Ali Hewson’s ethical initiative includes vegan leather bags made from Ugandan trees By Suzy Menkes
Ali Hewson is standing on the tiled floor of a Tribeca gallery, explaining how Edun's ethical programme has moved forward since I spotted a vegan bag made from pineapple last season.
“Now we have bags made from tree bark in an environment-friendly process to turn it into leather,” Ali said. “Having the store gives us great feedback; we need to have somewhere people can see the whole collection together and we can move forward slowly, and also online.”
This Out of Africa vision starts with a colourfully decorated, hand-customised motorcycle taxi from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Rich with jewels and joyful in its crazy additions, it draws crowds to the gallery window.
When they come inside, there are plenty of tempting accessories, from a Kenyan ‘Bibi’ bag with a giraffe print to ceramic jewellery and vases made from Kenyan clay by Kazuri Beads, which employs 300 local women. There are faux-fur embroideries and up-cycled leather weaves from an Ethical Fashion Initiative in Burkina Faso, while a shaggy faux-fur knit is another innovative eco-fabric made in Madagascar.
Now that it is owned by LVMH, Edun’s fashion collection is recognised for both its individuality and attention to detail, including hand-made embroideries in an alphabet pattern.
With a circle of ‘trees’ as background, the new collection looked both tribal and sophisticated, meaning that a graphic play on diagonal stripes and more regular checks were combined; or that a playful mix of miniature elephants, giraffes and other animals appeared on a sharply-tailored coat.
The online ‘e-shop’ has images of the handwork being made in different African territories, suggesting that clients are beginning to see something special and luxurious in ethically sourced and produced clothes and accessories made by hand.