Like any other child that loves playing with toys, Natanem Wondwossen loved that too. She loved the way things could take shape with a couple of snips here and there even more. The subtle art of sheering through paper or fabric excited her to a point of wanting to pursue a career that would allow her to create something beautiful. Unaware of the possibilities that lay before her, Natanem dreamt of becoming an architect.
“I knew I wanted to be in a field that would allow for my creative freedom, to create structures, and as a kid, I didn’t know fashion designing was an option I could pursue within the country. No one around me knew, so I fixed my eyes on architecture. Unfortunately, after high school that dream did not work out; but it was for the best,” said Natanem.
“I ended up pursuing a career in Information Technology and worked in that for a while but my passion was elsewhere. I eventually heard about a fashion school in Addis and I joined, got certified and learned useful skills along the way,” added Natanem, thankful how things have transpired since then.
Natanem, owner of Natanem’s Couture, is a multi-facetted fashion designer who has recently joined the fashion industry with a bold and memorable debut. The designer has a unique style of assembling clothes that manage to combine culture, structure and contemporary looks.
Her debut show titled the Fashion Phenomena was held at the Alliance Ethio-Française, in collaboration with the talented, Tibebu collection, with musicians like Dave on the track, Kassmasse, and a beautifully orchestrated live quartet band; to accompany the very first clothing line of Natanem Couture and her partner’s work, Tibebu collection.
The pair met at a creative hub and decided to collaborate and bring forth an immersive fashion experience that would show the weaving of traditional garments, music, dancing and more, simultaneously, without one overshadowing the other.
“Beza Tibebu and I decided to collaborate on the show right after my brand was launched in October 2021. We wanted to do the show in February but due to some financial setbacks we had to push it back,” said Natanem, adding, “We wanted to showcase the whole process of what goes on behind the scenes of the cloths we get to wear. We wanted to highlight the unsung hands behind the beauty and success of our designs; the mothers who expertly weave the cotton into garment and combine that with art culture and our end products.”
Amongst the collection was her wedding dress collection that took audiences on an immersive journey that went beyond a runway show, allowing for viewers to interact with the fashion show on a deeper, closer and more intimate manner.
Praised by attendees as undoubtedly the highlight of the night, the collection included avant-garde dresses that had traditional garments seamlessly married into a modern easily malleable fabric.
Debora Getachew, a model for the show, recalling her experience told The Reporter how it exceeded her expectations.
“It was my first-time modeling. And to be a part of something this beautiful, on my first time, was an honor. Wearing both Natanem’s and Beza’s (Tibebu collections) while being part of the show, was very thrilling. I’ve known and supported Natanem for a long time now and I am so proud of her. Her designs are ultra-glamourous with a theatrical vibe more akin to haute couture in my opinion,” Debora said.
The designer recognizes the challenges the fashion industry presents for up-and-coming designers in Ethiopia, and is grateful to her parents and family’s support throughout her journey. Noting access to input materials is limited and challenging for newer designers exploring the industry; Natanem says familial support system is even more crucial to those creatives, whether they are designers or people involved in other art forms.
Only in the beginning stages of her career, Natanem’s couture aspires to open its own shop in the near future; focusing on high-end couture dresses but not limited to that alone. She plans on taking her brand internationally, while also availing her products locally as well.
“I am planning on putting out collections and money shots every season. This time I released the winter collection along with the wedding line. I am going to keep doing this seasonally, on top of which I will open my own shop. For now, my collection has been auctioned online and it is going to be public soon. But I truly believe and hope that this is the beginning of a great journey,” Natanem concluded.