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Ali: On Bono, Africa and wearing clothes with holes


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By Carola Long


ONE LOVE: Bono and Ali Hewson - thedesigner admits to many 'fashion disasters'

Monday November 02 2009

For someone who runs her ownfashion label, throws herself into promoting charitable causes, ismarried to one of the world's most famous men and has four children,Ali Hewson is very calm.

Bono once said that there was, "something so still" about his wife, and apart from visible coyness about being photographed -- she asks nervously if she looks okay because she hasn't seen a mirror -- it's true.

It must be this composure that has enabled her to stay grounded whilst globetrotting, multi-tasking and generally throwing the metaphorical juggling balls higher than most.

After meeting Bono, Hewson focused on bringing up their two girls and two boys, and the couple had a rule that they shouldn't spend more than three weeks apart.

However, in 2005 she and her husband set up the ethical fashion label Edun because "Bono and I wanted to trade on the ground with the government, to put our money where our mouth is, and find out how easy or difficulty it was".

She says: "It was a huge learning curve as I have no experience at all. It's just basic common sense, and the rest is obstacles."

Her interest in Africa began when she was 24, and she and Bono worked in refugee camps in Ethiopia for five weeks after Live Aid.

She says she was "prepared for what it would be like when we were there, even though it was really tough, with terrible hunger and starvation and people dying every day.

"It was when I came back that I found it strange going into a supermarket, because I was overwhelmed by the fact that you could actually buy food."

She has seen since been all over the continent ("because of the type of images we see of Africa, I don't think people understand how vibrant and sexy and beautiful it is. There is something amazing about the people, something very spiritual," she says) and most of Edun's clothes and accessories are made in sub-Saharan Africa. The label's mission is to create sustainable employment in developing economies and to act as a voice encouraging the fashion industry to trade with Africa.

Its focus is ethical rather than eco, but Hewson is working towards using more organic cottons in her collections.

Hewson's only fashion training, of sorts, was the charity fashion shows she organised in the late 1990s, for which she brought over "Naomi, Christy and Helena".

She says she's not even a big shopper -- although her habit has grown -- and she wears her clothes "to death" because "it's me. I don't mind clothes with holes".

When I ask if she's made any major fashion mistakes over the years, she gasps, half joking, half alarmed: "Are you going to pull up the photograph and stick it on the page?

"I've made sooooo many. Everything was a fashion mistake. When Bono and I met at school [Mount Temple Comprehensive in north Dublin] I was wearing Wellington boots, jeans and those Shetland jumpers most days. We went to a school that had no uniform and it was an anti-fashion statement," she says.

"We couldn't afford high fashion and we didn't want to follow anybody else's trend."

Has Bono, whom she married at just 21, ever made any fashion mistakes? (It's a rhetorical question, surely. There's that mullet for a start.)

"Erm..." Have you ever confiscated anything out of his wardrobe? "Yes, but I'm not telling on him. I hope I haven't influenced his dress sense, although if I say I like the blue trousers he will put on the black ones, so it's always a struggle."

Although the 48-year-old clearly feels strongly about her latest charity T-shirt project, and the need for more thoughtful consumerism, there's no guilt-inducing alarmism or tub-thumping in her manner.

Rather, Hewson's calm explanation of her philosophy, and of some of the horror and suffering she hopes to alleviate through her business, is all the more persuasive for being so serenely delivered.


She wanted to support the children's charity Warchild by donating 15pc of the proceeds from sales of the limited edition T-shirts to its projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Hewson says: "I came across Warchild's work when I was in Kosovo, and I wanted to support them because they are working in the Congo and there are so many problems there."

In her soft, sympathetic tones, the kind that make you donate money to a cause before you even know what it is, she adds that "children are always the silent innocent victims of war and Warchild are just trying to stem the bleed."

She is sweetly excited about the T-shirts -- she's wearing one with Chanel wedges, a black blazer and skinny black jeans -- and her smokily made-up eyes brighten as she explains how nice and long they are.

The animal motifs are are the brainchild of illustrator Jo Ratcliffe whom Ali told to use something "raw and Africa-focused".

Behind the gentle exterior and youthful prettiness, she is determined.

She says, "The consumer is now thinking, 'What are my clothes about?' and if something doesn't have a good story and it's not transparent, people won't want it."

In her gentle, rather than evangelical manner, Hewson acknowledges that, "most of the time I want to know where something came from, but it's very hard to shop that way".

If other labels can match the strength of Hewson's thirst for change, fashion's collective conscience could become a lot clearer.

The Edun T-shirts are available at Edunonline.com

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Ali, the woman who expresses the feeling of love right thru her face. I never though I would see LOVE so clearly defined in another human being. I always thought of it as a feeling, actually never met or seen anyone who allows me to see "the description of love" thru our very own expression, so strong, so clearly. God bless you Ali and all your beautiful family and the Prince too. Realm sees a true Royal Line Family in Bono's wife, and children. I cannot explain the spiritual value Bono brings to all of us in this current life. He surely is not just Mr. Hewsen. He is a Man of High Value in the invisible, spiritual Realm. I hope there are people, like Little Ram who can understand what I mean. Bono is a man capable of extending the life force of another person. I am one of those "daisies" he has managed to keep alive. I know what I see in Bono, I am never wrong regarding these dimentional spiritual things, since I was 6, I can see more than most. Life is sometimes not easy seeying into the future before things actually occur. There is suffering involved with that too. But Bono, the Prince, he is always good news, lights everywhere, clean energy. I swear, he has the best energy. Ali, God bless you again and your childlren and Bono.

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