Photo credit: Ivers Parish Council
With only a week to go before Christmas you might be wondering where to buy last minute gifts. Well, now might be the perfect opportunity to think outside of the box…
Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of what they are buying. Who made it? How was it was made, and where? These questions are becoming more common amongst those who are seeking to understand the chaos of climate change and forced labour; crises exacerbated by the fast fashion industry and social media which are creating a demand for transparency in companies. So, whilst we can become overwhelmed by the magnitude of these issues, there are small steps, even as individuals we can take to tackle them this Christmas.
Christmas is an expensive time of year. We spend our money on gifts for friends and family, but we don’t always need these gifts. Lucy Siegle for the Guardian (2018) referred to a recent survey by Method, an eco-cleaning company; ‘nearly a quarter of 16- to 24-year-olds said they would only be pictured in an item one to three times on social media before discarding it.’ Millions of garments are burned or end up in landfill which is having a dangerous effect on our environment. According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, ‘one garbage truck of textiles [is] wasted every second’. Rather than buying gifts because it is Christmas, instead we could consider how we can spend more creatively.
Rather than engaging in the consumer culture we can re-direct it towards good causes; turning away from a fast fashion buy towards a pure gift of compassion for someone who truly needs it. What if that blanket you bought your niece went to a refugee instead? Choose Love is the first store to sell practical items for refugees. When you buy any one of the items in the store such as meal ingredients or a warm blanket, a similar item goes directly to someone in need of it rather than you taking it home. When it opened in 2017 “the shop became a beacon of compassion in the heart of central London”.
Choose Love is a part of the charity Help Refugees who ‘fill gaps and act where big NGOs and governments don’t.’ In December 2016 the Guardian reported that a young Afghan refugee was about to go into labour on ‘a remote and windswept hillside’ in Greece. Whilst the UN refugee agency and the government were not able to move her, Crystallynn Steed Brown, a volunteer for Help Refugees, offered that if they couldn’t move the family somewhere else, she would provide shelter in her flat in Thessaloniki.
Whilst Help Refugees provides emergency aid to refugees in countries such as France, Greece and Syria, it also seeks to provide long-term solutions. They ‘create safe spaces for women, provide sexual health clinics and medical units, and support nurseries, schools and youth centres.’ They aim to get people out of refugee camps and into employment and housing. They are helping to re-build the lives of refugees. “Help Refugees are now the biggest distributers of aid of any grassroots organisation in Europe”.
During this Christmas period refugees will be battling life-threatening conditions. How amazing to tell a family member or friend that their gift is helping to make a refugee’s winter a little bit easier. From Choose Love you can purchase an insulated babygrow to help parents keep their newborn babies warm, a ‘support for women’ pack, or even buy medical equipment.
On Monday 10th December a historic international deal was made. It is the first concerning the migration crisis. Karen McVeig, senior news reporter for the Guardian, reported that Marta Foresti, director of the human mobility initiative at the Overseas Development Institute, stated how the deal could help governments cooperate to ensure cross-border journeys are safe and legal. Although many countries are still to come on board, the deal suggests an urgency to act on this crisis. This Christmas we can do something too. We can buy blankets, food, coats, nappies and so much more. We can show refugees we love them and want to support them. We can show them that they are not alone.
If you live in London, you can pop by the store and see the array of items in person. Or if you are not local you can shop online.
In addition to Choose Love you might also like to buy a tangible gift for a friend or family member whilst still supporting global issues. SeeMe is a fair trade verified jewellery brand which might be of interest to you…
Every piece is beautifully crafted, handmade by women in Tunisia who have survived unimaginable violence. Through wearing one of these pieces you are providing the opportunity to open conversations about violence against women, as well as ethical and sustainable practices in the fashion industry. SeeMe enables women to learn the craft of jewellery making. But not only this, they use ancient Tunisian techniques, cultivating their country’s traditions. Furthermore, the women also get emotional support and SeeMe funds their children’s education. Please see an interview by Trusted Clothes with the founder of SeeMe, Caterina Occhio to find out more about the incredible affect this brand is having on women’s lives in Tunisia.
The jewellery is heart shaped which represents the #heartmovement. The heart is at the core of the collection, signifying a desperate need to restore love where a dark and heart-breaking experience has replaced it.
Many designers and artists are joining this movement. SeeMe has collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld for example. Lagerfeld designed a six-piece collection consisting of hand knitted collars and gloves. In 2016 Nicole Kidman wore SeeMe’s Orange Heart, created to signify the 20th anniversary of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.
Fashion is often thought of as a form of expression, an art form. We can use it to express our concern about global issues. Just opening up one conversation about a necklace can spark more and more conversations which can lead to physical change.
Gift a Membership
The Circle membership is also a fantastic to gift anyone who believes in equal rights for women, our values – empowerment, passion, innovation, and respect and equality – and wants to be actively involved in the global women’s movement. Women are members from all walks of life – lawyers, teachers, students, hairdressers, journalists and many other paths. Through using their own skills and experience they help The Circle to raise awareness about important issues and raise funds to continue amplifying the voices of disempowered women worldwide.
As a member your friend or family member will join the community and be invited to inspiring events during the year. Events involve educational webinars, networking events as well as the Annual Gathering. A six month membership is £30 and a full year is £60.
This Christmas is an opportunity to consider how we can direct our spending towards tackling global crises and do something practical to help.
Let’s do something a little differently this Christmas and Choose Love for refugees, survivors of violence as well as the millions of other women who are in dire need of our love and support. Join the global fight for equality and give a glimmer of hope to someone who needs it.
This article was written by Georgia Bridgett who is a volunteer for The Circle. Georgia is a recent English graduate and is passionate about women’s rights and the underlying issues in the fast-fashion industry.