EDUN has been described as ‘slow fashion’ – a trend that indicates a radical deceleration of the neo-liberal capitalist fashion industry that we know today, an industry that continuously pushes for faster and larger earnings, often sacrificing all sorts of environmental, social, political and moral responsibilities on the way. The current fashion system — from anxious conglomerate-craving, sponsored fashion students to mega high street empires like Primark — is a symptom of how we consume and think of clothes in a post-fordist society: estranged from production-procedures and cost, not to forget the global system of underpaid labour that sustains it. But while Julien Labat admits that we need to see a global change of attitude towards sustainability from customers, he emphasises the role of the industry to create and respond to a demand of sustainable production: ”It is the producer’s responsibility to provide products that meet these demands; allowing informed consumers to concretise this ideal.”
The lack or absence of sustainable businesses is perhaps due to the utopian nature of much politicised business-thinking – rooted in a history of NGO– and community-projects, rather than the fashion school, catwalk or high street shop. ”Of course, as we all know, the idea is only 10% of a project, the remaining 90% is how you build it,” he explains. ”I strongly believe that EDUN has the potential to become a pioneer in this field. Playing a role in this development seduced me as there is no better challenge than to create an all new business model without existing references. You have to be creative.”
EDUN never faced a big sustainability turn-around of implemented policies, rather, the brand has the economical-social-environmental agenda at the heart of the corporation. Their strategy is radical and innovative, with a permanent engagement with the African continent: currently 95% of EDUN production is done in Africa. A commitment, Labat explains, that is both cultural and economic. ”The African continent has a very old and incredibly rich textile history. In such a difficult economic context, their industry needs to evolve and develop its own assets to grow and become competitive with other continents. Our current partners in Africa used to exclusively produce for local markets. Our challenge is to provide our skills and expertise for them to produce high end and high quality clothing for international companies such as EDUN.” Their current factories in Nairobi, Kenya and Madagascar provide essential jobs in the areas while nourishing a design culture; hopefully one that will help other businesses to grow.