On September 8, the second day of New York Fashion Week, Edun’s SS13 collection debut came during an Indian-summer September day. Jungle temperatures filled the room with excitement as magazine editors and fashionistas anticipated enviously while models began to strut the runway. The collection displayed an appropriate mix of military greens, camouflage print, cargo pants and utility vests. Military greens and camouflage aren’t a color scheme typically expected on the runway, but the color is used by designer Sharon Wauchob to symbolize toughness combined with sex appeal. And the Edun brand is every ounce of tough.
New York Fashion Week is a time to tribute the efforts of standing designers, up and coming designers, and to glorify ourselves in the world of fashion. We love to shop for fancy clothes, browse designer names and try on the next trend, but so rarely do we think of the process behind fashion. Fashion is a business like any other. Logistics are set, trade is necessary and, surprisingly, the business behind the fabric and name is not always pleasant.
Despite the celebrity appeal and model-worn designs, Edun is much more than a fashion label. Founded in 2005 by U2′s Bono and wife Ali Hewson, Edun began as a global fashion brand to promote change through a trading relationship with Africa. The SS13 collection displayed 39 outfits and 18 garments which will be produced in Africa or made from fabrics rooted there. In only seven years of business, Edun is actively working to increase trade with Africa and aims to produce 40% of its seasonal fashion collection in Africa by 2013. Now standing, Edun currently works in Kenya, Morocco, Madagascar, Uganda and Tunisia.
The brand has built a long term sustainable opportunity for manufacturers, infrastructure and community building initiatives. “Many people don’t realize the volume of apparel produced in Africa. Foreign, predominantly Asian, investors have been producing large volumes of basic products in African countries for years. While government, industry and labor organizations have come together in several countries to improve working conditions, infrastructure and skills, they don’t address the more complex styling and the flexibility required by the global fashion industry, leaving this segment of the market unexplored for many years,” Belinda says.
As a global sourcing expert hailing from Zimbabwe, Belinda Edmonds consults for Edun on the ground in Africa by paying regular visits to corresponding facilities and supervises employee skill transfer, training and product development. Belinda shares her African production expertise and, as the brand continues from season to season, will be introducing some of the remarkable people Edun works with and the impact and challenges of producing the fashion line in Africa.
As the road in business continued, LVMH bought a significant stake in Edun. LVMH provides essential support, investment and infrastructure to help the business grow into a global fashion brand and supports the vision to grow trade in Africa. The Conservation Cotton Initiative Uganda (CCIU) was also established in 2009 by Edun in collaboration with Invisible Children, a non-profit organization that develops social programs principally in North West Uganda. The CCIU program provides funding, training and enterprise support to cotton farmers to help build sustainable businesses in Northern Uganda, one of the poorest areas of Uganda which is recovering from 25 years of civil war. Invisible Children’s role is to implement the CCIU social programs, which are savings and loan schemes, adult literacy programs, and building water holes.
TechnoServe, a non-profit specializing in enterprising people in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses, and industries is overseeing the program. The program is successfully training local farmers cotton and rotational crop growing, and training business service providers including seed merchants, ox ploughers and spraying entrepreneurs.
Over 5,000 farmers have participated in the 2011/2012 program, and over 8,000 farmers have already enrolled in the 2012/2013 season. Edun continues to develop change through trade and farming in the fashion industry. It is very rare that a house label becomes a movement, but Edun has proven just that. Although New York Fashion Week is always a wonderful occasion, this particular label is more than the latest spring/summer collections–they have made a difference.