Filmmaker works with Artangel and faith-based groups to celebrate ‘hope’ of charity shops. The charity shop is opening in the most unlikely of locations: the Selfridges department store on Oxford Street in London.
Miranda July said she was interested in the impact of selling low-cost clothes so near to garments worth thousands. Font:: Getty Images
The pop-up shop, opening on Thursday, is curated by the filmmaker, artist and author Miranda July for Artangel, which is known for staging bold and inventive art in unusual places.
Despite its upmarket location, it will be like any other charity shop, full of donated secondhand goods available at low prices. July also chose to make it the UK’s first interfaith charity shop, working mainly with Islamic Relief but also with the Jewish charity Norwood, the London Buddhist Centre and the Spitalfields Crypt Trust.
For July, who grew up in California and lives in LA, the project is a celebration of charity shops in the UK. “Every faith, every disability, every cause has a charity shop and that just doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world,” she said. “There’s something that feels very hopeful about them.”
July worked with Islamic Relief, the Norwood Charity, the London Buddhist Centre and the Spitalfields Crypt Trust. Font: Getty Images
During her wanderings down London high streets over the years, July had always been struck by the religious tolerance these shops represented. “Islamic Relief stuck out to me because that just would not exist in the US,” she said. “Besides the fact there isn’t the same Muslim population, it would just be seen as too scary.”
July had been thinking about the project before Donald Trump instigated his travel ban in the US, prohibiting people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering. But the ban made her confront the way Muslims, and even the word Islam, are treated in America.
Yet concerns that she did not have “the right” to bring religion, and interfaith cooperation, into the Artangel project led July to consult religious leaders from a variety of faiths. She said: “I actually talked to a scholar of Islam, and he told me that if you have to be an expert on something to defend it, then that just ruins the whole point of it.”
The shop is as much a curated art piece as a functioning retail venue and it has July’s distinctive style, with the offbeat and sometimes bizarre tone that infuses her films and books.
July is known for setting up the feminist film archive Joanie 4 Jackie, so it is perhaps unsurprising that all the books and films sold in the charity shop will be written or made only by women. Only “really blingy or really practical” shoes will be allowed and only certain types of pleats. Clothes for premature babies and useful items such as children’s winter coats will be in abundance. July said she was interested in the impact of bursting the Selfridges bubble of luxury, with a blouse priced at £3 just metres away from one selling for £3,000.
The Artangel project has been five years in the works and came together as July finished writing her new film, which she will make next year. Unlike her two previous feature films – Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) and The Future (2011) – she will only direct and not star in it. The film will focus on two women, one in her 20s and the other in her 60s.
July said there was something very appealing about people encountering the charity shop without thinking it a precious piece of art, inaccessible and untouchable. “What’s nice is that it is inherently participatory. You apply your taste, you choose things, sometimes you take off all your clothes and put on strangers’ clothes in this case, and there’s a transaction when you buy something,” July said. “So that’s seductive, because it means all different kinds of people feel comfortable.”
Miranda July’s interfaith charity shop is open from 31 August to 22 October on the third floor of Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB