There’s nothing your correspondent likes more than a spot of retail therapy. So, it was particularly thrilling to discover that Artangel’s secret project with US artist Miranda July—to which we hacks were taken after assembling this morning at London’s Beaumont Hotel—turned out to be a specially constructed charity shop located among the designer togs on Selfridges’s fourth floor.
Arrow stickers on the floor guide visitors through the racks of big name labels to this incongruous retail pop up. The shop has been lovingly re-created to resemble the plethora of charitable outlets in towns throughout the UK, down to the ceiling tiles, modular wall units and unforgiving fluorescent lighting. The stock includes the usual bric-a-brac, racks of secondhand men’s and women’s clothes, shelves of books, and piles of soft toys. The price points are the same as in any charity shop and it is operational until 22 October.
But there is one very significant difference. This is Britain’s first interfaith charity shop, staffed jointly by four religious charities chosen by Miranda July. The charities are Islamic Relief, an international aid and development charity that was the first on the scene after the Grenfell Tower fire; Norwood Charity, the largest Jewish charity in the UK with a focus on vulnerable children and their families; the London Buddhist Centre, which teaches meditation, mindfulness and yoga; and the Spitalfields Crypt Trust, where practical help is provided for people recovering from complex drug and alcohol problems. Net sales are divided equally between the four participating charities, who are then in turn donating 2.5% of their share to an additional charity of their choice. “It’s a dignifying thing, a human right to give enough to give a little bit to someone else,” Miranda July says.
The Vermont-born artist, who remembers being “giddily amazed by the sheer number of charity shops” when she first came to the UK in her 20s, points out that it is a “very British thing” to have charity shops “for every religion, every cause and every plight”. “In the US we only have a few Christian thrift stores,” she adds. Although the four charities are stocking and staffing the store, the project has been made in particular solidarity with Islamic Relief because July felt that “at this moment this is the faith that it is the most socially acceptable to be hostile to—a shop for Islamic Relief would just not be possible in the US”.
Certainly business was very brisk this morning (31 August), with a Ralph Lauren jacket skipping off the rails for a mere £30 within seconds of opening time. And a multitude of journalists—including this one—delaying filing their copy in order to enjoy the experience of buying clothes for single figures next to those selling for thousands.
Topical bargain of the day was the Artangel director James Lingwood’s purchase of Cards Against Humanity: A Party Game for Horrible People, snapped up—he says for a friend—for the princely sum of £1. It is also surely no coincidence that July’s charity shop is located directly next to the Parisian collective Vetements who specialise in giving cheap and second-hand looking clothing price tags that are anything but. Maybe time to rehabilitate some of their togs for a better cause?