Most designers whose work is rooted in sustainable principles have experienced the frustration of not being able to find the desired materials or get the just-right look using ecologically sound producers. All the while, let’s not forget, trying to keep the production cost at a sustainable level — definitely not easy for start-up designers. But, the important part is, they try. So when one of your founders is a world-famous rock star, with the financial means that come with that, there is really no reason your brand shouldn’t try ten times as hard as the little guys.
Edun S2011. Look One: Optic white paper poplin knotted wrap dress. Look Two: Cropped short sleeve paper poplin shirt. Parachute silk shorts. Look Three: V-neck paper poplin shirt. Printed geometric animal wrap skirt with wood beading. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Edun S2011. Look Four: Geometric animal printed wrap top. Scratch print macramé jersey tank. Geometric animal printed shorts. Look Five: Knotted cropped sleeve tee. Paper poplin parachute skirt. Look Six: Silk geometric animal pleated shirt dress. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Edun S2011. Look Seven: Resin organic cotton jersey pant. Chambray embroidered shirt. Look Eight: Indigo denim one shoulder dress. Look Nine: Mixed print hammered habotai shirt dress. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Edun was started by U2 front man Bono and his wife Ali Hewson, with a main mission to rebuild the manufacturing industry in Africa by producing the fashion line there. Before the brand’s Spring 2011 show at New York Fashion Week, the Wall Street Journal published a story revealing that Edun had taken a significant step away from the original mission. As problems had started piling up — orders were not made to spec and, even worse in the fashion biz, arrived late — the bulk of the production (about 70%), the article stated, is now made in Asia. African-produced products account for about 15% of the total production, and the remainder is made in Peru. Africa could apparently not handle the pressures of American fashion.
Edun S2011. Look Ten: Indigo denim cross back dress. Look Eleven: Incense organic cotton jersey pant. Braided organic linen sweater vest. Braided linen indigo scarf. Look Twelve: Indigo linen cropped jacket. Spice organic cotton sarong dress. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Edun S2011. Look Thirteen: Paper poplin collar shirt. Indigo denim V-neck dress. Look Fourteen: Indigo cupro linen swing trench. Organic cotton spice shirt dress. Look Fifteen: Linen khaki tent poncho. Spice suede shirt dress. Paper poplin elongated shirt dress. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Edun S2011. Look Sixteen: Linen/cotton washed black trouser. Geometric animal printed tee. Organic linen mesh scarf. Look Seventeen: Spice organic jersey wrap halter. Indigo organic linen pintuck pant. Look Eighteen: Collage print African beaded long dress. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Now, I do understand that 15% made in Africa is better than 0% made in Africa, but it still seems like the easy way out. If a world-famous multi-millionaire couple cannot bother to work with and make their African factories perform to standard, then who will? And what about manufacturing in New York, or somewhere else closer to market? The luxury conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) bought at 49% share of Edun last year, and it seems like the decision to uproot production from Africa may be related to that. Toni Belloni, group managing director of LVMH, said that fashion “is about beauty. The fact that it is ethical is a nice plus, but it has to be about beautiful clothes and having a personality first.” Yeah, maybe if you’re Louis Vuitton.
Edun S2011. Look Nineteen: Trench silk wool cropped jacket. Paper poplin boyfriend shirt. Trench washed habotai shirt dress. Look Twenty: Parachute white habotai poncho dress. Paper poplin collar shirt. Look TwentyOne: Khaki silk pleated trouser. Indigo organic cotton tee. Suede hand knit vest. Slate linen braided scarf. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Edun S2011. Look TwentyTwo: Organic cotton origami cropped blazer. Black knotted jersey mini skirt. Look TwentyThree: Black organic cotton knotted tee. Black organic cotton kick flare trouser. Look TwentyFour: Silk pleated shirt dress. Black organic cotton distressed sweater with African beads. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Edun S2011. Look TwentyFive: Black organic cotton distresses crew with African beads. Black hammered silk bloomers. Look TwentySix: Black cotton military vest with silk back. Black organic cotton kick flare trouser. Look TwentySeven: Incense organic linen slouchy cardigan. Incense linen drop needle vest. Mudcloth silk pleated trouser. Photos by Johanna Björk.
A new designer, Sharon Wauchob, was brought on board for the relaunch to bring the brand more into the high-fashion world. Her collection was beautiful. Ethereal prints, minimalist basics, flowy dresses, soft khakis and deadstock (production waste) leather skirts gave just enough of a hint of the Africa that has always been the brand’s inspiration. Men’s looks were a bit more disheveled, some bare chested, others donning ripped knits.
Edun S2011. Look TwentyEight: Khaki perforated leather shirt dress. Look TwentyNine: Linen/cotton washed black trouser. Toile organic cotton shirt. Look Thirty: Khaki silk wool cropped jacket. Khaki perforated leather sarong wrap skirt. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Edun S2011. Look ThirtyOne: Black linen/cotton blazer. Black silk pleated trouser. Incense gauze tank. Look ThirtyTwo: Trench silk wool coat. Trench organic cotton sarong dress. Look ThirtyThree: Mix print silk wrap dress. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Edun S2011. Look ThirtyFive: Toile jean. Black organic cotton crochet cardigan. Look ThirtySix: Mix print long halter dress with African beads. Look ThirtySeven: Sand linen cropped jacket. Trench organic linen pintuck pant. Photos by Johanna Björk.
Edun S2011. Look ThirtyEight: Mix print silk tiered halter dress. Look ThirtyFour: Sand linen tencel poncho. Paper poplin optic white shirt dress. Trench organic linen pintuck flare skirt. All the models making the exit. Photos by Johanna Björk.
I love Edun and I want them to succeed. It would be a big shame if the partial acquisition by LVMH pressures the brand into becoming just another fashion line, divorced from their initial triple-bottom-line mission. After the show Saturday, Hewson said that “in order for our business to work sustainably, we have to be a sustainable business.” That sounds like corporate talk to me, not the idealistic vision that was her original driving force.
Sharon Wauchob & Ali Hewson after the show that took place during New York Fashion Week, under the High Line in Chelsea. Photo by Johanna Björk.
Gavin Rossdale & son Kingston were seated front-row at the show. Photo by Johanna Björk.
Hopefully LVMH will realize that Edun has so much more going for it than organic cotton. A large celebrity following — Gwen Stefani’s husband Gavin Rossdale was seated front-row with son Kingston, along with high-powered fashion editors and international scenesters — certainly does not hurt. But the social sustainability aspect — empowering Africa through job creation — is a important tool for societal transformation, something that is urgently needed in the world of conscious fashion. I’m hoping that Edun will, again, lead the way.