A clean slate. That's what Danielle Sherman was given after being appointed creative director at Edun, the LVMH-backed, ethically sourced collection that was founded in 2005 by U2's Bono and his wife Ali Hewson. The original idea for Edun—to effect a real change in developing countries by employing locals to produce clothes instead of simply offering aid from the proceeds generated by said clothes—has stuck, but its designers haven't. First, there was Rogan Gregory, who departed in 2007. Then came Irish designer Sharon Wauchob, who led the label for six seasons. But while these designers are talents in their own right, their ideas for the brand were never strong enough to make it more than a do-gooder label with starry associations. As with much socially responsible fashion, not enough attention was paid to the actual clothes. And as great as it is to buy something that you know was produced in an ethical way, you're only going to buy it if it looks good.
Sherman, who helped launch The Row and was design director of T by Alexander Wang for the past five years, has approached her first position at the top in a decidedly different way from her predecessors. And the initial results are more than promising. To start, she has an opinion. About everything. "The fit, the fabrication, the logo—we're redefining it all," said the designer just days before her Spring runway show. "For me, it's about creating clothes that women want to wear."
Sherman's new definition of Edun is about "flattening" the silhouette: shirts, blazers and coats are collarless, given dimension through piping on pajama blouses and a handwoven basket weave on a crop top. That cropped shell was worn over a loose tank and a pair of louche box-pleat trousers in white, which were printed with rows and rows of right triangles in brown (a color designers often seem afraid to use). Deep-slit wrap skirts were slung low on the waist and many were done in a rich, rusty leather, some handwoven to create a graphic checkerboard. Sherman was also intent on slicing up the side seams of T-shirts—it lets the wearer tuck the front in and leave the back loose. High side slits on long, straight skirts—again in white—were also prevalent, made to look more nomadic than sexy paired with matching Birkenstocks. A standout long skirt was a stretch-viscose white crepe with rust-colored leather stripes going up those side slits; they gave it an almost collegiate appeal.
To be sure, Edun's altruistic intentions remain, and Sherman is working with artisans throughout the world to create the wares she wants. The designer visited Africa earlier this summer to get the company's factories there on track with her new vision. And that influence can still be felt, especially in the jewelry—like a horn and crystal neck cuff—or the baja hoodies done in leather and knitted mélange rope. In the past, Edun sat on the contemporary floor at department stores; this new collection will be upper-contemporary, or, as Barneys is now calling it, "development." It reflects the new level of prestige Sherman has brought to the brand—finally, the strength of Edun's clothes will match the strength of its mission.