For our latest photoshoot, our team of eleven selected from across the Continent ventured forth with world renowned photographer, Joey Lawerence to the Danakil Depression, the hottest place on earth. For our newest collection, I was determined to go to whatever extreme necessary to showcase to the world this rich and unique landscape in the heart of Ethiopia. Building on our prize – winning and internationally recognized work established in Ethiopia, ZAAF is developing long-term growth opportunities across Africa, partnering with skilled artisans to develop high-end designer products that celebrates the boundless depths of our continent’s ancient cultures, designs, and natural wonders that have laid the foundation for the next wave of incomparable creativity, luxury, and style. Our brand offers economic empowerment to artisans and a new perspective and standard of global luxury.
On Monday, July 1, 2019, ZAAF hosted 250 guests at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. We featured the art of fashion photography with first public display of the stunning images captured at the Danakil Depression. It was accompanied by a short behind the scenes documentary of the photoshoot and a presentation of the new collection. Guests experienced all five senses while enjoying complimentary drinks and African theme hors d’oeuvres. Our guests included Ambassadors, Business Leaders and global citizen professionals.
You’re invited to experience Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony with BLESSED COFFEE on Saturday, March 9, 2019 from 12:30PM - 4PM.
The traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony is an integral part of Ethiopia’s social and cultural life. An invitation to attend a coffee ceremony is considered a mark of friendship or respect and hospitality. So come join us and partake as you indulge all your senses in this unique and timeless experience.
Date: 9 March 2019.
Time: 12:30PM – 4:00PM
Place: ZAAF COLLECTION SHOP
1409 Florida Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20009
ZAAFcollection.com | Made in Africa
ZAAF is excited to invite you to experience a Tea Ceremony with APOTHEKARY on Saturday, February 9, 2019 from 3PM - 6PM.
The Apothekary is a wellness company with an aim to empower every being to take health into their hands. Their focus is to increase the accessibility of the most effective herbal teas and therapeutics from across the land and sea for your optimal well-being. Take a break from your hectic schedule and experience a delicious cup of tea with us!
Plant Based Hor d’oeuvres by Celebrity Chef, Lauren Von Der Pool Will Be Served.
Date: 9 February 2019.
Time: 3PM – 6PM
Place: ZAAF Shop
ZAAF 's new fabulous store featuring unique line of award-winning handmade leather bags and accessories right in the heart of the District The ZAAF Store is not going to be your ordinary shop – you can come in and design your very own piece in our design lab while siping and tasting "Made in Africa" deliciousness. Choose from different models, sizes, leather, and accents to create your very own one-of-a-kind piece.
We are excited and honored to announce that ZAAF has been chosen for the 2018 Independent Handbag Designer Awards as finalist for the Most Socially Responsible Handbag!
Thank you to all our fans for the supporting us for the last 4 years in this amazing journey!
Proudly Made in Ethiopia,
-The ZAAF Team
Now, with its rich cultural and artistic heritage, a new generation of Ethiopians are trying to put Addis on the world’s retail map.
Luxury brands and boutiques
Abai Schulze is one of these entrepreneurs. Her brand, ZAAF
, sells a delectable range of handmade leather handbags and accessories. With an online store and stockists in Europe and the US, it’s hard to believe that the business was started just over two years ago, or that Schulze — who is 27– grew up in an orphanage.
Born in remote Gishen in northeastern Ethiopia, Schulze’s life took a very different turn when she was adopted by an American family at age 11. That hard start would give her the desire to make change happen in her native Ethiopia. “I grew up in Texas but always had the desire to come back and start a business,” Schulze says. “I knew I wanted to be in the creative space and create jobs in Ethiopia so Zaaf was a combination of passion and opportunity.”
Today, ZAAF which means tree in Amharic, employs 17 people — 10 of which are artisans — but the team often swells to many times its size. “We outsource when we have large orders,” Schulze explains.
Schulze and I meet at her workshop and recently-opened boutique in Addis. She has agreed to show me round her business but also to introduce me to other makers and entrepreneurs who are bucking the trend to simply export to mature markets in the West, chosing instead to also develop the market for their goods at home by opening retail spaces. With many jobs still being created in the informal economy Schulze also takes me to Addis Ababa’s largest garment market, Shiro Meda.
First we head to Snap Plaza, a new shopping centre on Bole road (an affluent part of town), to check out baby brand Little Gabies, and meet its founder Amelsa Yazew.
The gabi is the traditional handwoven Ethiopian blanket, and Yazew had the idea to start making a version for babies when she returned to Addis from New York and couldn’t find a suitable baby blanket.
“Admittedly, as a new mom, I was overprotective and excited and on a mission to find a soft, cozy, natural and unique blanket I could rely on,” Yazew says.
After checking out what was already available on the market, Yazew decided to start her business when her baby Caleb was only three-months-old. The mompreneur, who still holds down a full-time job, launched in New York in 2014 and now creates jobs for 22 people. As well as the blankets (in cotton and a limited-edition cashmere), Little Gabies also sells baby shoes, headbands, nursing covers and beachwear.
Traditional clothes at Shiro Meda
Next Schulze and I head to Shiro Meda, where hundreds of vendors line the busy Entoto road and sell netela and habesha kemis — traditional shawls and dresses from central and northern Ethiopia, most often made from shemma, a cotton cloth which is handwoven in long strips and sewn together, with a decorative border.
“Most Ethiopians will come here for their traditional wear,” says Schulze. “The designs are beautiful but it’s not always the best craftsmanship so look closely before you buy.”
To get the most from Shiro Meda, Schulze advices that shoppers compare prices before buying. It also helps to go with a local. Prices will differ depending on how complex the embroidery is, the quality of the cotton and the weaving — the best cloth is tightly woven. As well as clothing, traders at Shiro Meda also sell arts and crafts, souvenirs, t-shirts and accessories.
Contemporary arts and crafts market, Anbar
As we leave Shiro Meda — with five scarves in hand — I agree to check out Anbar Marketplace at the weekend where Schulze will be selling her bags, alongside dozens of other businesses catering to the growing middle class market, made up in large part of expats and Ethiopians returning from the diaspora.
For this upmarket event that takes place on the grounds of the Addis Ababa Golf Club, I switch guides and I’m accompanied by an artist, writer and educator, Amira Ali.
From the moment we arrive Ali, who splits her time between her east African homeland and the west coast of the US, seems to know everybody. A lot of traders and consumers like Ali were members of the Ethiopian diaspora, predominantly in the States, who have returned to be part of their nation’s success story. With more disposable income, these middle class Ethiopians were on the lookout for somewhere to meet and shop and Anbar Marketplace filled the gap. It also provides a service for the creative community — helping to connect them with consumers.
“Addis needed an outdoor event space with great food and music,” says Abeba Nerayo, one of the founders of Anbar. Nerayo launched Anbar in 2014 with three other friends and now have 80 vendors attend the bi-annual event. “A lot of young artists who cannot afford shops but were making amazing stuff at home sell at Anbar,” Nerayo adds.
After paying the 50birr (little more than $2) entrance fee, shoppers can explore the white marquees. They house dressed trestle tables displaying a range of goods, from art, pottery, baskets, jewelry and candles, to fresh fruits, vegetables, Ethiopian wine and desserts made with teff, a super grain native to Ethiopia. There are also hot food stalls, notably the barbecue stand serving tibs and injera (sautéed seasoned beef strips and a spongy sourdough flatbread), conveniently located next to a delicious honey wine stand. The live band playing Ethiojazz hits rounds off the party atmosphere. This is retail therapy at its best.