Emma Slade Edmonson is a creative marketing strategist, sustainability influencer, podcaster and fashion blogger. She heads up ESE Consultancy, a creative strategic marketing agency working to elevate brands, initiatives and organisations that are looking to focus their business to harness social or environmental good. Alongside this, she runs the podcast ‘Mixed Up’ with her good friend Nicole Orcan, where they discuss issues on mixed-race identity, racism, representation and mental health.

Emma is also the creative strategist behind successful campaigns that celebrate thoughtful fashion consumption, including Charity Fashion Live & The Love Not Landfill pop-up stores and campaigns.

With a new book on the way and as a friend of the brand, we sit down with Emma to discuss everything from sustainability, the pressure of “perfection”, and loving yourself.

 

Read the exclusive interview below.

1. You have an extensive background working in fashion, marketing and media. Tell us, was this always what you wanted to be when you grew up, and how did your career path lead to where you are today? (if not what did you want to be as a child?)

When I was very small I would create my own children’s books and I was certain I wanted to be an author. I always thought I would write. But as I grew older, writing books began to feel out of reach. Publishing and books felt like a closed community that was very difficult to get invited into until recently.

My career to date has been very organic. I’ve sort of just felt my way through it innovating into the roles and work I wanted to do. None of the things I’ve done existed as named roles when I first started in the space.

Looking back, I can see that I tend to lean towards work that feels like it’s where I can make the most impact with my skill set and experience. And because of the inherently evolving, nature of the quest for a more sustainable future – ie we are constantly having to learn more and reevaluate to offer solutions to the extreme challenges we are facing – I feel like this has meant my role in the work I do is constantly evolving.

2. Obviously, your focus, personally and professionally is rooted in your passion for sustainability. What is your first memory of knowing this was something you wanted to pursue? Was this something that grew gradually or was there a sudden moment of revelation? 

I have always been into second-hand clothing and clothing with a story, but when I learnt how much waste we were creating through the throwaway culture and relationship with fashion that many of us had sleepwalked into – I wanted to open a dialogue. I wanted to work to change attitudes and behaviours towards existing textures long term. That’s how Charity Fashion Live was born which was my first big behaviour change campaign. We recreated LFW looks in real-time as they came out on the catwalk using only what we could find in a single charity shop to prove the value of second-hand. It seemed like the most exciting way to open up a conversation with young people and fashion-focussed people on how beautiful second-hand textiles are. 

We started the campaign in 2010 and did it for seven seasons, reaching millions of people as we hosted it across social media (Instagram, Twitter and YouTube film). It featured in the official Fashion week magazine and, eventually, even the designers would tweet us their encouragement saying ‘we can’t wait to see what you come up with – we know you won’t let us down.’ — Sibling London 

I think this sparked much of the work I did following this. Whether it was redesigning Cancer Research stores, to bring in a younger audience or other campaigns like ‘Love Not Landfill’, which targeted 16-24-year-olds to challenge them to choose second-hand as the first port of call. 

Image by Phil Taylor

3. What is the most challenging part of navigating the sustainable retail landscape today? 

For me, it’s the realisation that the work you’re doing is trying to answer an existential question. We must make progress, and that can sometimes feel daunting.

We are at a stage where we need the Government and big businesses to change their processes, structures and priorities as a matter of urgency. So whilst there are many roles for people to take up to contribute individually, we can no longer work in silos. The challenges are intersectional, so we need to approach them in this way. It can be challenging to get people to buy into that. 

4. To follow on from that, do you find there are any personal challenges placed upon you as an individual within this community? Is there a pressure to be “perfect”? 

There is no such thing as perfection in this space. The quest for perfection can become the enemy of progress in my mind.

It certainly doesn’t breed honesty and transparency which is still key. The fashion industry and fashion retail sector are still a pretty murky place despite calls for transparency.

I don’t want to feed anyone’s idea that I am striving to be the perfect example. I’m not – I’m simply doing what I can and sharing what I learn that might help others do the same along the way.

Image by Phil Taylor

5. The “Mixed Up” podcast is such an incredible community which you and Nicole have built over the past year discussing important issues such as race, identity, representation and mental health. What has been the most rewarding thing about starting this podcast? Are there any special guests that you would love to interview? 

For me, it’s the immediacy of the effect of the work. People message us all the time, saying how they have been waiting for this space and these conversations their whole life. When people tell you your work makes them feel seen it’s the most incredible reward. Much of my work in sustainability has taken years to see results, but that’s the nature of it. So this work, where you can feel the impact so immediately, really keeps me motivated.

I would love to interview Colin Kapernick and Obama (of course).

6. When people listen to “mixed up” what do you hope they will take away from each episode? 

I believe understanding is the bedrock of compassion – and because we speak to people from all cultures and all different heritage backgrounds – we get to delve into such a broad spectrum of lived experiences. So ultimately, I hope people learn something about an experience that is not their own each time. I hope people use it as an educational anti-racism source. And I hope those who are mixed find some solace in seeing themselves represented.

7. What developments would you like to see in the sustainable retail space in the next five years?

I’d like to see legislation that moves us towards a more responsible approach in the supply chain and production line; prohibiting or penalising the use of petroleum-based and high impact fibres and materials, or rewarding the use of low impact solutions.

I’d love to see more rental and reuse innovation hero-ed and taken up by mainstream retailers. I’d also like to see more visibility of- and protection for the artisans and makers that create our clothes.

8. You’re currently in the process of publishing your new book, ’THE HALF OF IT’, which offers an exploration of race and identity through the lens of the mixed-race experience. How are you finding the process of writing on this project? And what are you finding most challenging and rewarding about the experience?

The most challenging thing is delving into your own experiences – sometimes things you might have pushed away because they are difficult for you. 

The most rewarding thing I hope will be if people take something away from it that helps them feel like they belong. 

The book is now on pre-order – out in June 2022! 

9. What three guests would you invite to your fantasy dinner party and why?

Elaine Welteroth, Obama, Mel B 

10. As women, we are often encouraged to pick ourselves apart in the pursuit of obtaining some form of “perfection”, but we’d like you to tell us, what do you love about yourself?

I love my crown- my hair. It is my superpower and I love my ability as a storyteller. I have been enjoying finding other peoples magical stories and teasing them out of guests while doing the podcast. 

Find Emma on Instagram or on her website, emmasladeedmondson.com