If you've ever been accosted by a professional "street fundraiser", you may agree that giving to charity is not always an edifying experience. After 20 minutes of being guilt-tripped into signing up to a direct debit for an animal charity ("Think about how much good we could do with the money you spend on take-away coffees... like that one in your hand. Argh) my disposition towards our furry friends, and indeed humanity itself, had turned a little Cruella de Vil. They got their monthly fiver, which is perhaps the important point, but even now I feel pretty Grinch-like about the business of charity. A certain amount of guilt is a powerful and permissible tactic; go too far and you risk losing any repeat business.
So how best to persuade us to part with our cash for a worthy cause? The charity- shop model always seemed a good one to me, but that's because I have a pathological need to fill my house with esoteric curios (mysteriously regarded by some as junk). Sadly, as fashion entrepreneur Mary Portas demonstrated with her Queen of Charity Shops TV series last year, not a lot of other people are similarly excited by standard Save the Children fare, and if they are, they don't see why they should pay more than a few pennies for it.
The problem here is that as soon as you align charity with a commercial transaction, people don their regular consumer hat and start wondering whether they really need or want an item and whether it's worth the price tag – never mind the fact that the money's going to a good cause. People who would happily volunteer a few pounds for a collection tin suddenly balk at the idea of paying a tenner for a second-hand Aquascutum mac that would cost five times that in a proper "vintage" shop.
Which is why the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign which launched – with much fanfare thanks to Kylie, Sienna et al – last Monday is such a canny idea. Gone is the standard charity T-shirt of old (nice in theory, but in practice only good for wearing in bed or at the gym and hardly desirable in its own right) and in its place are a host of trend-led pieces from fashion retailers such as my-wardrobe.com, Topshop and Whistles, which would tempt the average female shopper regardless of the 30 per cent that goes straight to Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
A happy marriage of commerce and charity and a win-win situation for all? Whatever your opinion of the fashion industry, it's clearly good for something.
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