Fashion and Charity: A match made in design hell

Posted in Thoughts by Nneoma Ulu on September 23, 2009

I love working in Victoria, nothing excites me more than getting out of the station and wondering what freebie will be shoved in my hand to help start off my day. Though, yesterday was like most days in these recession times – fruitless. So imagine my glee when one of my colleagues shoved a printed tote bag in my face and upon opening it, was greeted with a glossy Grazia magazine, perfect reading for my tube journey home. I left the bag at work – never been keen on freebie totes.

I eagerly flicked through and absorbed the must-have buys for the week, then stumbled across a story with the title ‘150 rapes a day – could you help?’ sandwiched somewhere between news of Jennifer Anniston having 3 phones for each of her lovers and Ronnie Wood dumping 20-year-old Ekaterina to go back to Jo. Here was a moving story about the Simelela Centre, a support centre for the victims of rape and sexual violence in South Africa, a country that has the highest incidence of rape in the world – nearly 150 a day. This was a call to action – so what could I do to help?

Buy some shoes? Not just any shoes… Shoes from a collaboration between Elton John’s AIDS Foundation and Jimmy Choo’s Tamara Mellon.  The collection, Project PEP, is a limited edition range of shoes, bags and accessories that will go on sale at the end of October with 25% of sales going directly to help the centre in South Africa. The only problem with the collection? It’s absolutely hideous.

Project PEP Jimmy Choo range

Project PEP Jimmy Choo range via

Large Jimmy Choo tote part of The PEP Project via

Project PEP Jimmy Choo range via

Don’t get me wrong, I commend Elton and Tamara for this project, it has goodness at its core but why does the design have to suffer? The collection seems like a major departure from Jimmy Choo’s usual lustworthy goods. The print is juvenile and tacky and I really do wonder who the designers were thinking of when they put this together. The range looks like it belongs in one of the tourist shops on Oxford Street (the Tottenham Court Road end) that sell patent pleather bags with tube maps of London printed on them.

Most people would love to buy any product knowing that some of the proceeds would be going to help those less fortunate than themselves but not at the risk of owning something that is lacklustre and cheap-looking. Creating a product that no one wants to buy does nothing to support the cause and creates a conundrum for us as customers – to buy or not to buy? In this case, I’d rather donate directly to the AIDS Foundation and save my Jimmy Choo fund for some shoes that are actually wearable. Whether that is down to my shallow and materialistic nature is neither here nor there but one thing is for sure, I will not sacrifice my style for charity. So then it falls on the designer to take responsibility for their creations and design goods that not only truly represent the cause but also that their customers would buy regardless of the additional charitable draw. Fashion is about aesthetics and people who care about   fashion are not ashamed of this. Designers shouldn’t forget that they are in the business of creating aesthetically-pleasing goods especially when teaming up with those not in the business. Suffice to say, the freebie tote is likely to never see the light of day.

Elton John, Tamara Mellon & David Furnish via the Elton John AIDS Foundation

Elton John, Tamara Mellon & David Furnish via the Elton John AIDS Foundation


2 Responses

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  1. V said, on September 23, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I had a very similar experience myself. Said Tote is now rotting in the bottom of my handbag (with good intentions to be used as an alternative to carrier bags) and Grazia amused me on my tube ride home. I too thought the article was unfortunately sandwiched between Jennifer Aniston’s love life (snore) and Ronnie Wood’s (ekaterina who?) Such good intentioned design is completely undermined by the end product. I unfortunately do not have the budget to shop for such brands but I do enjoy admiring them, but certainly not on this occasion.

  2. twentyteneightyfour said, on September 23, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Well put V. The vast majority of us can’t afford Jimmy Choo and those who can will probably be avoiding this collection at all costs… what a shame!

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