We’ve reached peak stuff. This year, let’s Choose Love instead.

We just opened a shop with a difference. Choose Love is the world’s first store that sells real products for refugees. In central London, and online at Choose.Love, you can shop your heart out, leave with nothing, and feel great.

How it works:

Every single purchase goes straight to Help Refugees, a grassroots charity that supports over 80 projects across Europe and the Middle East. They will use the money to deliver real, practical items to people in need this winter. When you buy a child’s coat in the store, a refugee child in Greece, Iraq, Syria or elsewhere gets a coat. It’s that simple. Each customer then gets a beautiful card which they can give to someone else as a token of their choice.

Child’s coat, £10

We did this with the help of over 60 volunteers from the Glimpse Collective, a network for creative people who want to use their skills for good. We delivered the physical store, website, promo film and an integrated campaign in about 10 weeks. Glimpse is about giving an outlet for talented people to use their skills in a different way. We invited retail stylists, graphic designers and commercial directors to do what they are really good at, for a brilliant cause.

18 Broadwick Street, London.

So why did we choose this project? Well, Glimpse aims to help people imagine a more positive future. In the case of refugees that means a world in which we deal with the movement of people across borders with compassion, intelligence and creativity. The motto of Help Refugees is Choose Love, and this is the perfect expression of the situation we’re in. This is now the great challenge of our time, and we do not have to respond with walls, fences and fear. We have another choice, and we can take it.

The other reason may seem more mundane, but is actually closely related: we’ve reached peak stuff. Most of us have everything we need, and shopping just isn’t making us happy. At Christmas time we buy gifts that we don’t even like for people we know won’t really appreciate them. We all yearn for human connection, but we’re led to believe this can be measured by the number of objects under a tree. And meanwhile the trash piles up, the oceans fill with plastic and the world gets hotter. But we’re Glimpse, so instead of criticising the problem we want to offer a positive alternative. We tried to imagine a world where retail was turned on its head: where shops didn’t sell you anything, but were a space to learn about the lives of others and do something practical to help.

What if every high street had a Choose Love store, where alongside your groceries you could pick up a warm blanket for someone who truly needs it? What if these shops were beautiful and inviting, a place you’d go to meet your friends and listen to great music? Watching the reaction on people’s faces when they visit our store, it’s clear that we’re offering something quite valuable. If successful retail is about meeting unmet needs then perhaps we’ve found one: the need to practise compassion. People want to help, but they often feel confused or overwhelmed. Our store is a way of replacing that confusion with a simple, empowering message: Choose Love. We don’t know where this is going next, but it feels like something new.

We’re a day into this project and things are going well: we’ve had thousands of visitors to the online store and we’ve got a busy shopping month in London up ahead. And the best thing is that every single item is the right choice, a much needed gift that will be used and cherished well after boxing day.

So this Christmas, choose wisely. Choose Love.

Credit: Matthew Firpo
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