With the headquarters of the African Union located in Ethiopia’s capital city, as well as an award-winning airline and a rapidly growing economy, Addis Ababa is increasingly recognized as a political and economic hub in Africa. Now, with its rich cultural and artistic heritage a new generation of Ethiopians is trying to put Addis on the world’s retail map.
By Sinette Hesselink

Abai Schulze is an example of this development. Her brand, Zaaf, manufactures locally handmade leather handbags in Addis Ababa.

Originally Schulze is from a remote village in northeastern Ethiopia where she’s partly grew up in an orphanage, until an American family adopted her when she was 11 years old. While she grew up in Texas she kept ties with her native country. Her adoptive parents stimulated her to speak Amharic and stay in tune with her cultural background, and for long Schulze had the desire to return to Ethiopia and start a business in Ethiopia’s creative industry. So when she finally founded Zaaf, it was a combination of passion and opportunity.

Today, Zaaf, which means ‘tree’ in Amharic, employs 17 people, 10 of whom are artisans.

Modern, elegant, and chic are the main ingredients for Zaaf’s well-designed collections. It’s creativity and style has been recognized in various ways, from showing up on runways to being featured in various fashion magazines like Vogue and Elle.

Sinette Hesselink is a designer and trend forecaster based in Amsterdam

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