Celebrity designs for charity

We learn about 21st Century Leaders Foundation

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With so many malls in Dubai and the UAE, it’s only natural that shopping is often considered something of a national sport. Neck-and-neck with eating out, perusing these temples of consumerism is where you’ll find a healthy chunk of the city’s population during its free time.

But instead of mindlessly handing over your credit card for another plain white T-shirt or a new black shield for your iPhone, why not make it a T-shirt designed by Coldplay, or an iPhone cover designed by Charlize Theron?

It’s all part of the Whatever It Takes merchandise initiative by 21st Century Leaders Foundation, set up by Charlotte di Vita in the UK in 2003, in a bid to spur influential personalities to dedicate energy to raising awareness and funds for the various causes supported by her Trade plus Aid charity.

The work done by 21st Century Leaders fits around nine key areas: clean energy production, carbon footprint calculation, reduction and off-setting, education, forestry and plant life conservation, health (clean water production and conservation), marine and wildlife conservation, social and environmental supply chain management, sustainable food production and fair trade, and waste to energy recycling.

Within each of these areas, there are numerous projects being supported by the foundation, which since it was established has raised US$94,673,115 (at the time of going to press) for its 80 causes.

Since the Whatever It Takes campaign was established, the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Richard Brandson, George Clooney, Claudia Schiffer, Coldplay and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu have joined over 200 other ‘leaders’ in signing up to support the campaign. All of them have been asked to donate 30 minutes of their time to either design a symbol of hope or a stick person self-portrait, and to write a message of hope for the future. Once the designs are complete, they’re used to create products – strictly under ethical working conditions, and using environmentally sustainable materials in the process wherever possible.

And the bonus is, it’s not going to cost you any more (T-shirts cost just Dhs125 and iPhone shields are Dhs120) and you’re not only adding a piece of true designer apparel to your wardrobe, but you are giving to a good cause, too.

And so, courtesy of Whatever It Takes, you can now get your hands on everything from mouse mats designed by George Clooney (pictured above), to iPhone shields designed by Eminem; laptop sleeves designed by the late Amy Winehouse, and even T-shirts designed by Vivienne Westwood and Diane von Fürnstenberg.

So far, the artwork campaign alone has raised over US$4 million, with proceeds going towards a number of projects nominated by the charity and the leaders themselves. The moral of this story? Consumerism doesn’t have to be mindless after all – now go forth, and spend.
Learn more about the work done by 21st Century Leaders and Trade plus Aid at www.21stcenturyleadersfoundation.org. A variety of Whatever It Takes products, including the ones seen here, can be purchased in Virgin Megastores across Dubai, including the Mall of the Emirates branch (04 341 4353).

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