African Talent Leather Design Showcase 2023 Winner: Yalew Shebabaw Akalu

Showcase Winner: Yalew Shebabaw Akalu

African Talent Leather Design Showcase 2023 Winner: Yalew Shebabaw Akalu

Yalew Shebabaw is the owner and general manager of Zenar leather products, based in Bahirdar, Ethiopoia. Yalew studied at the Ethiopoia Leather Development Institute in 2008, graduating with diploma. In 2023 he persued further education, attaining a degree from the Ethiopian Institute of Fashion Technology, Behirdar University. He is highly passionate about designing creative leather products and loves travelling to different countries for inspiration and experiences.




Tell us about the inspiration behind your project:

My design inspiration is drawn from a world where innovation meets tradition, where the timeless allure of pure leather converges with cutting-edge technology to serve a purpose beyond imagination. The innovative leather backpack design, inspired by the noble shepherd, embodies this vision. Just as a shepherd tends to their flock in remote, off-grid locations, our backpack ensures you are always connected, no matter where your journey takes you. Crafted from the finest, ethically sourced leather, it marries style with sustainability.


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

Leather is a great material for design due to its durability, timeless aesthetic, comfort, versatility, sustainability, unique patina development and potential for customization, making it a preferred choice for various products. In addition to its beauty, it is very durable and long lasting. Leather is also very insulating yet breathable, making it the ideal material for a comfortable bags, shoes, jackets. Moreover, the leather surface is water resistent,  making it a good choice when crafting leather messenger bags, furniture, or shoes.

What are your thoughts on leather and sustainability, and how you think leather can adapt to a fashion industry increasingly focused on sustainability?

Sustainable leather is a by-product of local farming and agriculture industries; it can be recycled and upcycled, preventing millions ton of waste each year.  It ultimately reduces waste, lessens emissions, and plays an important role in providing jobs and contributing to a thriving economy.


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

I expect this compitition will influence my designing career in different aspects such as:

Recognition- Winning a prestigious competition can provide significant recognition within the design industry and beyond. It can lead to increased visibility and credibility as a designer.

Networking- Competitions often bring together professionals, judges, and industry experts. This provides an excellent opportunity for networking and building valuable connections that can lead to future collaborations and opportunities.

Portfolio Enhancement- Winning a competition adds a notable achievement to a designer’s portfolio, making it more appealing to potential clients or employers.

Career Advancement- The recognition and accolades from winning a competition can lead to new career opportunities, such as job offers, commissions, or partnerships.

Exposure- Winning a competition can result in media coverage and exposure, which can further bolster a designer’s reputation and lead to more design projects.

Confidence Boost- Success in a competition can boost a designer’s self-confidence, encouraging them to take on more challenging and creative projects.

Financial Rewards- Some competitions offer monetary prizes, which can provide financial support for the designer’s future work or projects.

Skills Development- Preparing for and participating in competitions often involves honing one’s design skills and creativity, leading to personal and professional growth.


Click here to learn about the Africa Design Competition.

Click here to learn more about leather and sustainability.