Emma Slade Edmondson
Presenting Charity Fashion Live
By Nathan Ardaiz
Published Apr 2016
The blackened afro atop her head draws toward the illuminated edges of her glow—glasses or not, she’s difficult to miss. She wears an American Letterman Jacket, a delicate, pink, Chinese style gown, and, as the Brits say, Nike “trainers.” Emma Slade Edmondson’s brilliant form and animatedly cool, juxtaposed wardrobe matches the exact model of her 4-year-old, socially conscious fashion project—Charity Fashion Live (CFL). Once a year, amid the clamor of London Fashion Week (LFW), the Dalston Oxfam second hand shop (or “charity shop”) in East London hosts an equally fashionable gala of the up-cycled variety. Edmondson, the creator and head of CFL, in conjunction with—nearly to the minute—an official LFW show, recreates the looks of the LFW catwalk with her own, improvised, second hand version. A “juxtaposition,” because the looks, and ensuing real time images broadcast on CFL social media outlets, show the vogue of the LFW catwalk right next to the reclaimed duplicate hastily constructed across town by Edmondson and her team. In collaboration with a cameraman at LFW, she is able to quickly assemble looks that speak to the power of creativity, her passion for used clothes, and the subjectivity of “in-fashion.” The idea, which has become a grassroots social movement in the more left leaning world of London fashion, is an elicitation of the importance of recycling, the narrative inherent in any piece of clothing, and the grand possibilities lying dormant in the attire of others (or our own for that matter). Edmondson reiterates, it’s about an evocation—the start of a dialogue that has taken four years to build up, and one that she feels is just now starting to take solid form. Adam Kahane, a world renowned facilitator (for those who follow that sort of thing), speaks of social change through the lens of Power and Love. Edmondson appears to exude both rather seamlessly. Her commitment to be in the moment with you, and listen—to let you in, and let you speak, is a mark of Kahane’s Power. The tangible directness and intention that is present, even in her outfit, exhales Love. In the spirit of Power and Love, Edmondson is well aware that London Fashion Week has its place, and therefore must be validated and respected to a certain extent. But she also understands that CFL is a direct, dynamic, cultured, and yet tastefully warped response to the highly commercialized “mainstreamness” of LFW. An especially beautiful warped, however—a seasoned contrast to the status quo. It’s a perspective and balance that is, perhaps, often absent in the world of social change. Of the creative industries, fashion represents one of the more steadfast, industrial, and, from the outside, acquiescent to the standard. There is, however, a community dedicated to responsible fashion in London (and beyond). There are those with the audacity to take a stand for their values and morals, even in the world of stilettos and superficiality. Because of this writer’s understanding of fashion, it is no surprise that Edmondson describes those who drive sustainability, responsibility, and awareness in the industry as a tight knit group. They are a seemingly polarized niche of water in a bath of oil. In periods where particular populations face trivialization, and/or marginalization, people tend to congeal exponentially, and often find ways to overcome adversity. Granted survival, they are revived with greater resilience and sharper savvy. The story of rebirth and resilience parallels, like the community it subscribes to, CFL’s beautiful intention. When the topic of expanding beyond a charity shop was broached, Edmondson recalled her previous life in the world of advertising. Specifically, she mentioned “the proposition”—a message to the audience that is so clear, so concise, that anyone listening will have no choice but to buy what is being sold. For her, CFL’s proposition is: If you are exposed to Charity Fashion Live’s charity shop juxtaposition, then you will feel empowered to find a new life in your old clothes, and equally important, you will be drawn to second hand clothes as a day to day source of creativity and confidence. The value in this proposition resonates far beyond the “millennial” target audience, far beyond the London fashion community, and even beyond the world of social innovation; in fact, it screams—side by side with its greatest culprit—at the enormities of the industry of clothing. Photography by Rachel Manns (Charity Fashion Live Catwalk/Behind the Scenes) & Chris Yates (London Fashion Week Catwalk)