Pioneers Reflect on the Mission of Edun

By: Cyndi Amaya

With the launch of Edun's Pioneers Project last Sunday, business owners are turning their attention towards the activist message behind the clothing company. Started by Bono and wife Ali Hewson, Edun is a sustainable fashion line aimed at building economic development in Africa. Their mission is to promote fair trade in Africa by showing respect at all steps of clothing production- from collecting the raw materials, to the production, and finally to the consumer. With those thoughts in mind, Edun creators wanted to showcase 12 men as models for their Fall 2011 Collection who are also driven by the same goals of raising awareness for a philanthropic cause. The 12 "Pioneers" share a wide range of professions, from nonprofit founders, to filmmakers, to an athlete, and chef. During the Edun Pioneers Project Launch Party at Red Rooster, I got a chance to meet some of the stylish men selected for the project and ask them their thoughts about the mission behind Edun.

With over 10,000 miles on his legs, famous runner Jonathon Prince has run across the country through many campaigns to raise money for the less fortunate. Jonathon appreciates what the founders are trying to achieve through Edun. "It's not just lip service, it takes action to get people behind your cause, and that's what makes connection with the human spirit," says Prince. Being able to identify with a business like Edun which is trying to cause change, Jonathan started running to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims after feeling a certain void in his life; "I felt like I was kind of just floating, there was no substance or passion in my life. So I decided to tie running and helping, together without really knowing if I could. It worked out."

That same human connection was what Pioneer Jeffrey Azize was trying to capture when creating his award-winning documentary "The Human Experience." As Jeffrey illustrated, "I went out with my brother Cliff and traveled the world asking people 'What does it mean to be human?' and we found that there were four concurring themes in everyone's responses. Everyone from a homeless person in New York City to a leper in Africa, these four elements united everyone we encountered: Family, Faith, Hope, and Love." Jeffrey traveled throughout 18 countries in over a year to create the film, and hopes that by "networking together with Edun, we can help each other out through social media, to bring that message of hope to people."  Another recurring theme brought up by Azize was that Edun (is) "real"; "they have an authenticity about them, which is kind of like a reflection of us and our mission with Grassroots Films."

That same idea of authenticity on behalf of Edun was shared by Pioneer Sean Carasso, founder of Falling Whistles which aims to raise awareness of child soldiers fighting in the war in Congo. "They're pushing the envelope and we need more problem solvers like them," says Carasso of the founders of Edun. Sean was truly honored to be considered a Pioneer by Bono and Ali Hewson, who were quite aware of Falling Whistles and its mission and hope to continue their support his organization in the future.

Ultimately the mission of Edun is to not only develop economic growth in Africa through fair trade, but also to inspire other companies to do so as well. The same idea was behind the start of the eyewear company Warby Parker. Founders Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa started Warby Parker as a way to transform the optical industry. "We realized that the technology behind glasses was invented over 700 years ago and much innovation hasn't taken place since then; so the rise in prices for glasses didn't make much sense. So we provide prescription glasses for $95 that are the same quality of a $500 pair of glasses," states Blumenthal. While Warby Parker is a for-profit company, it works alongside other nonprofit companies to provide one pair of glasses for children in the world who cannot afford prescription glasses from every one pair sold by them. The company also currently has a line of sunglasses that raises money for Invisible Children. Just like Edun, "we want companies to not only think about what drives profit but to also consider their customers as well."

Clearly, the organizations that these Edun Pioneers are behind, and Edun itself, are not only making changes in the industries they're involved in but are also helping to change how people view business and profits in general. As stated perfectly by Dave Gilboa, "we need more companies that do the same and promote fair trade. We want to celebrate it and by working together we can get more companies to also help make a bigger impact in the world."

For more information about the Edun Pioneers Project and all the men selected for the campaign, please visit Edun is also offering 25% off of their Fall Collection when you use the promocode: friendsofmarcus at your checkout. Click here for more info.

Photos: Cyndi Amaya