EDUN's new Creative Director Danielle Sherman isn't just making cool clothes for the ethical shopper, she's making ethical clothes for the cool shopper.
Scope out the Fairtrade, buy a Bag for Life and plant a seed because in the garden of EDUN money does grow on trees! EDUN was founded in 2005 by U2 frontman Bono and his wife Ali Hewson, who didn’t look at the world through rose-tinted glasses (at least metaphorically - we’re looking at you Bono) and decided to bring about change in developing countries by employing locals in Africa to produce their clothes. Last April they announced California-born Danielle Sherman as Creative Director and since then the previously considered ethical shopping brand for the ethical shopper has turned into the ethical shopping brand for the girl who would usually, let’s face it, choose looks over morals. She co-founded Mary-Kate and Ashley’s The Row, before becoming Design Director for T by Alexander Wang and is now changing the shape of socially responsible shopping. Edie Campbell opened her first show with the brand for spring/summer 14 to rave reviews and her latest collection, inspired by a Mike Kelley teddy bears’ picnic is exactly what you’d want to wear if you went down to the woods today… Danielle’s got it in the bag (for life).
How was your first meeting with Ali Hewson and Bono?
It was incredible. I shared with them what my vision for EDUN was – or would be – and the most exciting thing was that they whole-heartedly believed in it.
What was your vision for EDUN?
I wanted to bring about a lot of change. I started off researching Northern Africa before I joined so when I met them I told them I was still, inevitably, influenced by it – the artisans, the craftsmanship - everything that you could be influenced by. But I wanted to bring that influence in a very nuanced way. Rather than using an animal print or something that may feel too obvious, for me it was like ‘how can I take this rich culture and translate it in a way that feels exciting and new and wearable?’
How was your first trip to Africa?
I went with Ali and a few other people on the EDUN team and it was amazing. People were telling me it was a magical experience, that the land even speaks to you and it does have that quality. It reminded me of New Zealand in the sense that there’s so much untapped territory, so much beautiful scenery – you see more land than people in the places I went. I was fortunate to meet with artisans when I was there; I met a jeweller in Kenya who we then collaborated with on the show and in Tanzania the same thing. So not only did I have an experience as a tourist, but I got to meet the people who call Africa home. I also got to visit the factories that we work with out there and see the very intimate relationship that we have with them. One factory has a whole floor dedicated just to EDUN. I got to meet all the people who make our products, the people who own the factory, see the cutting facilities – everything. We went to 10 places for 10 days, we were constantly on the road but I met a lot of people and learnt a lot. When I came back I was like ‘how can I create a collection that celebrates the artists that I met and work with, as well as something that celebrates a new vision for EDUN?’ I knew the only way to do that was to bring about total change. Something we talk about internally is that we have to bring about change on all levels, not only with the clothing - which is the most important thing - but also with the showroom, with the publications we work with.
How different is it to produce a collection that’s 100% ethically sourced, that all comes out of Africa, compared to when you were at The Row or Alexander Wang?
It’s incredible to be a part of a company whose mission is bigger than anything I’ve ever experienced. For me, exploration is really important as a creative, to see new things, to meet new people, to have new experiences, otherwise it can be quite stagnant. At all levels with EDUN I just saw huge opportunity.
Is it limiting only using materials that have been ethically sourced?
No, I feel it’s kind of the new way… People and companies are more thoughtful now about who they work with, who they collaborate with, who they have relationships with - so joining a company where that is important I find exciting.
Do you think that’s the future of fashion?
I don’t know, I feel like I can only speak for things that I intuitively know - creatively. I don’t know if the future of fashion is in conscientiousness and things like that, but I hope it is the future.
A big part of your change is making clothes that women actually want to wear but that still fit with the brand ethos and aesthetic, is that difficult?
I find it easy, being a female designer. You’ll always catch me wearing the protos around the office! My co-workers and I are the ones testing. I want to be the customer as equally as I want my mum to be the customer and my sister and my friends and other peers. In having this community around me, there are a lot of people who can give me feedback. As strong as my creative direction may be, I still like hearing from other people. I don’t think you’ll find me creating fantastical garments, because I don’t relate to that, I relate more to what women want to wear.
Do you have any top tips for living ethically?
In the summer I compost… When I go to the supermarket I try to always bring my own bag and I make my tea here so I don’t go to Starbucks!
What do you get up to when you’re not working?
I love to cook. And you’ll always find me trying – not always successfully – but trying to go to exhibitions here in New York and museums. Right now I’m always working so I don’t know what I do in my time off! Even when I go home I’m doing research. Especially because what I’m inspired by is a continent with so much culture, there’s so much to research.