African Talent Leather Design Showcase 2023 Winner: Sisay Abebe

Showcase Winner: Sisay Abebe

African Talent Leather Design Showcase 2023 Winner: Sisay Abebe

29th November 2023

Sisay Abebe, born in Addis Abeda, Ethiopia, graduated from Addis Abeba University School of Fine Art and Design in 2008 with a first degree in Industrial Design. In 2014, Sisay went on to study a Master of Science degree in Leather Products and Accessory Design at Noida Compass in New Delhi, India. Sisay has 12 years experience as lead researcher and designer at the Product Development Centre of the Ethiopian Leather Industry Development Institute. With a deep rooted passion for leather, he attended the leather fashion weeks in Milan, Paris, Madrid and Helsinki in 2020 with the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Sisay has also built his own leather bag business.



Tell us about the inspiration behind your project:

The Mursi Tribe, a fascinating ethnic group with a unique way of life, is my inspiration for this piece. They live in the isolated and dry plains of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley. They have created a semi-nomadic way of life that is in tune with their surroundings. While the Mursi Tribe has maintained its cultural heritage for generations, it now faces challenges in the modern world.

The Mursi people have piqued the interest of both tourists and anthropologists due to their renowned distinctive rituals and remarkable appearance, their is a huge importance of lip plates and other physical alterations like scarification patterns that are fundamental to their identity and cultural history. The Mursi tribe’s female members bear the emblem of the clan from which they descended on their stomachs and a pattern on their shoulders that resembles the pattern from their husbands’ calves. Men employ bodily alteration techniques like tattoos or Scarification also.

I took inspiration from the female face for the silhouette and the male tattoo using clay as a decoration for the leather bag to represent originality and uniqueness.

What do you think makes leather a great material to design with?

Because of its natural qualities, leather makes for the ideal design material. I can skive, divide, split, and deform anything, yet the beauty remains the same. Additionally, leather can be blended or combined with other materials like textiles, metal, wood, and plastic. It offers endurance, water resistance, and opulent softness because of its diversity. The fact that leather is breathable is another desirable attribute.


What has been your experience in working with leather for this competition?

Creating patterns is essentially my passion and seeing the results makes me very happy. This process has taught me a lot of things, including how important it is to consider your inspiration board while choosing the type, colour, and texture of  leather as well as accessories.


How do you think winning this competition will impact your career as a designer?

It would confirms that the design is original, realistic, and practical first and foremost. Such acknowledgment has a significant impact and provides me with chances to demonstrate my abilities, receive the highest promotion, learn from others, and receive awards or accolades. It can assist me in enhancing my network, portfolio, and design process. Finally, it would support me in promoting my brand, DIADEM-BAG-FASHION, and sell my product to the rest of the world.



Click here to learn about the Africa Design Competition.

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