We Love: Lalibella
Lalibella is a brilliant online platform (and chic Notting Hill shop) that showcases and sells products on behalf of talented designers and artisans in a handful of African countries. Stephanie Ferrario, Tania Aragona and Stefania Calice work closely with each of their producers, encouraging their craftsmanship and skills and helping their work find its way into the eager hands of western women. The profits generated from sales flow directly to charitable projects in Ethiopia chosen by Stephanie, Tania and Stefania through their non-profit foundation Give a Future. From homeware and fashion accessories to clothing and jewellery, these vibrant, elegant and natural creations are ethically produced and empower each of their designers. What's not to love?
Can you explain the principles of Lalibella - why and how you started the brand and how it helps African people, women in particular?
Lalibella was born from our passion for the African continent: its craftsmanship, its young-and-yet-so-ancient energy, as well as the striking strength that women develop to take care of their whole family. Working with Give A Future, the educational charity we have been running for the last 12 years in Ethiopia, we have seen women getting their whole family out of drastic poverty, thanks to a small loan or a simple training. Supporting African artisans is promoting self-reliance and economic development, but also nurturing a taste for unique products. We like the combination of beautiful objects and positive change.
Can you give me an example of a designer who you work with who has been positively affected by her collaboration with Lalibella?
There is a multitude of beautiful stories behind Lalibella’s products, from women with HIV being trained to produce papier-mâché accessories, to Masaai women infusing their ancient beading tradition into really modern jewellery. A young South African designer called Laduma has won a lot of fashion prizes around the world for his celebrations of vibrant African colours and patterns, but in order to reach the end customer, he needed to be shown and heard. We gave him this opportunity by selling his work at the very beginning, and hope this was useful for his business. We had a lot of fun along the way.
What were some of your early challenges and how did you overcome them?
The early challenges were to get people to know us, host our first sales and talk about us. Equally, this has been our greatest success! All our existing and acquired friends have been immensely supportive, constantly promoting us and driving our vision of “different shopping” forward.
What is/are your biggest success/es to date?
Our biggest success has been to see the interest people have in our products. We are very grateful for the many supporting articles, but also heartwarming feedback from our growing customers. To walk down the streets of London and see one of our African umbrellas in the hands of an elegant lady is an incredible boost!
What - or who - would you credit for your success?
All our success is due to passion: the passion given us by our artisans, designers and customers. The consumer world is changing and women don’t want to buy mass products anymore. They want unique pieces that mean something to them.
What are your plans for the future of the business? Where do you hope to see your business in 5 years time?
We have just opened our first concept store in Notting Hill, London. We hope to continue expanding and giving opportunities to more and more young designers and talented artisans.
What tips might you offer other female founders?
To believe in your dreams. Everything is possible if you really mean it. We have learnt that women are the backbone of their family, but also of society. They drive inspirations and changes around them.
What tools can't you live without?
People. We are all together in this world and there is much more that unites us than divides us. We need to nurture our differences and feed on each other’s passions instead of fighting them.
Finally, what quote do you live by?
"A winner is a dreamer who never gives up!" Nelson Mandela.