TECHNOLOGY has made life so easy. If you want to go shopping, you hop onto the internet, click a few times - and a few days later the latest in cheap fashion is delivered to your front door.

But, as Emma Slade Edmondson is trying to tell the world, it’s not quite that simple. Through her work as a consultant - and by speaking at events like Impact Summit - Emma is highlighting the grave impact of 'fast fashion'.

Impact Summit, held by Edinburgh-based company FutureX, is a platform for business leaders who are using purpose-driven business models to tackle global challenges.

"There is an ugly side of fashion," Emma explains. "Incidents like the Rana Plaza accident in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1000 workers, have a massive human cost. 

"The owners of the building knew the building was unsafe but didn't do anything about it. They wanted to keep up the cheap production and the wheel of fast fashion moving. The people that died - they were making our clothes."

And that's not all. Emma points to the recent bushfires in Australia as further evidence of the harm that mass fashion production can cause. 

"Making our clothes produces more CO2 - the driver of climate change - than aviation and shipping combined. These things are not unconnected."


To mitigate these challenges, Emma champions sustainable fashion and charity shopping. She is the brainchild behind Charity Fashion Live, which recreates high-end looks from the catwalks of London Fashion Week using only clothes found in one Barnardo's charity shop.

"I wanted to start a conversation about waste in the fashion industry, particularly among young people, in a way that didn't seem preachy or scary but exciting and interesting. It worked well: Charity Fashion Live keeps growing and we even had London Fashion Week designers encouraging us to recreate their looks."

Many of us have found ourselves going into a charity shop only to walk back out when we were uninspired by the décor, or couldn't immediately see something we liked. But for Emma, that is all part of the fun.

"It is much more enjoyable to pull things together and find unique pieces, rather than shopping for convenience. I always try pieces on, too - even those I might have initially thought were a bit weird. That's how I find my best items. It is a process, but that is the fun of it!"

For those of us a little less adventurous, Emma collaborates with major charities to make their shops more appealing to a new audience.

"The modern charity shop experience is on the rise. I recently worked with Cancer Research UK to transform its retail brand. Now, you'd hardly believe the store is a charity shop: the clothes are curated well and laid out beautifully. 

"Many charity shops currently cater to an older audience and want to attract the younger shopper, appealing to different generations while making sure they don't alienate their current customers."

Sustainable fashion will be a core theme at Impact Summit, held in Glasgow this May. There, speakers like Emma will talk about how companies that choose ethical partnerships will open new markets, improve supply chains and attract loyal customers.

Fashion rental is one trend the Emma believes will become more popular as environmental awareness grows. Some models involve a monthly subscription that lets you rent and return a set number of items, others see rental carried out on a peer to peer basis. But the aim is the same: to enjoy the excitement of new clothes without creating waste further down the line.

"We need to treasure every piece of clothing and look after the clothes we already have," advises Emma. "We're addicted to 'newness' in fashion when it should be about the joy of style and creativity."

Even among traditional fashion companies, there is a growing urgency to improve their environmental credentials. If not, they face a real risk of being shunned by younger consumers.

"The pressure is on for companies - and it's coming from the customer," says Emma. "66% of Millennials will spend more on sustainable brands, and 40% of Generation Z say that they would boycott brands that aren't aligned with their views on sustainability.

"There is no doubt in my mind that this will continue to grow; it is simply a question of whether people jump on board or whether they get left behind."


Impact Summit 2020 will take place at SWG3 in Glasgow on Wednesday, May 20. For further information and to book tickets, visit: