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15-03-2005
  16
kit
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My scruff diamond

The one certainty about Ali Hewson's new range of ethical clothing is that she has never sought design advice from her famously unkempt husband, Bono. What he does offer is endless inspiration

Louise France
Sunday March 13, 2005
The Observer

Ali Hewson was a 12-year-old tomboy whose parents owned a small electrical business on the north side of Dublin when a cocky teenager called Paul sidled up to her one day at school: 'He had some dodgy pick-up line which I thought was meant for my friend. I just thought he was an idiot.' Little did she know that 10 years later she'd be married to Paul - by now known as Bono, lead singer of U2 - and that she would become half of one of those rare partnerships: a rock music marriage that survives.



Even now, with a guest house in the back garden famously decorated with doodles by Bill Clinton and Michael Stipe and weekend invitations to Chequers, there's a sense that she can't quite believe how life has panned out. Barely made up and quietly spoken, she's the opposite of a starry wife.

'None of this seemed to be on the cards for either of us in the early days. Amazing things have happened and they make me wonder - how did I get here? Why me?' she says.

In the past 23 years, she's retained her privacy by staying behind the scenes to bring up their children - Jordan, 15, Eve, 13, Elijah, five, and John, three - in a three-storey tower in Killiney, on the coast outside Dublin. If she's known at all, it is in Ireland where she's concentrated on charity work without any Princess Diana-style brouhaha. After Live Aid, she and Bono camped in a tent in Ethiopia for six weeks. As president of the Chernobyl Children's Charity, she's driven ambulances to Belarus and stomped through radiation zones. In 2002, she organised a postcard campaign to shut down the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant.

Now she's about to launch an ethical clothing company, Edun. Ethical clothing, like rock marriages, tends to have a bad reputation. One imagines one-size-fits-all jumpers crocheted from odd socks, hemp smocks tie-dyed the colour of muddy nettles. However, Edun's American designer, Rogan Gregory, has put together a collection which is more Marni than something your mother would make. There are diaphanous batwing tops, funky denim minis, floaty, low-slung skirts, jeans which are both sexy and right-on.

The timing is fortuitous. Earlier this month, Fairtrade announced a 50 per cent rise in sales. Last week, Panorama exposed the horrendous working conditions which produce 'dollar-a-day dresses'. Ali has spent four years researching and setting up factories in Tunisia and Peru, often in places where a thriving clothing industry was killed by global brands. There's also a project in Lesotho, in an area of southern Africa blighted by 50 per cent unemployment and 30 per cent Aids. As much as possible, the materials are produced organically. Staff are paid the legal minimum wage, working conditions are guaranteed and there's no child labour. Discreet labels on Edun clothes are embroidered with the words: 'We carry the story of the people who made our clothes around with us.'

'The whole idea grew from Bono's trip to Africa and his impression when he came back that what they need more than anything is trade,' she explains. In 2000, Africa had 6 per cent of world trade. That figure has dropped to a pitiful 2 per cent. 'If they could get back just 1 per cent, it would be worth $70 billion a year. 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.'

Eamon Dunphy, U2's biographer, has said: 'The best thing about Bono is Ali. She is calm, rational and able to see beyond individuals to policies.' So while she is working from home on the project, taking calls from Europe during the day and America once the children have gone to bed, I wonder what Mr Ali Hewson is doing for Edun. This is a man whose fashion sense is best summed up by look-at-me hats and tight black jeans. Is he - God forbid - having a say in the designs? 'No! It's my job to keep him away from the designs,' she wails. 'He can talk about anything else he wants to. He's a great sounding- board. He's really good at inciting people to riot. But no, he's not famous for his fashion sense ...'

Next week, the whole family, plus tutors, will fly to Los Angeles to catch up with Bono on the latest mammoth U2 tour. In the meantime, she is launching the collection in New York. Friends such as Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Helena Christensen have already rung up for samples (OK, so maybe she's not so ordinary) and she'll have a chance to ensure her husband is wearing Edun gear. 'He'd better be,' she says.

Research in America into famous sporting marriages puts the survival rate at 30 per cent. Wives complain that they end up being single parents, lumbered with all the decision-making while partners enjoy a life free from domesticity. I imagine rock star wives have the same complaints, with the added threat of even more groupies. 'Absolutely,' Ali agrees. 'It isn't normal and it's been a huge learning curve. Sometimes, there are arguments when I have to shout, "I am not 60,000 people! There's no point in getting on the table and performing right now."' Meanwhile, he complains that 'he feels like a piece of litter when he comes home because I'm constantly trying to tidy him up'.

She makes much of the fact that they've sent the children to state schools and that she and Bono can 'go to the local chipper' if they want. But couple rock superstardom with the fact that Bono has Nelson Mandela on speed-dial, and I wonder how they can really have any semblance of an ordinary life. Don't you ever say: 'Bugger world debt! Put the bins out, Bono'?

'Occasionally,' she says. And does he? 'Well no. But I'm sure he would if I needed him to.

'If I married him for one reason, I married him for this moment: I opened the front door and Mikhail Gorbachev was standing there with this huge teddy bear he had brought for our youngest. I didn't even know he was in the country, but Bono had invited him for lunch.' The rest of us might have panicked but Ali was delighted. 'It's the one image which will stay in my mind for the rest of my life. Everything that Bono had ever done wrong just melted away.'

Perhaps another reason why the marriage has lasted so long is that they've grown up together. Bono's mother died of a brain haemorrhage in 1974. While his life was falling apart, Ali's represented stability and family. 'He disappeared into this blackness for a while, made all the worse by the fact that he had been just at the age when you think, "Oh parents, who needs them?" I think the whole experience made him conscious of things most people are cushioned from.'

Neil McCormick, U2 ghost-writer and the Daily Telegraph music critic who went to the same school as Bono and Ali and whose book, I Was Bono's Dopplegšnger, traces their friendship, believes his mother's death has been the driving force behind his career: 'To lose your mother at that age leaves a phenomenal hole to fill.'

Creatively, Bono may have filled the gap with the band that would stage its first gig in the school gym. Emotionally, he found solace with Ali and her family. 'He fell in love with my mum for her cooking. He'd arrive at mealtimes. The only things at his place were Smash, cornflakes and reheated airline food which his brother used to get from work.' His father was struggling to hold the family together. 'He had to be a mother and a father while being out of work, trying to keep an eye on his children. He took a hard-line approach which did not help.'

Nevertheless, when they announced they were getting married aged 22 and 23, Ali's parents 'nearly passed out'. She wore a dress made by her mother, and Adam Clayton, U2's bass player, was best man. 'We had 70 quid when we got married ... my 70 quid!' Initially, Ali worked for an insurance company but when the band started to take off, she gave up the job to join them on tour. Ambitions to be a nurse were shelved ('Maybe my one regret') and she took a political science degree. Two weeks before her final exams and as sales for The Joshua Tree were catapulting the band into supergroup status, their first daughter, Jordan, was born.

Despite the charity work, she maintains that bringing up their four children has been her most important role: 'The job of being mother is the one I don't want to fail at. If I ever felt there was any strain on them, I would stop.'

If Jordan announced, at 22, that she wanted to marry a mouthy wannabe pop star, what would Ali say? 'On reflection, it was a foolish age to get married. We were really too young. Things had already happened before we knew how to make serious decisions. But we were lucky. It worked out. If Jordan wanted to do the same? I guess she could do a lot worse.' The spring/summer Edun collection is on sale at Selfridges

Further info .


Last edited by kit; 15-03-2005 at 03:41 AM.
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15-03-2005
  17
Iowa Girl Loves Fashion
 
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I think this line is more about the idea of it, than the true fashion of it. Well, okay, both fairly equally. If you eat organic, why not wear organic?

I'm proud of my Bono and Ali. Guess we'll see how the line does...

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15-03-2005
  18
trendsetter
 
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I like the concept of helping third world countries, but im not keen on clothing designed by bono.

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15-03-2005
  19
Wanderlust
 
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Oh bless.

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15-03-2005
  20
V.I.P.
 
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I think ti's great to have enviormentaly friendly clothing that also helps people, I don't really care who does it, I think it's important and may eb this will influence others.

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15-03-2005
  21
fashion icon
 
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I like this idea a lot, Bono gets a thumbs up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by raijin
I like the concept of helping third world countries, but im not keen on clothing designed by bono.
I don't think the clothing is actually designed by Bono...or is it? I thought he was just funding it...

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16-03-2005
  22
spoilt victorian child
 
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^ He's not designing it (2nd article makes that clear):

Quote:
I wonder what Mr Ali Hewson is doing for Edun. This is a man whose fashion sense is best summed up by look-at-me hats and tight black jeans. Is he - God forbid - having a say in the designs? 'No! It's my job to keep him away from the designs,' she wails. 'He can talk about anything else he wants to. He's a great sounding- board. He's really good at inciting people to riot. But no, he's not famous for his fashion sense ...'


The designer is Rogan Gregory, who does Rogan Jeans. Also Bono's wife has a hand in it.


Last edited by droogist; 16-03-2005 at 04:40 AM.
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16-03-2005
  23
spoilt victorian child
 
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Just saw that there's some Edun things up for sale on www.saksfifthavenue.com ...looks pretty much like the usual Rogan stuff:



Prices are not bad...$150 jeans and the like. And imagine how socially responsible you'll feel wearing them!

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16-03-2005
  24
within an embrace
 
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Ah, my love for Bono will never cease. haha.

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16-03-2005
  25
tailored
 
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there's also an article about the line in the March issue of US Vogue (the one with Sandra Bullock on the cover)...looked pretty interesting...

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j'adore couture (life in fashion and in print)
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20-06-2005
  26
Iowa Girl Loves Fashion
 
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A sample from the line, Jessica Simpson sporting an Edun tee (taken from Ebay):


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