On West Broadway in SoHo, you’ll find high-end stores like Coach, French Connection, Karl Lagerfeld and Elie Tahari, but there’s a new brand that encourages shoppers to leave with nothing this holiday season.
Choose Love, at 456 W. Broadway, is a pop-up shop with a charitable goal in mind — it offers products and services you can buy for refugees across the world, including at the U.S./Mexico border.
The London- and now New York City-based charity Help Refugees and Glimpse, a creative collective that aims for positive change, are heading the pop-up shop, which will help supply 80 refugee-focused projects across 11 countries, according to Josie Naughton, the CEO of Help Refugees.
"Everything right now feels so political, but this is about human beings," she told amNewYork on Tuesday. "We want to turn consumerism on its head."
The shop stocks essentials that refugees need — whether they’re overseas or in the U.S. — from when they first arrive at a camp to their attempts at building a new life.
The first table, "Arrival," includes items such as a life jacket, an emergency heat blanket, a canister of hot food, a "snug pack" with gloves and scarves and other items that are used in an emergency response.
The second, "Shelter," has items for when people settle into life at the camps, including diapers, children’s boots, a hygiene pack, a sleeping bag, a light with a phone charger, meal ingredients and a hot shower you can buy for someone.
The last table, which is Naughton’s favorite, is full of things that are meant to give people a chance at a new life like mental health support, accommodations, legal assistance (including for those at the U.S./Mexican border), safe spaces for women and more.
Visitors to the store (in person or online at choose.love) can buy the items individually or in bundle form — "arrival," "mom and baby," "shelter" or can opt to "buy the store" if they want to.
Everything ranges in price from $4 to $50 and bundles are $54 to $775 ("Buy the store").
The only thing people can take home with them is some "Choose Love" merch, including T-shirts, totes, and cards featuring the refugees themselves, which gives an opportunity for people to purchase something in someone else’s name.
The project has helped refugees in Greece, for example, where there are several thousand adults and children in a camp on Lesbos, which was built for only 3,000 people, according to Naughton and a New York Times article. They’ve been working with local agencies to provide sleeping bags and other necessities.
People can see the results of their purchases if they follow @HelpRefugees on Twitter.
"Now is the time for people to do something," Naughton said. "When people come together anything is possible."
Naughton, 33, started working with refugee charities in 2015. At the time, she was working as a music manager in L.A. and had been visiting London, when she saw striking images of the situation in Calais, France, which then was home to a camp dubbed the "Calais Jungle."
She wanted to raise about 1,500 pounds of donations to drive to the refugees, but she ended up getting 86,000 pounds in the first week plus thousands of necessity packs from Amazon that people purchased, she said.
"I quit my job and set up a warehouse," she said. "There was no strategy for Help Refugees … it was needs-led and done with the support of people."
She said that London’s first Choose Love pop-up and online store did well, raising $1 million and 800,000 meals, 3,556 nights of accommodation, 25,000 essential winter items and 100,000 necessities for babies and children, including 77,000 packs of diapers.
"At a time when the world faces many challenges; when the rhetoric of hate and division has found itself center stage; we believe sharing this simple message has never been more vital," Naughton said in her official statement. "As displaced people attempt to survive another freezing winter in tents and makeshift shelters, as many families prepare to spend their first Christmas torn apart, we’ll be inviting people to Choose Love and support refugees and homeless populations across the globe.”
If you go: The shop at 456 W. Broadway is open through Dec. 24, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Purchases and donations can be made on choose.love.