Ensconced in a second-hand clothes shop in north London, stylist Emma Slade Edmondson avidly follows a livestream broadcast of shows from London Fashion Week. With a few staples, and a little ingenuity and imagination, she reproduces the latest luxurious catwalk looks using old clothes. “I wanted to prove that you don’t need a massive budget to be on trend and that fashion is for everyone and should be accessible to everyone,” the 29-year-old designer told AFP. Emma and her team have taken up residence in the stock room of a second-hand shop belonging to aid agency Oxfam, their partner in the initiative. Hundreds of items of clothing, mostly donated by members of the public, are suspended on hangers.
Bent over the screen of an iPad, Emma checks out the spring/summer 2016 collection of British designer Jasper Conran, presented a few kilometers away in Soho, in the heart of the British capital. “We watch the shows on an iPad on the live stream and I then recreate the looks with whatever I can find in the shop at the time,” she said. From the Conran show, Emma has picked out several outfits, including a pair of black-and-white-striped hotpants and matching sleeveless top. Within a few minutes, she has unearthed from the stock of second-hand clothes something with which to achieve a similar look, and proceeds to fit it to a model.
“It’s a bit of a race against time,” said the designer, trying to keep up with the packed schedule of Fashion Week shows that run back-to-back. The Conran clone readyshe is taken upstairs to the shop floor. All sorts of things can be found here, for a few pounds, from blazers and golf clubs to vinyl Rachmaninov records and old Polaroidcameras. In amongst the racks of second-hand clothing is an improvised catwalk fashioned from white linoleum. As if in a haute couture show, the model struts along nonchalantly, lit up by spot lights and camera flashes, as customers look on, half-intrigued, half-amused.
Fight against waste
The styles created by Emma will be sold on by Oxfam, with the money used to help finance its humanitarian projects. For the stylist, the idea is to “promote second hand and use of existing textiles by showing people the potential of these clothes”, while also tackling the problem of waste. “Someone once said ‘we should treasure our clothes like the good friends they are’. I couldn’t agree more,” she said, while stressing that the initiative is “not a critique of Fashion Week”. She appreciates “the value of well made clothes”, but is critical of the global fast fashion industry and emergence of a culture with a “throwaway attitude to clothing”, where environmental consequences are disregarded. The average British household’s wardrobe is worth around £4,000 (5,500 euros, $6,200) and around 30 percent of clothes in it have not been worn in at least a year, according to WRAP, an organization that promotes recycling.
“Extending the average life of clothing by as little as three months would lead to a 5-10 percent reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints,” said Andrew Gilbert, an account manager for WRAP.Changing our relationship with clothes could also lead to savings of £3 billion (4,12 billion euros, $4.66 billion) in manufacturing and cleaning costs, the group suggests. For Ali Moore, of Recycle for London, the fight against waste is all about consumer awareness. “We want to encourage people to learn how to sew, and how to repair, alter or upcycle their clothes-to make them last longer,” she said.-AFP