I truly believe we as humans should have a meaningful, conscious relationship with each and every piece of clothing.Emma Slade Edmondson
How we think about second hand clothing is going through a monumental shift. It’s never been easier to buy and sell pre-loved garments. Depop, Hewi, the Real Real, Vestaire Collective—and so many more—have revolutionised the way we think about second hand. Some analysts even believe that the resale sector will be bigger than fast fashion within ten years!
Then of course there’s the humble charity shop, a long standing favourite of those with a good eye for style. In the colourful aisles and bargain bins, you can support a good cause and make your sartorial dreams can come true—if you know how to look.
Londoner Emma Slade Edmondson has made an art form of charity shop fashion. The consultant and creative producer is founder of Charity Fashion Live—a playful alternative to London Fashion Week shows, that tend to exclude those not deep in the industry.
“We recreate London Fashion Week looks in real time as they emerge on the catwalk using only what we find in a single charity shop at the time,” Emma says. “Sometimes the looks are like-for-like recreations and sometimes they are interpretations of the designers’ style and vision. We’ve recreated Henry Holland, Sibling, and Molly Goddard among many other designers and each year we share our recreations and engage people over social channels— Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.”
Charity Fashion Live started out with Emma and some friends in their local charity shop, and grew to a full-on production —models, makeup, set design, the lot. The team also produces a short film of each event that captures the energy of the day and that shares key facts and figures around fashion’s impact on the environment.
This show is for everyone and you can join in online wherever you are. This inclusivity vibe seemed to be infectious and people loved tuning in—even the designers themselves have got in on the action in previous years with words of encouragement and appreciation. The last show we did, Henry Holland was an ambassador of the event.
Emma’s enthusiasm for fashion is infectious, but it’s the role of ‘sustainable fashion educator’ that drives her.
“Everything I do is with an eye on sparking and nurturing behaviour change,” Emma says. “For example, I co-produced and creative-directed the Love Not Landfill pop up shop, housing charity collections curated by influencers; (an event with The London Waste and Recycling board). This was focused on getting 16-24 year olds into the space to consider second hand clothes as a viable option for them, and to introduce them to sustainability fashion facts and stats.”
As well as championing the charity shop, Emma works with sustainable brands on everything from marketing strategy and creative direction, to events and sourcing.
“Nowadays the work I do tends to be directed at creating behaviour change over time,” she says. “With this in mind, many of the projects, campaigns, and strategy I work on for brands have some agenda that intends to either open a conversation around sustainability with new audiences, or to educate, create further appeal for sustainable, ethical and second hand alternatives to fast fashion.”
So which one pre-loved find of Emma’s stands out above all the others as her favourite?
“Tough question—I have so many favourites and the top spot is on rotation!” Emma says.
Currently I am in love with some Coco Chanel mini wedge heel peep toe sling back sandals. They are classic but simultaneously striking because the wedge is metallic and the upper is PVC with patent leather trim. I’m always looking forward to warm weather so I treasure those summery pieces I can make sunshine memories in!
I don’t know about you readers, but my attempts at charity shopping have never returned anything as wonderful as Chanel peep-toe heels. Going in without a strategy seems to be the first mistake. Like with anything else, there’s a skill to charity shopping that can be honed.
Here are Emma’s top five tips for charity shopping and thrifting:
1. Discover your local charity shops and vintage stores
Become a regular and bag yourself a bargain: Charity shops can be full of little treasures and unique finds. Give yourself some time to enjoy the process—take an entire afternoon to trawl the local charity shops or vintage stores or make a habit of popping in more regularly on your way home to see what’s new in. One thing you can almost be sure of is that when you find something you love, it’s unlikely anyone else is going to be wearing it!
2. Don’t try to mirror an era! Instead mix your eras
Team a pair of 70’s cowboy boots with a more delicate 90’s slip dress, layered over a 60’s turtleneck and boom you’ve nailed a look that channels GANNI’s Scandinavian bold but simple feel! Plus—you’re going to look much less like you stepped out of your nan’s closet and more like an accomplished style expert.
3. Catch the trend on its way back around
Trends always come back around, so finding pieces that are key for this season in a vintage store or in the charity shop really isn’t as hard as you might think! Here are some trends to look out for this season.
4. Have a clear idea in mind
In some respects, if you’re unprepared, charity shopping can feel a little like sale shopping. If it’s your first time at the rodeo, I recommend hitting the shops with a clear idea of what you’re looking for in mind to avoid feeling overwhelmed or unsure.
So, decide on an occasion you’d like to shop for and look firstly for a key piece you can build around. This key piece can either be from the charity shop or vintage store or it can be from your existing wardrobe. If you’re starting with an item you already own, bring it shopping with you to help you complete your look.
If you need inspiration, the easiest place to start is the season’s trends, your favourite Instagram fashion crush, or a brand you love like Reformation, whose styling of key pieces you can aspire to.
5. Re-think the way you wear things and ‘style clever’
Try not to get stuck in a rut with the way you might ordinarily wear a piece. Get creative and check out the trends online for inspiration. And always, always be prepared to spend time trying things on. Think:
- Layering turtle necks, sweaters, or even jeans under strappy slip dresses to get more wear out of them as we transition through the seasons.
- Mix athleisure with the rest of your wardrobe. For example, wearing silk sweatpants with a crisp white shirt and heels, creating a chic office look.
- For winter—join the multiple jacket trend seen at Balenciaga. For a less dramatic look, layer just two of your jackets together, for example a utility jacket with a teddy coat over the top.
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Just waiting for one of the other mermaids to come pick me up. Been stranded on this rock for a minute fam…Happy Earth Day 🌍. . I’m kicking off the first day of #fashionrevolutionweek with the 2nd of my love stories series for @Fash_rev explaining why pieces I own are so important to me and the stories behind them. This one covers the whole look – my traditional ankara fish tail wedding dress (designed by myself and @obeselise ) and crafted by the talented Zeek was the star of my Esan Nigerian ceremony. Needs no further explanation… The heart pendant was gifted to me by my Nan and has a picture of my Nan and my late Grandad when they were hot young things inside it, along with a picture of my great grandma and grandad. The creps I commissioned and they were hand painted in the design of my wedding cloth. I urge you to zoom in for the level of accuracy!! It’s insane. 😅😝. They are my favourite footwear. forever. fullstop.