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 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 11:25 GMT
Ethiopia seeks fashion role
Fashion show in Addis Ababa
A multi-million-dollar industry for Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is not the first place that fashion experts turn to for new textiles and inspiration for their latest creations.

Ethiopia has a tremendous cotton, it's one of the best in the world

Designer Gadol Ton
However a US designer and an Ethiopian businessman are hoping to change all that and boost the country's export market.

Gadol Ton and Elias Meshesha have just launched a collection of clothes made in Ethiopia from locally manufactured materials.

The audience at the opening fashion show, made up of diplomats and Ethiopian and foreign businessmen, showed their appreciation for the stylish sports and evening wear on display.

Designer Gadol Ton is convinced that this is the start of a new and important development for Ethiopian industry.

Designer with a mission

His mission in the country is not only to manufacture a new range of clothes, but also to start a fashion institute so that Ethiopian designers can be trained up, and then go on to take advantage of the business opportunities.

Gadol says that he was attracted to the country partly because of the textiles available.

"Ethiopia has tremendous cotton, it's one of the best in the world," he says.

Fashion show in Addis Ababa
A fashion institute will be set up

"There's at least four or five mills that produce material from the cotton. They manufacture cotton twills and denims and fabrics like that.

"As the technology increases we can get other fibres like silk and create a more diversified line."

Gadol is convinced that fashion could be a multi-million-dollar industry for the country, and Elias Meshesha is the man with the business background to make that a reality.

Ambitious plans

He spent over two decades in the United States working in the garment trade. There he ran a company that had a turnover of more than $13m.

Meshesha, now back in his native Ethiopia, thinks that the US is ready to buy his country's goods.

Fashion show in Addis Ababa
Materials such as silk are to be used in future

Agoa - the African Growth and Opportunity Act - is a US act that lowers tariff barriers on certain products, including textiles, imported from Africa.

This is what Meshesha hopes to take advantage of.

"The garment industry has not really been discovered in Ethiopia, he says.

"We are swamped with imports and we're not too proud of our local products. But that's what we're trying to change.

"We want to get this negative thinking off the people's minds, especially government officials, and get them to support domestic industry."

Meshesha has ambitious plans to show off the collection in other countries and prove that Ethiopian industry can be competitive.

See also:

07 Dec 02 | Africa
22 Nov 02 | Country profiles
12 Nov 02 | Africa
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