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PARIS — Louis Vuitton racked up a slew of firsts with its latest “Core Values” ad campaign, featuring Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson.
For starters, it’s the first time the U2 front man has appeared in an ad without his band, and the first time a label other than Vuitton is getting a fashion credit.
Instead of Vuitton, the two wear Edun, the ethical clothing label they founded in 2005 to encourage trade with Africa, and in which LVMH took a 49 percent stake last year. What’s more, Hewson totes a handbag co-designed by Edun and Vuitton that comes dangling with a special charm that is the French firm’s first made-in-Africa product. (It’s also sold separately.)
The image of Bono and Hewson disembarking from a small airplane in an arid South African vista — with the tag line “Every journey began in Africa” — is slated to break in mid-September in a range of daily newspapers, October magazines and on louisvuittonjourneys.com. The collaboration also will dovetail with an event during Paris Fashion Week, when Vuitton and Edun will unveil Africa Rising, a temporary exhibition of contemporary African art along with a showcase for the campaign and Edun’s spring collection. Bono and Hewson are expected to attend.
Antoine Arnault, Vuitton’s director of communications, said Edun’s presence in a Vuitton campaign would give the small brand — and its mission to eradicate poverty through sustainable enterprise in Africa — international exposure.
The Annie Leibovitz image of the crusading couple portrays Vuitton’s popular travel-themed ads — which have featured the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev, Keith Richards and Sean Connery — in a new way. “When they go to Africa, they don’t go to see the beautiful landscapes: They’re there to help people,” Arnault said, stressing the Edun ethos of trade, not aid. “Theirs is a for-profit company.”
Bono and Hewson donated their fees to appear in the campaign to TechnoServe, a nongovernmental organization that fosters enterprise in the developing world; Conservation Cotton Initiative, which supports sustainable farming in Africa, and Chernobyl Children’s Project International. Proceeds from sales of the co-designed bag, a keepall style in an embossed, monogram leather, will go to TechnoServe and the Cotton Initiative. The retail price has yet to be finalized.
A major U2 groupie during his teen years, Arnault said he was surprised to recently have Bono in the passenger seat of his car as they drove out to Asnières on the outskirts of Paris, where Vuitton has its museum and a leather goods workshop. Stopped at a red light en route, a woman spotted the rock star and activist behind the smoked windows, tapped on the glass and when Bono extended his hand to greet her, she kissed it, saying, “Thank you for everything you’ve done,” Arnault marveled.
The Africa Rising exhibition is slated to open Oct. 5 and run until Oct. 17 opposite Vuitton’s headquarters on the Rue du Pont-Neuf here. The centerpiece will be works from Jean Pigozzi’s collection, including some by artists Seydou Keita and George Lilanga, along with videos and photos about Edun’s mission in Africa.
And if that weren’t enough for fashion week, Vuitton also will inaugurate an exhibition of exceptional trunks at the Carnavalet Museum here, which is dedicated to the history of Paris.