Wednesday night was Barney's official relaunch of Edun, the fashion brand Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, established in 2004 to bring trade to Africa. I've been to my fair share of fashion launches and relaunches, presentations and parties, but this one felt like a true celebration--more of a rebirth than a relaunch.
I should, however, tell you that I'm hardly unbiased.
Edun and I share a little piece of professional and personal history. When I first read about the brand in VOGUE in 2005, I had already started to write down my own ideas about fashion's power to change the planet. To read Bono rhapsodize about similar concepts imbued me with such a personal sense of possibility that I wrote to his wife and Edun's founder, Ali Hewson, about why I was made to work for her company. Eventually, they hired me, and in 2006 and 2007 I managed the company's knitwear production, then mostly in Peru. Thanks to Edun, I got to travel the world and learn about the social, economic and environmental effects of what we wear, and the myriad challenges of creating a collection that's both ethical and attractive.
Let me tell you, it ain't easy, and under a microscope of that magnitude, even the tiniest effort becomes a worldwide example. If the designs were spot-on, they might have been too challenging for the factories. If the fabrics were vegetable-dyed, they might have faded in shop windows. And sometimes it seemed our orders were too big for the small factories and too small for the big ones. By the time I left Edun to pursue a Masters Degree in Journalism, I couldn't help feeling a little defeated.
But last year, LVMH, the world's largest luxury goods company, purchased a 49% stake in the company, and earlier this week when I stopped by Edun's Tribeca office, I found a familiar place filled with new light. Janice Sullivan, the company's new CEO, had cleaned out a slew of old samples to reveal a window in a room I previously knew to be a massive closet -- now it's her new office. Carly Battams, one of Edun's new designers, said she found an old sewing machine in one of the cupboards, and she's using it to sew first samples here in New York.
"I revived it," she said.
Edun wasn't broken. It didn't need a rescue. But it did need a revival, and it seems the expertise in efficiencies from the LVMH-tinged new guard, combined with the sheer optimism and brass tacks attitude of the founding staff, might just make Edun an industry leader of the movement Bono and Ali envisioned years ago.
Wednesday night, Ali and Janice smiled for photos, customers who braved the rain browsed the new collection and Barney's fashion director Julie Gilhart, whose birthday was the day before, boasted about her favorite gift: an Edun tee shirt grown, sewn and printed in Africa.
Come to think of it, it did feel a bit like a birthday party.