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A regular face in Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily, designer Edward Buchanan has become an internationally-recognized visionary in the high fashion world and a thought leader for diversity in the industry over his 30-year career across Italian houses.
Edward Buchanan’s life has been a series of bold choices that have built to a crescendo of fashion advocacy and training the next generation of designers.
A product of midwestern America and Parsons School of Design, he carved out his home in Milan over two decades ago—with fashion-requisite stints in New York City in between. Thinking big was his style as a young adult designing window displays, and switching countries, cultures and many, many roles since then has shaped his initial goals into visionary results that have deeply impacted the industry around the world.
In his 30-year-long career, Edward has rubbed shoulders with some of the most notable names in the industry: from dressing Cher to consulting on Jennifer Lopez’s “Maid in Manhattan” costumes, he’s conquered the catwalk and beyond. His platform has grown exponentially, to the point where he can now leverage it to create tangible change in the industry as an advocate for diversity and equity both within Italy and internationally.
Leading diversity and inclusion work in the fashion world
“When you’re young, you don’t even consider the pressure of what [moving countries] means,” Edward says, “In Italy, at the time, and even in Milan for that matter, if you were black or brown, you either sold Prada bags on the street or you worked in fashion.”
Edward’s 1996 arrival in Italy was a reality check to his cautiously romantic idea of the Bel Paese when he was greeted by a full customs check which included strip search. He calls this preface to his experience his “change moment” and realised it was always going to be a fight. And with that impetus, Edward skyrocketed through Bottega Veneta and the Milan fashion world ever since, consulting, designing and helming his own knitwear brand, Sansovino6.
American reality hit with the 2016 election and subsequent administration. Edward felt compelled to act and created “message scarves”—three different scarf designs beckoning action and a reinterpretation of what and how activism can appear. “I remember thinking, I can’t complain about what’s happening without actively attempting to offer an idea or an inspiring thought to what’s happening around us.”
In 2020, Buchanan partnered with Stella Jean to create Afro Fashion Week—the launch of which redefined the renowned “Made in Italy” campaign that spans all of Italian artisanship. The pair selected five of the most promising young BIPOC designers for mentorship and the opportunity to present their collections at Milano Fashion Week—the action was the first step in fulfilling the Camera Nazionale della Moda’s commitment to fashion reform.
“What I want to do now is change the trajectory of where we are as a people for the future. I want to be able to help others communicate and find their way into an industry that doesn’t always or hasn’t always welcomed them,” Edward says.
Sansovino6 was born of a partnership with a Milanese factory (and former colleague, Silvana, who he dubs his ‘second mother’) to which he intended to drive business amid suppliers moving to Asia. Never formally trained in knitwear, Edward headed up the creative strategy and vision, while Silvana balanced out the more technical side. He started by crowdsourcing ideas from non-fashion friends and colleagues, then narrowed it down.
“I asked them two questions. I said, ‘What is it that you have in your wardrobe that you covet and can’t live without?’ And, ‘What is it that you don’t have that you would really need in your wardrobe?’ I got back all of these [responses], and I chose six pieces,” Edward says.
Beyond Sansovino 6, Edward has claimed a role as fashion director at Perfect Magazine, an independent digital (and print) publication that has recently published its fifth edition. Driven by the desire to connect with younger generations internationally and facilitate the fashion and design dialogues, he was initially hesitant when Katie Grand approached him to join the team.
“I never worked in editorial, as a journalist or working with a magazine. At first I was like, ‘What in the hell can I do here?’ At the same time, a part of my everyday job is editing,” Edward says.
Functioning outside of the boundaries and limitations a traditional magazine may have, Perfect is free to pursue the stories its creators find most interesting, delving into subcultures and publishing only when they’re ready.
“I wanted to be able to bring to the conversation the things that I’m talking about, the things that I’m working on and how that in context can work with the Perfect community,” Edward says, “It’s another community project and another outlet for conversations and questioning where we are today and where we want to go tomorrow.”