t realize what it could become! I kind of jumped into it and saw a need and then it was, OK, well there?s a solution. It was for kids initially because I thought I?d love my kids to wear something that was handmade in Ethiopia, but then we were designing things that we wanted to wear! And all the moms were saying the same thing too, so now it totally makes sense that it?s a women?s line.
TO: How do you see the line expanding?
LK: We?re still bringing back a bit of the kid?s stuff, and we?re tip-toeing around home and around men?s and it?s been really interesting. Now, we?re sort of following it as opposed to us [pushing it], you know? So we can expand and do this and do that. It?s been really amazing.
TO: What?s the creative design process behind each collection?
LK😕 We have a design team ? I don?t really do the designing. We go to Ethiopia at different times, and then we sit around in our New York City offices and break everything down. Everybody goes at different times and sort of checks it out.
People are looking at Africa and that?s really cool ? that was kind of the point. All these people who are doing arts and crafts-y things are now looking at this and going, ohhh, interesting. It?s empowered and given ideas to a lot of small brands in Africa, and that was the whole point in a way so it?s really nice.
TO: Where would you like to see the brand go in the future?
LK😕 I think it?s a lifestyle brand and we?d like to see it in every category and really become a staple. We are definitely looking into growing it and adding more categories, and playing around with non-handmade things, too, which is kind of a new direction for us. We?re exploring other cities in Africa to make things, which is really exciting, growing on that level. It?s exciting but pioneering a little bit, too, which is always fun.
ON THE LIYA KEBEDE FOUNDATION
TO: How do you combine the Liya Kebede Foundation with LemLem?
LK😕 They?re completely separate. I don?t really combine them but we?ll do a lot of promotional things around LemLem for the Foundation or collaborate on Mother?s Day for something. On the LemLem website, there?s a link, but that?s the only way they?re connected for now.
TO: Tell us about your work with the World Health Organization and how that led to the Foundation.
LK😕 They were looking for somebody to talk about maternal health, and they had read somewhere that I was wanting to involve myself in something. They saw that I was from Ethiopia, which made total sense, and I had my kids already in New York and everything. I thought it would be a perfect match and made total sense, so I worked with them for a few years. But it was mostly awareness-raising, and what kept happening was that when I was doing interviews, people would ask, ?how can I get involved?? and I didn?t have a solution for them, because the WHO doesn?t work with individuals. I spoke with them and that?s when the Foundation started.
TO: And how can people get involved?
LK: On one side, it?s mostly donations and fundraising, and the other side is about helping us raise awareness. We did a social media campaign with Doutzen [Kroes] and Coco Rocha when they were pregnant, so we could think about other mothers that might not have the same possibilities and advantages and opportunities. It was amazing how the messaging got out there.
TO: You?ve also helped open maternal health clinics. Is it an ultimate goal of the Foundation to open more?
LK😕 It?s not ultimate, but it is part of the projects that we want to support; it just makes sense. On a small scale you see the impact it has on the community. A lot of women have delivered there safely, so it?s quite rewarding. It?s tiny, but it?s still that X number of women and those babies that are born and are OK. And that means something.
TO: What do you consider the main work of the Foundation?
LK😕 The Foundation has an awareness arm and a project arm. On the awareness side, we make sure that we cover the whole world and especially African countries, where maternal morality is the highest during pregnancy and childbirth. We want to make a lot of noise and do a lot of campaigns and social media around it. It?s almost like marketing the cause to put it in front of people?s noses, so that they?re aware and local and internal governments are aware, make it a priority and donate specifically to attack.
TO: Is the cause as dear to you now that your children are growing up?
LK😕 I think it?s as important. The idea that every time you?re pregnant, you have to think whether you live or die is an awful, awful scenario to be in for anybody, so if we can minimize that as much as possible, I think it would be nice. I don?t know if it will ever be done ? it?s not a job where you can say, OK, done ? so it?s really hard and it?s not an easy battle. I think the best we can do is make the most noise possible and make sure that people are really aware, because it?s not an issue that they really think about. If we can achieve that then I think we will be in a good place.
TO: Do your kids get involved at all in the Foundation or in LemLem?
LK😕 I want to involve them more actually. I don?t think they have their heads wrapped around it. My daughter loves fashion and everything but I want them to see what happens more with the creative process. It?s not easy, though, because they just want to be on their electronics! They?re like, ?when is this done? Let?s go home!?. They do their own bake sales for Unicef and it?s nice that they?re aware of that side of the world. I think that as they grow, it will be more in their mind.
TO: Have they ever been to Ethiopia with you?
LK😕 They?ve been to Ethiopia a few times, yes.
TO: Did they connect with it?
LK😕 It?s a work in progress!
TO: What have been your ?pinch me? moments?
LK😕 Finding out that I?ve been doing the philanthropy work on maternal health for 10 years was kind of odd. We?re writing a Huffington Post op-ed piece, and I was working with my executive director and she was like, ?we?re going to celebrate your 10th year,? and I?m like, ?wait, what?!? It?s kind of amazing and strange, you know?
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF LIYA KEBEDE
TO: What does a normal day look like for you?
LK😕 I don?t have a regular anything! I work a lot on my phone and my computer from anywhere, but I go into the office if I?m not shooting, so it depends. It?s many things at the same time, juggling many balls. When I can, I do the school run.
TO: How do you juggle being a mom and having a career?
LK😕 I think it?s funny because we?re trying to do a lot of things at the same thing and be perfect at everything and in every category. It?s a lot of pressure and we all give it our all ? in the workplace, at home, with the kids, whatever. We?re juggling a lot, I think, and it?s amazing because it?s made really incredible women who are really changing things and adding a lot of interesting things to the world. There?s a lot more liberty, which is important and nice, and women are a lot more in tune with what they want to do, and how they want to live their lives ??even their family lives. Everyone is trying to chart their own path and it?s much more interesting. Now men are sitting back and watching women go crazy! They?re like, ?What?s happening??
ON SOCIAL MEDIA
TO: Social media plays an important role in this campaign. What?s your take on it?
LK😕 I think it?s hard to know what to do with social media. I have a hard time ?what?s the middle ground? I feel like there are a lot of things out there and it?s not all great; some things really shouldn?t be up there. It also scares me because I feel like there?s a thirst for something, but I don?t know what it is. It can be amazing but at the same time, it makes everything a little banal. It becomes dull, there?s no more surprise. I don?t like discovering everything on Instagram, you know? I want to wait for the fashion story to come out, I want to wait for the campaign to come out and see it on the right space and platform and in the right size, as opposed to seeing it immediately and then three months later it comes out and you?re like, ?I already saw that!? It kills the whole thing. So I think it?s really hard to know how to use it.
TO: What do you think of younger models using social media to develop their personal brands?
LK😕 I don?t know what to make of it, to be honest. I don?t know if anybody does, I think they?re just going [along] and seeing what comes out of it. I don?t love sharing so much ??always giving so much of yourself out there is scary. So I?m a bit conflicted on the social media thing.
TO: What do you do in your downtime?
LK😕 I try to do yoga, although I?m not very good at always doing it. I want to incorporate it more into my life and incorporate more meditation, which is really hard to do in terms of finding the time and the headspace. I also like reading a lot. At the moment I?m reading a lot of meditational things, books on mindfulness and things of that nature. But I also love reading fiction. And I watch films.
TO: What?s your exercise routine?
LK😕 I don?t go to the gym. I tried tennis. I want to play a bit more and I?m trying, although it?s the same thing ? it?s very hard to find the time to fit it in.
ON SHOPPING ONLINE
TO: Do you shop online?
LK: I?m not very good at shopping for fashion online. I can do basics and kid?s things online but I?m not obsessive about it. It?s mostly basic t-shirts and simple pieces; not so much jeans because I?m very specific about size and fit. It?s hard for me to buy something that I haven?t tried on.
TO: Have you ever bought anything on THE OUTNET before?
LK: No, I?d never heard of it before! I like Mr. Porter, though. I think it?s very well curated. I kind of prefer it to NET-A-PORTER. I get lost! Unless there?s something specific [I?m looking for], it?s hard to go and browse ??I wouldn?t even know where to begin.
TO: Will you be buying flares this season?
LK😕 Flared, no, not for me. But I love high-waisted [styles]. Everything high-waisted, yes.
ON HER FUTURE
TO: What?s next for you personally? Acting? Focusing more on LemLem?
LK😕 It?s all of them. I would love to do more film, and it?s been so exciting seeing the growth of LemLem, and we have so many things to look forward to that I?m excited to be following through all our projects; collaborations, which are so fun.
TO: You?re going to be collaborating with Soludos. How did that come about?
LK😕 I bought some online and I loved them so much, and one of the girls that works with us actually knew the owner and she was like, ?Oh my god, I have to introduce you, you guys would love each other?. I go a lot from that.
TO: What other collaborations would you love to explore?
LK: I would love to do swim ??I think it would be cool to do a collaboration with the right person.
ON IRIS & INK / THE POSTCARDS FROM EDIT
TO: Are there any styles that you?ve worn from the Postcards From?Edit?that have stood out for you?
LK: I definitely liked the Iris & Ink t-shirt dress that I had on ? it was very nice and very easy and very comfortable. I love anything that?s easy, you know? I like the colors of the Elizabeth & James shirt a lot too; the light blue is so nice. I love the Ancient Greek Sandals, too ? I really love that brand. I think it?s clever what she?s doing and they?re really pretty.
Images: THE OUTNET.COM
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