Liya Kebede

Everyone always wants to know where models hang out. They want to at which hot bar they sip cocktails with their friends, what they eat to stay fit and glowing, and who their favorite designer is. Normally, this couldn’t interest me less, for obvious reasons. But what if it’s a supermodel who is trying to change the world for the better? Now you’ve got my attention.

This week I’m beyond honored to feature Ethiopia native and New York city resident Liya Kebede in EcoCult’s How I’m Livin’ series.

Kebede is an accomplished designer, supermodel, actress, and maternal health advocate, named in 2010 as one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” where her profile was written by none other than designer Tom Ford. She’s been featured on several American and international Vogue covers, in runway shows, and in major print campaigns for top designers. In addition to running lemlem, a fashion label that utilizes the skills of Ethiopian artisans to create handspun, embroidered women’s clothing, she leads The Liya Kebede Foundation, which promotes better access to maternity care in Africa.

In short, she is a luminary of authenticity, using her considerable influence and good taste toward a purpose beyond good looks and into changing the lives of women. Find out what eco-friendly denim company she’s obsessed with, how she spends her Sundays, and her favorite fashion store!

What neighborhood do you live in?

Upper East Side.

How would you describe your style?

Comfortable and classic. I love layering!

What’s your favorite NYC restaurant?

Sant Ambroeus is my go-to spot to meet up with friends.

Your fave bar?

I’m not much of a bar-goer, but The Carlyle is so classically New York, I like to go there from time to time.

Describe your perfect Sunday.

Reading a book over a cappuccino and pastry from Balthazar, then off to a meditative yoga class. My kids like tennis, so we would spend a few hours playing. The evening would be spent at a Broadway show. I recently saw Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge and it was amazing!

What’s your favorite place to shop in the city?

I can get lost in bookstores for hours! McNally Jackson and The Strand are easy to do that in. The Moma Design store is close to our office, and the best place for unique gifts. For me, I love the selection at The Line. Such beautiful clothes!

Where do you do your grocery shopping in the city?

Whole Foods, mainly.

Do you vintage shop? Where do you go?

I try to make some time anytime I am in Paris, but it rarely actually happens.

What is your favorite designer or label (besides Lemlem, of course)?

The list is endless: Proenza Schouler, Phillip Lim, Vuitton, Loewe… I recently started wearing Re/Done denim, and am so obsessed! They re-purpose vintage Levi’s into perfect modern fits.

You have one day to get out of the city; where do you go?

The Hamptons.

How has living sustainably/consciously changed your life for the better?

Since I started lemlem and have seen what a difference it makes for our weavers in Ethiopia I’m more attuned to where and how products are made. It makes a difference to me.

What’s the sustainable/conscious habit you’re most proud of?

My daughter always turning the faucet off when we are brushing our teeth so as not to waste water.

What’s your biggest unsustainable bad habit?

Traveling a lot… Guilty!

What do you find most challenging about living consciously/sustainably?

It’s definitely most challenging when my travel schedule is demanding – keeping a good, healthy balance takes a little extra effort.