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Yesaet is a sustainable clothing boutique presenting modern luxury inspired by centuries of ancient African craft. Yesaet's sustainable, made-to-order collection focuses on exquisite textiles, comfort, versatility and timelessness. We sat down with Founder and fellow Dumbonian Mimi Girma to learn about how a little girl from Ethiopia had a big dream – and achieved her goals.

Mimi Girma, owner of Yesaet | Credit: Mimi Girma

What is the inspiration behind Yesaet? What's the origin story? 

Mimi: I was born in Ethiopia. When I was three years old, my family moved to West Africa, to Côte d’Ivoire. I spent my childhood there, until I was about 13 years old, experiencing the colors, the textiles, the music of the Ivory Coast. In addition, there was a strong Ethiopian community there, so kept our Ethiopian culture alive through music, community gatherings, textiles, and even food. I was immersed in both West African culture, and East African culture. Art is a way of life in Africa. You get your clothes made at the local tailor. People are much more artisanal in their approach to making things. I moved to England for High School and University, but this way of life – it stayed with me,

I worked in fashion in NYC for years, and came to a crossroads, in terms of my career. I had always worked on my own designs, as a way to tell my story, and incorporate the many influences I have from around the world, and I realized I had a decision to make:  keep working in the corporate world, or move forward to reconnect with my culture, my roots. That was my opportunity to launch Yesaet.

As my thoughts came together, I decided that it was time for me to go back to Ethiopia–not only to reconnect with my family, but also to discover the art of the artisanal textile, which is inherent to Ethiopian culture. It was really extraordinary. Seeing it for myself after all those years, being surrounded by it, and learning from the artisans there, it was so powerful that that one ten day trip catapulted me into Yesaet!


Congratulations! What an incredible journey. Tell us more about the tenants of the brand. 

Yesaet is story of love and a story of culture. It's a story of different roads coming together, of taking something that's handmade and turning it into a very modern product/collection that people all around the world can relate to.

Sustainability is a critical component of Yesaet. It's almost like farm to fiber to fashion: from taking cotton off the bud, spinning it by hand, and then weaving it by hand so that it becomes a cloth, to cutting and sewing it - so you have a special, one of kind artisanal piece.

What led you to a storefront in Dumbo?

I love working with people one-on-one, so opening the store in Dumbo made sense. With a store, people can come feel the textiles, get to know the story, and understand where each piece comes from, how it was made. It is also a chance for me to get to know the customers and create a community. It's slow fashion at its best. In all the years that I have worked in fashion, this is probably the happiest that I've been. And so those are pretty much the reasons I'm two years into Yesaet right now.

The journey has definitely not been easy. I launched Yesaet in March 2020. Almost immediately, factories were closing, and everything was crashing around us. So I started with mask making and doing outdoor pop-ups in order to keep it as Covid safe as possible. I really appreciate having friends and a community that really believed in what I was making. They encouraged me and helped me set things up. One thing led to another, and now I'm here in Dumbo in a little retail store.

And why Dumbo? 

Because Dumbo is home and I feel more than ever that it’s important to cultivate community and dialogue, through design, responsible fashion, technology and culture. Dumbo is an oasis of calm and creativity, at the intersection of bustling cultural neighborhoods. We value connecting, sharing, learning as we share YESAET and build our community.cleardot.gif


What is it like to be an independent shop that promotes slow fashion in a country that favors consumerism, fast and cheap fashion?

There are many challenges, of course. I want to make Yesaet as sustainable as possible. My concept has been made-to-order from the very beginning. A regular retailer will have thousands of units per style in different sizes, but it’s not guaranteed that a style will sell. What’s not sold often ends up landfills. With Yesaet, people come, see and feel a style that they love, then they order the size and the adjustments that fits them the best. In that way, we can avoid overproduction and help reduce waste.

I definitely am focused on placing Yesaet in sustainable boutiques. I also make everything in New York. It's super local!

Of course, made-to-order usually takes about two weeks, and it can be challenging explaining to customers who don't want to wait, who might walk away if they don't find what they want on the rack. But, I feel like my community for Yesaet has been the customers who are willing to wait because they understand that slow fashion is important and understand our mission.

Much of your pieces are hand dyed. Can you tell us about this process.

I first started experimenting with natural dyes during covid, as I found myself with time on my hands to experiment since everything had closed around us. We all found comfort in nature and here as well, I found myself looking to nature to heal, reconnect, and give meaning to my work.

I reached out to local businesses for their food and floral waste, all led by women who were very supportive of the work.

Can you tell us about a garment in your collection that has particular meaning for you?

We strive to create with positive impact, because we feel it’s not enough to make quality product. We must create responsibly and make a positive impact.The Maaza botanical skirt is a wonderful collaboration with artisans in Ethiopia as well as women led natural dyers and manufacturers here in NY. I love the marriage of both worlds coming together to create artful artisanal luxury pieces to treasure for a lifetime.

And we always ask: what's your favorite place in Dumbo?

Walking along the East River in Brooklyn Bridge Park!


Sustainable clothing pop-up: YESAET at Pure Soul

A sundress made of Ethiopian hand-loomed cotton and dyed with floral and food waste is one example of YESAET's sustainably produced made-to-order garments that will be on display Saturday, June 19 at Pure Soul.

Sylma Cabrera, owner of Pure Soul boutique, will host a pop-up show this weekend featuring YESAET, sustainable fashions inspired by African heritage.

Stop in and meet YESAET creator, Hiywet Girma, to learn about her inspirational and unique line of made to order fashion. The designer — a Shelter Island homeowner —will be at Pure Soul (183 North Ferry Road) on Saturday, June 19 from 11 AM to 5 PM.

Hiywet will showcase garments featuring hand-loomed Ethiopian textiles that use botanical dyes from the food and floral waste contributed by Shelter Island women-owned businesses.

“In my 25-year career as a designer in New York, I saw first-hand the waste of resources that results from favoring the speed and never-ending cycle of fashion over the wellness of people and planet,” Hiywet says.

“As a designer and a mother, I knew that the only way forward is to create responsibly — fashion and purpose must come together,” she says. “Sustainability is no longer a choice.”

‘Women’s work’

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Côte d’Ivoire and the United Kingdom, Hiywet — who is known as Mimi and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children — says a childhood surrounded by bountiful artisanal textiles and exquisite craftsmanship ignited her passion for textile innovation and fashion.

Hiywet Girma, founder of YESAET, has built a concept that weaves local production with the luxury of the handmade. Meet her, see her products, and learn about her process on Saturday, June 19 between 11 AM and 5 PM at Pure Soul on Shelter Island. All images courtesy YESAET.

In her native language of Amharic, yeseat mean “a woman’s work” or “of a woman.” She says the brand’s sustainable practices and priorities are designed to capture and reflect women’s strength, focus and resilience.

“The beauty of African craft partnered with small local production ateliers is something I am proud to showcase through YESAET ,” Hiywet says on the company website, yesaet.com.

“We connect past, present and future towards a healthier world.”

The color process

Yesaet organic dye material
Food waste from Maria’s Kitchen is used to dye YESAET garments

Working with local women-owned businesses, including Maria’s Kitchen and Shelter Island Florist, Hiywet collects food and floral refuse and uses the natural dyes contained within the materials to transfer color.

Among the useful materials are onion skins, avocado pits, flower petals, trimmed leaves and stems, and more.

Floral and food waste can be combined for unique and dramatic effects

“Each has its own individual backstory,” Hiywet says.

The botanical colors are sustainably derived, harmlessly biodegradable, and non-toxic. Hiywet employs water-efficient dyeing methods and any remaining wastewater is non-toxic.

Avocado pits are sources of a subtle natural dye.

“These dyes can help transform the way we use colorants in everyday products and encourage the shift towards a more responsible system of production and consumption,” Hiywet says.

“We are proud to use botanical hand dyeing methods whenever possible.”

Sustainably produced garments

YESEAT garments include tops and sweaters, from featherweight cotton shells to up-cycled one-of-a-kind cashmere cardigans and pullovers; pants and jumpsuits; dresses and skirts; ultra comfortable loungewear; ponchos, jackets and sleeveless gilets; and beautiful scarves and other accessories.

In another conscious step away from the assumptions of the apparel industry, the versatile designs in natural fabrics include some intended for all gender wear.

By supporting Ethiopian villagers — traditional spinners, weavers and artisans — Hiywet seeks to enable them to earn fair wages, send their children to school and to break cycles of poverty while highlighting the beauty and art of ancient crafts.

YESEAT’s made-to-order policy also means reduced waste. Garments are fitted with adjustments made to patterns in family-owned studios in New York City, supporting these small businesses and encouraging the continuation of skilled trades.

“By choosing YESAET, you are choosing to make a positive impact by shopping small, choosing sustainability, choosing to empower artisans and support the local economy,” Hiywet says. “This is slow fashion, with respect for craft and the environment.”

Don’t miss the pop-up

Drop by Pure Soul on Saturday, June 19 between 11 AM and 5 PM to meet Hiywet Girma and learn about and support her unique approach to sustainable clothing.







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