31 July 2008

The Unsubtle Problems of Charity

Charity and fashion. Such a fitting pair, if you're inclined to believe the stereotypes. Fancy people buying fancy things that promise to contribute something to a good sounding cause. How very kind!

Saks Fifth Avenue will debut their Key to the Cure campaign in October with a tee-shirt designed by Karl Lagerfeld (yes, I know, it's a LOT of Karl...I'll scale back) and modeled by Gwyneth Paltrow, retailing for $40 with "over $35" going to the Women's Cancer Research Fund. It's kind of ugly though. If you're wanting more consumer charity options, Lucky Magazine usually has a page near the back of the book devoted to these products...the trend though is...worrisome .

In high school, I saved up to buy as much of the Ralph Lauren Pink Pony line as I could. It was perfect for my 17-year-old self. Current (well, it was then) yet also an announcement, to the people who mattered, that I was charitable and gracious. It said I really cared about breast cancer research. But then Charlotte wore it on an episode of Sex and the City and Giselle wore it out to some event and, well, yes, a LOT of celebrities were photographed in the shirt...and I came to realize that I just liked what it said about me, I liked the logo and I liked that it was pink. And what was contributed to charity? 10% of a $65 tee-shirt. It's pathetic. Essentially wearing the shirt is really telling the world that you're so happy to have donated $6.50 to breast cancer research AND are willing to give the other $58.50 to Ralph Lauren and it's factories for a regular tee shirt with oversized screen printed pink pony. I'm a label whore AND a fair weathered philanthropist?

This is extreme, I know. But I still haven't learned.

For about a year, I've had a monthly ritual of spotting Lauren Bush in some photos toting David Lauren and her FEED bag and finding myself on Amazon.com moments away from purchasing my very own FEED bag. (Miss Bush wears it everywhere and with everything, from flip flops to floor length gowns.) But I always stop short. I've never been able to find a very clear explanation of where my money would be going, and what "feeding a child for a school year" really means. Also, it's another rather ostentatious way to show the world that YES, I GIVE TO CHARITY. (Miss Bush's case is different since she IS promoting the charity.)

There is the case, that any money going to charity, research, etc is a good thing and we shouldn't judge people's motives or means - especially since revenue for these charities has probably been significantly bolstered by the retail/charity partnerships. It just all seems like a big farce for the consumer to say something about themselves...but that's what we do with everything we buy, I suppose.

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