We recently looked at EDUN in regards to their gorgeous new marketing campaign featuring beautiful butterflies from the African continent. EDUN is a brand with a great African success story and personally one of our favourite brands pushing African fashion production and cotton textile to the forefront of the global fashion industry. As a brand that speaks loudly and proudly Africa and Ethical Fashion they fully support what Africa Fashion Guide is all about – promoting sustainability within the full supply chain of Africa’s fashion and textile industry.
We felt that as a brand that has received recent controversy in regards to their production locations in and out of Africa, that we would ask, again, branding, marketing and communications consultant Cynthia Anduhtabe to write an in-depth analysis of EDUN for our Fashion Africa Business Analysis series. With a focus this month on EDUN we aim to continue to bring you more about the business of fashion in Africa and what it takes to be successful.
A FASHION ANALYSIS: EDUN
As the fashion industry in Africa is fast developing so is the need for factories and manufacturers who can enable and facilitate the supply chain. It’s not just African brands who are seeing the potential of this growth but outside brands are taking note and are venturing into tapping into the new African production system.
One such brand is EDUN and although it has not been plain sailing for them thus far (they have had their fair share of bad press and the loss of stockists due to the recession as well as to quality control), the brand still aims to increase its overall production in Africa to 40% by 2013.
So join me while I take a look at what they are doing.
EDUN was launched in Spring 2005 as a for-profit contemporary fashion brand founded on the premise of trade vs aid; a means of building sustainable communities. The company works on a micro-level to help build the skill sets of the people involved in making clothing. In addition, EDUN also continues to explore partnership opportunities at a macro level to improve working conditions and build sustainable communities where it produces.
EDUN ultimately aims to use its voice to encourage other brands in the fashion community to do business in Africa. According to their statistics, in 1980 Africa had a 6% share of world trade but by 2002 the continent witnessed this drop to just 2% despite accounting for 12% of the world’s population.
EDUN was founded by Ali Hewson and her rocker husband, U2 singer, Bono along with New York clothing designer Rogan Gregory who has since left and has been replaced by Sharon Wauchob an ex Central Saint Martins trained Irish designer who worked for Louis Vuitton before heading her eponymous line of handcrafted demi-couture pieces based in Paris. Sharon joins the team to add “ease and coolness” to the brand.
I struggled to find a clear brand personality from EDUN as there were too many mixed messages being sent out. The brand needs to focus on having a clear consistent message that runs through their work, their advertising/marketing communications to ensure that their overall personality is easily picked up on.
According to Vicki Reed, the brand’s target market is 25 to 35 year olds. They describe the ideal customer as being; someone who cares about the world and who considers themselves to be somewhat of a global citizen. While they are socially responsible, they’re not an activist consumed by a cause. They like fashion but aren’t necessarily a label wearer. They have careers but aren’t all work and no play. They are about life experience.
How does EDUN add Value?
EDUN greatly benefits from the network of contacts that Bono and Ali have amassed over the years in their careers. Bono has relationships at government level and the couple are well versed in the elite of the elite of the celebrity kingdom. The brand’s past ONE t-shirt campaign shot by supermodel Helena Christensen was endorsed by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck, Julianne Moore, Raquel Welch, Laila Ali, Josh Hashnett, Liv Tyler, Sean Penn etc.
In May 2009 luxury conglomerate LVMH bought a 49% stake in the company enabling the brand to become part of the luxury group, giving them access to an elite crowd of wealthy individuals and enabling them to position themselves as a fashion label that is conscious and exclusive.
“Being part of LVMH gives us access to a kind of brotherhood of people. As a small company, the partnership allows us to share resources in a way that we wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to” states Vicki Reed.
Taking part in New York Fashion Week also enables the brand to be seen as reputable and in with the fashion crowd.
As well as this EDUN immensely supports environmental issues and so in 2008 they established the Conservation Cotton Initiative Uganda (CCIU). They worked together with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Invisible Children in Northern Uganda to create a platform enterprise which support to around 5000 cotton farmers along with their families. Along with this they also provide practical needs such as funding and training which enables them to build sustainable businesses. This part of Uganda where they work is one of the poorest in the country which has suffered from over 25 years of civil war. They aim to continue to grow this project to reach 8000 farmers by next year 2013.
EDUN’S Competitive Advantage:
How do brands have a competitive edge over their competition? By perceiving and/or discovering new and better ways to compete in a cosmopolitan industry where competition is fierce.
Fashion brands heavily rely on using their image to differentiate themselves from their competition. In EDUN’s case, the brand is at present able to create some differentiation by heavily relying on Bono and his wife’s image and status. As they slowly develop and re-brand – focusing on the fashion, the product, the clothes, and the company rather than on the company’s mission as Ali Hewson points out, EDUN’s differentiation should become clearer.
The brand is already a big hit with music, Hollywood celebrities and supermodels including Helena Christensen, Naomi Campbell, Kerry Washington etc
EDUN’s Marketing Techniques
The brand is very much aware of the available tools to market themselves. They grabbed the opportunity of partaking in New York and London Fashion Week events to do some outdoor marketing promoting their new ad campaign as well as collaborating with Jefferson Hack, founder of Dazed and Confused on some digital ideas. The brand is very keen on people finding their messages in places they might not expect.
The brand intends on piecing together the company with greater clarity around the brand image and identity, and confidence in their manufacturing and practices in Africa through the support of advertising and communications from this Spring.
On the digital side, they have an active community on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter followed by fans and people who are passionate about causes and organic clothing, as well as pure fashion fans. One thing the brand is aware they have to do is to refine and develop their social media voice.
The brand has just launched their first ad campaign shot by Ryan McGinley featuring six species of butterflies that are all indigenous to Africa. “We really wanted to capture the essence of EDUN, and of what inspires the brand, which is duality and transformation” Ali Hewson stated. She added that it was time to tell EDUN’s story through a campaign, and to build on the momentum of the brand, which is posting double-digit growth each season.
The campaign will be featured in the March issues of titles including Italian, French and U.S. Vogue, Vanity Fair, Dazed & Confused, AnOther, The New York Times Magazine, and the Sunday Times in London.
Short “blink videos” will appear on Edun.com and via social media outlets.
EDUN’s Distribution Channels
EDUN is not short of retailers despite losing a few over the years. The brand is currently stocked in Selfridges and Liberty in London. They also love the idea of pop up stores and Vicki Reed stated “we’ll be bringing the brand identity and campaign to the store level by opening more pop-up stores in London, France and the US with the forward notion of opening our own store. We would like to grow within our retail partners and we would like to open a standalone store”.
Edun’s chief executive officer, Janice Sullivan also stated that the brand is also expanding internationally with LVMH negotiating a distribution agreement with Itochu in Japan. They opened a pop-up shop in Harvey Nichols last month and are planning a similar venture at Le Bon Marché in Paris at the end of March. From Spring, the brand will be available at Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus in the US.
It has not all been celebrations all round for this brand. In 2010, the collection was carried at just 67 stores globally, down from hundreds in 2006
However, the brand is gaining momentum from the funds injected by and the association with LVMH. The brand marketing ensures an enlargement of their client base and outreach enabling consumers that are socially and fair trade conscious to have access to them.
In 2006 EDUN launched EDUN LIVE, a line of blank t-shirts created for merchandising purposes. Edun LIVE’s aim is to help foster trade and increase long-term sustainable employment in Africa via high-volume sales of blank t-shirts to the wholesale market.
From the fields where the cotton is picked, to the spinning, knitting, and finally the garment making, all EDUN LIVE products are 100% African, from “grower to sewer” and has a presence in the sub-Saharan nations of Lesotho, Uganda, Madagascar and Kenya.
EDUN LIVE aims to put forth a business model that demonstrates that one can do business – and do it very well – with developing countries like those in sub-Saharan Africa. It is their hope that others will replicate the EDUN LIVE business model and grow the trade and employment opportunities available in these regions.
As EDUN LIVE matures, it aims to grow its social commitment to these areas and local factory communities. With business from its customers, EDUN LIVE will continue to work with farmers and factories to improve conditions in some of the poorest districts of Africa’s poorest countries.
In conclusion, it’ll be interesting to see in a few years how EDUN as a brand develops. As they fully concentrate on piecing together the brand and making it coherent, consistent and clear, they should come out on the other side stronger and better.
Author: Cynthia Anduhtabe