Copy Editor: Janne Boecker
Lead Copy Editor: Jacob Marion
There are a lot of emerging designers to look out for in 2024, but there’s one exceptionally bright rising star to keep an eye out for. Feben is an Ethiopian London-based designer taking the runway by storm, and a recent recipient of the Breakthrough Designer award at the Elle Style Awards this past September. Her rise as a designer is inspirational, making a name for herself in the fashion world through her innovative and unique work.
Feben was born in North Korea with not a lot to her name, moving between refugee camps before eventually settling down in Sweden. Introduced to fashion by her mother, she grew to see design as a powerful tool for change and self-expression. Eventually, Feben moved to the United Kingdom with nothing more than seventy euros, her suitcase, and her sewing machine, yet she managed to reinvent and redefine the runway in just a few years. Feben was launched into the high fashion scene after her 2020 Central Saint Martins graduating collection–a show which caught the attention of American singer-songwriter, Beyoncé. She was then asked to design and produce costumes for the singer’s music video for “Brown Skin Girl,” and was later put on her first London fashion week show in September 2022.
The most notable characteristic of a Feben piece is the bold, multi-dimensional draping, creating full and organic texture, often inspired by 3D objects of sentimental value to Feben herself. This is a technique informed by her upbringing. Feben recalls not having much money growing up which prompted her to drape her old clothes in unconventional and imaginative ways that “looked expensive.” Her pieces are also known for their vibrant colours and intricacies, all characteristics which suit her “eclectic” target audience.
What’s making Feben stand out amongst the crowd of other emerging designers is her outlook and inspiration behind her unique designs. Not only is she boldly experimental with her fantastical and surreal texture, silhouette, and colour choices, but she also prioritizes her identity and a sense of community in her designs. In a recent interview with Vogue Business, she explained, “Community is really important. I like working with people in my first circle, we lift each other up […] I don’t like the hierarchy in the industry.” There is no shortage of imagination when it comes to Feben, whether it’s reinventing the way fashion uplifts one another or taking design risks nobody else is. Her identity and the interests she was exposed to as a child constantly inform her current designs, especially growing up as a Black girl in a mostly white neighbourhood. After struggling for years with her identity and wondering where she fits in, Feben is focusing on uplifting her community and celebrating her Black identity–and she hopes to inspire others to do the same.
Another pillar of her work is giving back and practising generosity wherever she can. Feben prioritizes giving opportunities to young emerging designers of colour in her studio through placement opportunities. She takes the time to get to know where they’re from and help them on their design journey. She also told Vogue Business, “What mark are you going to make by not making someone’s life a bit nicer?” She also works closely with small businesses and artisans in Ghana and Peru as an act of giving back and lifting up other creatives to create unique pieces such as her beaded bags and jewellery.
Feben’s career has just begun. Seemingly out-doing herself with each new collection, it’s hard not to sit on the edge of your seat waiting for what else she has in store.