Of course, shopping for a cause is nothing new. Auctions and sales benefitting charity have long been key events on the social circuit, not to mention some of the best places to score vintage jewelry and accessories. But now, a new wave of forward-thinking fashionistas is taking the concept one step further, launching a generation of do-good platforms that let you turn your penchant for style into an altruistic endeavor.
Since coming online last year, e-commerce site Olivela has been at the forefront of the philanthropic retail movement. On the surface, it looks like any Net-a-Porter competitor, selling a rotating selection of this-season pieces from designers like Prada, Jimmy Choo, and Burberry. But add a pair of Derek Lam’s Grecian-inspired Issa Nappa slide sandals or a statement-making Emilio Pucci blazer to your cart, and you’ll discover that your purchase will fuel more than 130 days of school for Syrian refugees through CARE, a foundation that supports the education of young female refugees at risk of child marriage. For founder Stacey Boyd—a longtime charity organizer who first conceived the idea of Olivela while on a trip to Africa’s refugee camps with Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai—it’s all about turning purchases you would have made anyway into charitable acts. Boyd handpicked each of the organizations that purchases from her site benefit: VH1’s Save the Music Foundation, Too Young to Wed, and the Malala Fund are all member charities.
Pushing the shop-by-cause concept one step further is Fashionkind, an e-retailer that allows its philanthropic efforts to take a more encompassing approach. Instead of donating proceeds of purchases from big-name labels, the platform vets each brand before onboarding them to ensure that their business practices are ethical all the way through. Labels are then broken down by the causes they support—so whether you are passionate about ending human trafficking, supporting emerging economies, or championing LGBTQIA+ rights, you can be sure that your purchases support values that align with your own. Many brands available on the platform also donate a portion of profits to charity: Adding a minimalist cinch bucket bag from CHC to your closet will help women and children recovering from domestic violence in Chicago, while 100 percent of the profits from Indego Africa’s chic cowhorn vase will support female artisans in Rwanda and Ghana.
Launched earlier this year by entrepreneur and fashion alum Silje Lübbe, Nova Octo kicks the retail rental concept into high gear by offering borrowable gowns, formalwear, and accessories that also put money into the pockets of the charity of your choice. More than an antidote to wasteful special-occasion consumerism, the site—which currently features gowns by designers including Dolce & Gabbana and Oscar de la Renta—donates a full 15 percent of its proceeds to causes like Girl Rising and the Elephant Crisis Fund. Nova Octo’s commitment to sustainability also runs deep: The brand has partnered with tailors across the country to temporarily alter each piece to fit you perfectly, ensuring that no shipping expense is for naught. (Nova Octo also has a brick-and-mortar showroom in Tribeca for New York–based customers who want to skip the wasteful shipping altogether.)