With the introduction of a bolder ethnic print on many of the pieces in the newest women's line, the Spring/Summer 2012 collection at Edun brings the design of the clothing closer to the fashion line’s core mission: developing trade with Africa. The newest collection, coordinated by the company’s creative director, Sharon Wauchob, and presented on the runway at New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion week, is offered for purchase through the Edun website and select stores. It is an eclectic mix of ethnic geometric and floral prints featuring creative touches such as metallic grommets, mesh and drawstrings. However, while the clothing itself was the focus of much discussion among fashion critics and the many well-known celebrities featured in the fashion show’s front row, the driving force behind Edun continues to be the support and visibility offered to local artisans and businesses in Africa and other countries. With this newest collection, the Edun brand is placing even more focus on fashion with a mission.
The faces behind Edun are likely very familiar to most. The company was founded in 2005 by U2 front man Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson. Their mission from the beginning was to form a fashion company that encouraged and developed trade with Africa. Bono is already well known not just for his music, but for his activism in parts of the world that desperately need a strong voice to champion their cause. With the increased visibility of Edun and the support it extends to a growing base of countries, including Africa, China, Peru and Morocco, the husband and wife team have been able to increase the production of their items within Africa to 37% and hope to increase that amount even more by 2013. The name recognition of the founders and the affiliation of the line’s creative director with Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy also helps Edun continue to bring together the core ideas that the company was founded on: profit, beautiful clothing, developing trade with Africa and other countries, and setting an example for others to do the same.
In addition to the runway collection that garners recognition in the world of elite fashion, Edun also offers basic items such as jewelry and t-shirts that support specific missions. The Kenya Kids Tees and the Edun Basics items feature Conservative Cotton Initiative Uganda (CCIU) cotton, with is produced in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Invisible Children. The CCIU helps over 4,000 cotton farmers in Northern Uganda by providing funding, training and support. Every clothing item in the Edun line that features CCIU cotton further helps to bring sustainability and stability to a region that is struggling to right itself from poverty and civil war. Edun also includes the Edun Live division, with t-shirts that are “100% grown and sewn in Africa.” Other new collaborations include working with a Nairobi jewelry producer, Camaroon-based Sawa Shoes, and the Kenyan “Crochet Sisters.”
The Crochet Sisters, who are artisan nuns, made a splash from afar with their black crochet and leather dress taking center stage in the Spring/Summer 2012 fashion show. Demand for the individually-produced pieces is high, as the sisters can only make a limited number of the unique dresses and skirts. Other items featured in the newest collection that were produced in Africa include a scarf dress, an organic cotton shirt, and hand-dyed silk pants.
In addition to facilitating trade with Africa and other countries, Edun is helping to ensure that workers in countries that produce items for the company have safe and legal working conditions, with regular factory safety checks. Edun also hopes to work to improve the future of children living in the world’s slums, such as those in Kiberia, Kenya. Kiberia has the dubious distinction of being home to the largest slum in Africa, with 1.5 million people living in substandard conditions. In working with the students at the Bidii School, Edun is helping provide supplies and support to the school with the profits from the student-designed graphic t-shirts. Whether it’s a high fashion apparel item produced by a native worker or a t-shirt featuring the designs of a child, Edun is helping provide opportunity and hope for the future to many across the globe that may not otherwise have the chance.