Edward Buchanan has designed for some of the biggest names in fashion, from J. Crew to Giorgio Armani. He now lives in Milan, creating his own line for boutiques in Europe and Asia. And he has worked with celebrities like Jennifer Lopez.
Still, the 40-year-old who studied at the Columbus College of Art & Design doesn't forget where he came from, friends say. That's part of the reason the globe-trotting designer and consultant was named this year's Alumni Fashion Icon, an award presented annually at the spring senior fashion show.
"It's always the same Ed," said longtime friend Keith Morgan, Buchanan's freshman year roommate at CCAD. "The fact that he works within those circles and yet stays immune to those things other people would fall prey to-I don't know how he does it."
Buchanan was an individualistic, artistic teenager when he arrived to CCAD from Cleveland in 1988. He immediately fit in on campus, he said, and decided to study fashion design after completing his freshman year foundation courses.
"He was always really energetic and interested in what he was doing," said Brooke Hannan, the professor who started the fashion design program and mentored Buchanan. "You could hide, I suppose, if you really wanted to, and he wasn't one of those people. He was always right there."
During his studies, however, Buchanan eventually felt pulled toward the Big Apple- as many fashion students do, Hannan said. He moved to New York, finished his degree at the Parsons School for Design, and started earning a reputation with jobs at places like Giorgio Armani and J. Crew.
In 1995, Bottega Veneta approached the well-known but relative-fashion-newbie about establishing its inaugural apparel line. "At that time, Bottega Veneta
was only handbags. And it was kind of a collection which was for, let's say, a consumer of a certain age," Buchanan said. "I wasn't so interested, because I was young, and I just wanted to do something which was cool. I was like, 'Who? Bottega who?' "
Nonetheless, he took the New York-based design director position, adding knitwear- which was to become his specialty-and leather goods to the brand. Buchanan also formed a close friendship with Manuela Morin, a Bottega Veneta designer and native New Yorker. When the company moved its design studio and staff to Milan, the pair experienced the transatlantic transition together. Morin watched as Buchanan's style sense was affected. "I think that has broadened his horizons and taste levels," she said.
Both left the company in 2000 and together launched LEFLESH. Buchanan designed knitwear and ready-to-wear pieces, and Morin created handbags and shoes. Their collections received acclaim at fashion shows and were sold in Paris, London and New York, among other places.
Buchanan adds levity-and laughter-to any situation, and that held true even when starting a line from scratch in the often-serious fashion world, Morin said.
"Edward always puts a smile on your face," she said. "And when we started our company together, it was just a lot more of that." The pair showed their final collection in 2005, when Buchanan and Morin took up separate consultancies.
Today, though, they still speak often and run into each other in Milan on occasion, as they both consult for Italian clothing company Stefanel.
Buchanan has also launched Sansovino6, a knitwear line of comfy luxury featuring light, long sweaters and long-johnlike pants in neutral colors. "I'm not so interested in selling," Buchanan said. "I just want to create great clothes for my friends that we want to wear."
But it turns out other people want to wear his goodies, too. "People responded, and it kind of took off," he said. Sansovino6, now in its second season, is available in stores in Italy, France and Japan. Buchanan expects it might be carried in New York and Los Angeles after its third season.
On Buchanan's occasional trips to Columbus, he stops by CCAD and speaks to fashion design students, sharing his sketches and occasionally putting on impromptu minifashion shows of his work.(The school awarded him an honorary degree a few years back.)
He stays in touch with his former professor Hannan, for whom he bought a ticket to the senior fashion show in May so he could thank her in his acceptance speech when he was honored.
And he organizes reunions of sorts with CCAD friends like Morgan, who also attended the show to cheer on his old roommate.
Perhaps that friendly, relaxed, all-inclusive personality is why Buchanan's designs are so successful-because they are equally as easy.
Like him, they are stylish without being ostentatious. "I'm not accustomed to being called an icon," Buchanan said as he accepted his award.
But, he added with a laugh, he could get used to it.