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Living up to a recent pledge that its socially conscious clothing label should be as much about design as it is about message, Edun has named Sharon Wauchob creative director.
The company is hopeful Wauchob, who will continue to design her 10-year-old signature collection in Paris, will breath a little more fashion into the collection and amplify its offerings. At ease in the luxury arena, Wauchob is no stranger to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which took a 49 percent stake in Edun last year. In 1997, a few years after graduating from Central Saint Martins, she packed up for Paris to work on textile development and accessories for the Paris-based group.
Finding Wauchob “wasn’t easy” and quite a lot of other designers were interviewed beforehand, according to Edun’s Ali Hewson, who cofounded the brand with her husband, Bono. “Sharon was the one that stuck with us more so than anybody else, due to her thoughtfulness, her obvious talent and just a feeling she is really growing into something. This is her time. She’s of the 21st century in a big way.”
News that she had been approached by Edun first appeared in WWD last month.
Aside from having an aesthetic that suits Edun, Wauchob has a real connection to the clothes she designs that was significantly different from other candidates, Hewson said. “It’s all three-dimensional with her. She wasn’t just drawing — it’s the feeling of the clothes. For us, that’s really important because it’s about the story behind the clothes. We try to be more about the person, the clothes, where they come from — it’s more than just a flat idea.”
Edun is rooted in creating trade opportunities in developing areas of the world, especially Africa. While the brand is not aiming to own any of the factories it uses, executives are keen on sharing their finds with other companies with the idea that increased production will make them more sustainable, improve their capabilities and strengthen these impoverished pockets of the world. With Wauchob on board, Edun will try to do its part by developing more outerwear, which has been limited in the past, and introducing cashmere to the collection.
“LVMH has helped us to understand that a design company has to be the whole thing and that they can help us to find places to manufacture and deliver,” Hewson said.
Wauchob’s first collection for Edun will bow in spring 2011. She succeeds Rogan Gregory, whose contract wrapped up at the end of 2007. U2’s stylist, Sharon Blankson, temporarily filled the position in 2008 and 2009. In the process of assembling a New York-based design team, Wauchob is prepared for the extensive travel between New York and Paris, as well as Africa and Peru, where she plans to work side-by-side with factory workers to ensure her design requests are being optimized and encourage employees to expand their abilities.
“To some extent, fashion became so disjointed from the actual production of it. You read fashion interviews, and they often don’t talk about how things are made or where they are made,” Wauchob said. “It doesn’t make sense to me. Production is so intrinsic, whether you are dealing in luxury or not. We can keep speeding things up and speeding things up. But the funny thing about fashion is it’s actually a very hands-on product. It’s not a computerized process. Often, if not always, that gets forgotten.”
Wauchob said her new job will give her the opportunity to develop limited editions and new ways of addressing the market — “and it’s a good time for some of those challenges,” she said. To cover the contemporary category and to dip into designer territory, the collection now retails from $60 to $755, which is slightly higher than in recent seasons, Hewson said. Nordstrom and specialty stores such as Barneys New York are among the retailers that carry the collection.
“There’s a strong feeling in the company not to be boxed in by regular labels like, ‘You sit here in this department and work alongside somebody else. We want to rewrite some of those rules,” Hewson said. “In some ways, fashion has become so commercial — it’s sliced everybody up and said, ‘OK, this is where you are, this is where you are, and this is where you are.’ You have to fight that a bit harder to come out of there with a different voice.”
In addition, companies are facing a greater number of mindful consumers, whose inclination to shop will no longer be determined strictly by a label or price tag. Hewson said, “People have moved on from that whole story of what was in their food to what are they wearing. They want to make informed choices. Definitely the shift of power has changed from governments to democracy. People now can blog — they have a voice. They also have the money in their pocket, and they know they can affect change that way. They can say, ‘Well, I’m not going to buy your product because I don’t agree with what you do, and I’m going to blog that nobody should listen to you.’ There is a lot more power in the regular person’s pocket, so everything has to respond to that.”