Ali’s EDUN: Shopping is Politics*

July 4, 2005 · Print This Article

By Debbie Kreuser

EDUN—the name evokes a feeling of innocence and simplicity, conjuring up images of beauty and passion. But behind the enigmatic name, the word EDUN has come to represent a brighter future for thousands of some of the world’s poorest people.

On March 11, 2005, Ali Hewson, accompanied by fashion clothing designer Rogan Gregory and husband Bono, introduced the world to EDUN, a fair trade clothing line. Made largely of organic fibers and natural dyes, and produced in an environmentally friendly manner, EDUN is a labor of love that took nearly four years to plan and implement. As Hewson told the Sunday Independent, "We want to prove that you can make a profit while running a business in a responsible way.”

The issue of fair trade has been gaining momentum over the last several years as the economic disparities between, as Bono says, the "have nots" and the "have yachts" have widened.

According to Hewson, Africa had 6 percent of world trade in 1980. By 2002, Africa’s share of world trade had dropped to only 2 percent, due largely to restrictive trade policies imposed on African countries by trade agreements made with developed nations and international agencies like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. If they could recoup just 1 percent of world trade (equaling $70 billion a year), African countries could surpass the current $22 billion in international aid that they get a year and do much more for their populace with increased spending on health care, education, clean water resources and nutritional programs. As Hewson told The Observer, "The idea is to show that the world can do business with Africa. They don’t want charity, they want to prove that they can make a profit."

EDUN currently contracts with locally owned and family-run manufacturing facilities in Lima, Peru, and Monastir, Tunisia, with adjunct facilities in India and Portugal. Several more manufacturing facilities in Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania are slated to start production for EDUN later this year. EDUN employs people in these countries, many of whom had lost their jobs due to the further globalization of world trade that has most adversely affected Africa, while maintaining decent labor practices. Bono described it this way to, "At the very heart of it, we have the idea of the four respects: respect for what your clothes are made of, respect for who is making them, respect for where they are made and respect for the people who are going to put them on."

Ninety percent of EDUN’s cotton and denim clothing is currently made in Tunisia and Peru, and more than half of the cotton comes from unsubsidized sources in Africa and South America giving local farmers locked out of the world trade market by restrictive trade agreements made with the WTO and developed nations over the last 20 years a chance to make a decent living.

Workers are paid a livable minimum wage with basic health care provided and no child labor’s allowed in EDUN facilities.

The clothes range from perfectly tailored jeans and sexy, lacy camisoles to rugged men’s cotton shirts and T-shirts. The clothing retails from $55 to $325, with most in the $175 area. In addition to creating the EDUN line, some of the T-shirts sold during the current U2 tour are also made by EDUN.

While there’s no particular target group designated to market EDUN to, so far it’s being sold at some of the world’s more upscale stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Selfridges, Brown Thomas, Holt Renfrew and Barney’s New York. If the idea was to market EDUN in these stores to catch the eye of the fashion world in order to ultimately change the ways in which the fashion industry does business with developing nations, it must be working. The reaction from the fashion industry has been extremely positive with major articles in some of the world’s biggest and most influential fashion magazines, most notably in the March issue of Vogue.

EDUN has its own website where visitors can learn more about the genesis of the line, the four respects it represents and the vision of EDUN. Also included on the website is a short video about the EDUN launch in NYC featuring Hewson, Bono, Gregory and, most importantly, the people who make EDUN’s clothing.

EDUN is a superb idea whose time has come. I’ve already made several EDUN purchases to support this very important endeavor. The feeling of wearing something that you know was not made "with despair,” as Bono and wife Ali have said, will be more than worth the money you’ll spend for EDUN’s clothes.

For more information on EDUN, visit


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