8 stores that made a difference

20 Nov 2017

As we become more aware about global issues than ever before, a growing number of smaller businesses are showing us a more hopeful narrative. Many entrepreneurs are now deeply engaged in today’s societal problems, showing us that we can all have a positive influence on our planet with what we choose to buy and wear. Whether it’s caring for our oceans or helping war-torn communities, we’re shining a light on the little shops who are affecting global change.

Crack + Cider
The world’s first shop for the homeless

©Crack + Cider

“People don’t give me money because they think I’ll spend it on crack and cider” – this powerful insight from a homeless neighbour is what Crack + Cider is built on. The founders, Scarlett and Charlotte, were enraged when London’s posters claimed that giving to rough sleepers contributed to their early death: “You can’t say don’t give money, but then not provide a solution.” At Crack + Cider, customers can buy the five most essential items for the homeless (including a winter jacket, fleece, and canine packs since very few shelters take dogs). They then distribute the purchased items to those most in need across shelters and soup kitchens, selling over £50,000 worth of stock to date.

Craftsmanship from the least expected places


Flore and Edmund arrived in Afghanistan expecting to find the war-torn country they were so used to seeing on the news. Instead, they discovered a country rich in culture and extraordinary craftsmanship – something it was known for long before it was known for war. But 40 years of war has isolated conflict zones like Afghanistan from global markets, and they came across many skilled craftsmen who were struggling to make a living. So they set up Ishkar to sell their goods, not only allowing them to continue to grow their businesses but deterring them from turning to militant Islamist groups or smugglers for money. Ishkar sells a range of products from hand-blown glass to intricate kilim rugs, all of which have been made by local artisans using age-old techniques and local materials.

The FEED shop & cafe
Feed the world


Hunger is the greatest risk to health worldwide, and over 795 million people around the world are affected by it. FEED is a social business led by social entrepreneur Lauren Bush, with a mission to fight against global childhood hunger with its first shop and cafe in Brooklyn. On her travels around the world, she saw that providing free, nutritious meals can break the cycle of poverty for children in school and empower them to change their lives. For every FEED bag, accessory and socially-conscious item sold, meals will be directly donated to children in need. For example, each exclusive Brooklyn tote bag purchased will provide 10 meals to Brooklyn schools. A ticker at checkout displays in real-time the total number of meals donated from items purchased to date.

CanO Water
An effective alternative to plastic water bottles

CanO Water

The idea for CanO Water started after an eye-opening trip to Thailand, when the founders saw first-hand the amount of rubbish and plastic that washed up on the island. The shocking fact is that every day 16 million plastic bottles don't get recycled in the UK, which means they end up in our oceans and landfills. CanO Water’s resealable can is a simple but environmentally friendly alternative to single-use plastic water bottles. They drummed up huge amounts of awareness to their cause at their pop-up in Old Street station, where they built a huge container to dispose of plastic bottles for recycling, in exchange for a free CanO Water.

Danish design by women in prison


This fashion label from Copenhagen is empowering women in prison to break the spiral of poverty by knitting sustainable and beautifully made sweaters they can put their name to. Carcel incorporates Danish design with the most sustainable and premium natural materials, found in countries with the highest rate of poverty-related crime for women. The main cause of female incarceration is poverty, and their mission is to turn the time they’ve lost into skills, paid jobs, and better futures for themselves and their families. Their first collection is made from 100% baby alpaca wool by women in prison in Peru.

Acknowledging waste


Born from a frustration over the excessive use of the world’s natural resources, Ecoalf is a new lifestyle brand from Madrid that’s successfully developed a technology that produces fabrics from 100% recycled materials. Using high quality recycled materials from plastic bottles, tyres and discarded fishing nets, they’re creating a new generation of sustainable clothing and accessories. Their store is a flagship for innovation, conferences and screenings to promote the recovery and recycling of waste. Upcycling the Oceans has been their biggest project to date – a global venture that helps to rid the oceans of rubbish by partnering with fishermen.

Centre Commercial
A concept store with a conscience

©Centre Commercial

Starting with a successful vegan shoe range 11 years ago, Sébastien and François saw with Veja, that it’s possible to produce differently, without compromising on style and social responsibility. Since then, they’ve widened their horizons and created a concept store and creative space for the fashion-conscious to showcase brands that employ local artisans and eco-friendly manufacturing processes. The space welcomes a range of menswear and womenswear from international brands who all adopt transparent production methods – including Christine Phung, Repetto and Church’s.

No sweatshops, no photoshop


This feminist concept store sells contemporary clothing made by women’s groups with rare skills. From migrant seamstresses to knitting grannies, Birdsong have employed over 483 female workers. The money they make goes back to women’s organisations, contributing towards IT and English classes, counselling and more. Co-founder Sophie explained, "We aim to redefine fashion's relationship to women from a fully feminist perspective.” By using diverse and unretouched models, they continue to question industry standards of beauty. They opened their second pop-up with Appear Here in collaboration with local brands, including sustainable swimwear brand, Auria, and period-proof underwear company, Thinx.