This young fashion graduate embraces the beauty of imperfection and the strength of women with her debut collection


Recent fashion graduate Feben Vemmenby explores the concept of Wabi Sabi with her debut collection. Entitled She Is Woman, this fierce offering of highly structured pieces sculpts the body in rich reds to create a powerful vision of the fairer sex. From the witch-like top hat and leather corset to the mesh flares and ruched cotton and wool suiting, Vemmenby’s first outing makes a confident statement. Born in North Korea and raised by her Ethiopian mother in Sweden, the young designer relocated to the UK where she studied at the London College of Fashion. And now she has the world ahead of her. Nataal finds out more…

Tell us about your upbringing.
It was quite strange growing up as a black kid in a small town in Sweden when the only other black people that lived there were your mother and brother. I was drawn to fashion because I felt that I didn’t belong, so it became a sort of therapy for me growing up. I’d dress as different characters to feel a sense of belonging, the characters I'd dress up as would at least fit into one social group.

Who were your early style icons?
My mother’s style is one of the biggest sources of inspiration, not only for her ability to pull a look together but also the way that she used clothing as a tool to integrate herself into society. It was more than just clothing; it became a new language and gave her a voice without speaking.

What does Wabi Sabi mean to you?
Wabi Sabi means imperfection; I chose to work around the subject when developing my textures by correlating it to the female form and ageing. The word Wabi defines the natural progression of something deteriorating and no longer being seen as perfect. It’s a celebration the beauty in the imperfect.

Describe the journey of the collection.
Researching the female form led me to the reclining sculptures of Henry Moore, the imagery of Nubuyoshi Araki and the objects of Louise Bourgeois. Once I collected as much imagery as possible, I drew illustrations up to 4 meters long that became my patterns. I then worked with different fabric manipulations to create more depth and life to the surfaces. The resulting collection is for the individual who is hopeful, fearless and desired. She is woman.

What are you expressing with this shoot?
The art direction celebrates strong women, which is influenced by my upbringing in refugee camps and my mother’s aesthetics and identity. I wanted to represent independent women doing the most for their families and putting their best foot forward no matter what situation they’ve been put in. I worked with the most incredible team to deliver the story I had in mind.

What are your ambitions?
I would love to do collaborative work in the future because there’s so much talent in London. It can be intimidating to put your work out there at first but it’s the only way it will get recognised. We just have to continue to push through together and support each other in whatever creative pathways we’re in. Black creatives are finally getting recognised around the globe but there is still a long way left for our voices to be heard.

Photography Dexter Lander
Styling Ib Kamara
Model Nyaueth at Milk Management
Hair Virginie Moreira
Make-up Daniel Sallstrom at CLM
Nails Rachel Kahn
Casting Chloe Rosolek
Words Helen Jennings

Visit Feben Vemmenby

Published on 04/08/2017