“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, September 10, 2010

Do As I Say.....Not As I Do: Bono Meets The Fashion Biz

This is just too precious.

The headline on an article in today's Wall Street Journal reads Out of Africa, Into Asia, with the subheadline "A brand started by Bono and his wife to boost African manufacturing now produces mainly in China."

Here are the lead sentences in the half-page Journal piece,

"Five years ago, U2 front man Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, founded fashion brand Edun with the lofty mission of revitalizing apparel manufacturing in sub-Saharan Africa.

But when Edun designer Sharon Wauchob unveils her new vision for the label Saturday, most of the clothes on the runway- some featuring African touches like beads from Kenya- will be produced in China.

It's a big about-face for Edun, which launched to great fanfare but quickly ran into problems with soucring and delivery. Shipments from Africa arrived late, and retailers complained about the clothes' design and fit, leading to poor sales."

I guess even the wealthy liberalati eventually succumb to economic reality when it's their own money at risk.

Hewson is described as admitting,

"that she and her husband, known for his advocacy of debt relief in addition to his music, were naive about what it takes to build a fashion brand.

"We focused too much on the mission in the beginning. It's the clothes, it's the product. It's a fashion company. That needs to be first and foremost," Ms. Hewson says. "The aesthetic we always knew would be important...but we didn't realize how difficult it was going to be to achieve quality." "

You have to laugh at this precious arrogance.

Hewson and Bono apparently thought that his fame and their money would simply cause barriers to fall, existing problems to vanish, and sales of their mission-based company to magically blossom.

Mind you, the initial problems weren't even about margin, i.e., Bono and Hewson making filthy lucre, or not making it, on healthy sales of quality merchandise.

No, the couple and their managers found that African-sourced product just wouldn't sell. Period.

The article contains too many funny passages to quote them all. Suffice to say, you can't make up stuff this good.

Bono and Hewson invested $20MM into Edun, then sold 49% of the firm to LVMH Moet Hennessy for only $7.8MM. How's that for good business sense so far?

But the firm now has a new CEO, Janice Sullivan, formerly president at Liz Claiborne's DKNY Jeans unit. She relates a priceless story involving a planned fashion show,

"I felt like a schoolmarm," says Ms. Sullivan. "I sounded like his math teacher saying, 'OK now, Bono, let's just regroup here. We are having a fashion show. Show is the second word. Fashion is the first word." Ultimately, they compromised: the show is taking place in a semi-outdoor space in Chelsea."

The article concludes with this line,

" "So you can see how this brand, in the wrong hands, could go haywire." says Ms. Sullivan."

No doubt implying if the majority owners were the managers, Edun would be an endless financial sinkhole.


Fact is, Ms. Hewson's reported belief, along with her husband, in making the concept work, the African-sourcing just isn't. Despite her insistence that the brand will return to more African fashion over time, we'd all be forgiven for waiting to see it to believe it.

One very much suspects that other companies without Bono's money and fame aren't doing this concept because it simply isn't economically feasible.

You don't see Ms. Sullivan denying that, or rushing back to Africa, do you?

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