I’ve just returned from my trip to Ethiopia where our artisans finished weaving our latest line – the Konso Collection. As with all of our designs, the pieces are inspired by the culture of Ethiopia. Konso is a region in the south of the country I first had the pleasure of visiting in 2010. I immediately fell in love with the unique landscape and traditions of the area since it was unlike anything I’d seen in my home country. I knew I had to go back and explore more of the textiles that I saw.
I traveled to Konso by car gazing at the lush green landscape which is so different from what I’m used to seeing in the capital. Much of Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, is covered in highlands. The temperature is fickle with warm days, cool nights and the climate is somewhat arid. Southern Ethiopia on the other hand is filled with lowlands with more rainfall creating a verdant countryside. Many of Ethiopia's tropical fruits, like bananas, mangoes and papayas are grown in the south.
You know you’ve arrived in Konso once you begin to see terraced farms along the mountainsides. Like most of Ethiopia, the villages of Konso are farming communities but the landscape steep and hilly. The locals adopted terracing to irrigate their crops. The terracing is not just relegated to the farmland, the villages are also terraced along the mountains, another unique trait of Konso.
Many of the traditional homes in Ethiopia are constructed of mud, however Konso’s homes and fences are built with stone. The villages are comprised of maze like pathways that connect neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has a community center where locals congregate. In addition, the young men in the village take turns spending nights in the community center, acting as a local emergency response team incase of a fire or any other need for help in the village.
What I love most about Konso are the textiles (of course!) specifically the traditional clothing worn by the women. The clothing of the region is as unique as its architecture and culture. I first noticed the beautiful traditional dresses in the lively and vibrant market place. The women of Konso wear two tiered peplum skirts. The length of the top layer indicates whether the woman is single or married. The skirts are handwoven and are often striped with eye popping bright colors.
Another popular style of skirt uses natural cotton as the base with a multicolor trim on the top and bottom layer of the skirt. I was delighted to find this trim in the market. I purchased the ribbon during my first trip in 2010, although I didn’t know quite to do with it at the time. Little did I know that in a few years I would start Bolé Road and dedicate a whole collection to this lovely accent!! On my next post I’ll share all the more details on my finds and what I learned about the Konso ribbon in this textile journey.