Virginia Bruce for the R.E.A.L Store
Sydneysiders are invited to support an innovative new designer retail store in Woolloomooloo that showcases social, ethical and sustainable design and supports charities and causes across the globe.
The r.e.a.l store at 91 Bourke Street represents ordinary products with extraordinary messages to inspire, engage and facilitate positive social change. The r.e.a.l store will also be trading online before the end of October, 2010, allowing conscious consumers to browse and buy the store's unique products from their home comforts.
The r.e.a.l store, which has been operating since 1 September, is embedding philanthropy into designer products that people would love to have. It's giving consumers an opportunity to participate in a range of initiatives that promote community development including indigenous literacy, education of children displaced in the Congo and prisoner rehabilitation. At least ten per cent of the store's sales are used to support these programs.
All the brands and products whether they be clothing, accessories, homewares, furniture, jewellery, candles, stationery or artwork are carefully selected to communicate a message for humanity. Each respective message can be found in the provenance, concept, design, writing or graphics in, on or around every item or brand for the store. Creativity and design is a positive visceral force that The r.e.a.l store harnesses to achieve its objectives.
Social entrepreneur Virginia Bruce, the owner and founder of the r.e.a.l store, says she is committed to creating an international brand that prizes social and economic value creation, "I believe in the butterfly effect: one small act can create a big impact. When someone loves what they do, that is the energy they place into their work. The r.e.a.l store seeks to add value to our world without depleting it, but just as important, if not more, we seek to add value to humanity. Our philosophy is self to other, to society, to humanity and beyond - always full circle," Virginia Bruce says.
The r.e.a.l store supports a number of causes including:
Hands That Shape Humanity (Hands) - a social enterprise committed to affecting positive social change through action. One of the key projects is a global multimedia exhibition that features 36 high profile participants including Desmond Tutu, Carlos Santana, Queen Noor, Anita Roddick and a wide variety of actors, musicians, authors, artists and philanthropists.
Protect The Child -is inspired by College of Fine Arts graduate Jason Giam and aims to raise funds for NGO Save the Children to facilitate education for children who have been displaced as a result of the Congolese Civil War.
SEAT -is aiming to raise funds for the NGO Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation through the sale of SEAT, a small bamboo stool that was designed by College of Fine Arts graduate Niki Banados. The stool has a compartment that holds a children's story book written by Leslie Hancock. SEAT is also providing a sustainable business opportunity for a community in Vietnam through its production.
All the products sold at the r.e.a.l store have been made with love and care, in ethical and sustainable environments, without compromising a sense of design aesthetic. The goods are sourced from Turkey, Kathmandu, Bali, Oregon (USA), China, Vietnam, Japan and Australia.
For more information on the r.e.a.l store and r.e.a.l initiatives please go to
www.therealstore.com.auInterview with Virginia Bruce
Virginia Bruce - is a social entrepreneur who has worked as a brand and business consultant for the past 20 years with major global brands in the USA, China, Asia, Middle East, Europe. Seeing the power of global brands and their ability to affect people's behaviour, Virginia was inspired to build a brand that could create social and economic value creation. The r.e.a.l store is a culmination of her experience and journey that creates sustainable business opportunities for communities around the world and, in turn, supports a number of important causes and charities.
Question: Can you explain the concept behind The r.e.a.l store?
Virginia Bruce: Ordinary products with extraordinary messages. We're a showcase for social, ethical and sustainable homewares, clothing, furniture, personal care items and books that we find inspirational.
Question: Why did you decide to call it the r.e.a.l store?
Virginia Bruce: It's an acronym for Reality Energy Altruism and Love. I love what all these things stand for and I think the real store concept is an incredibly grounded and real. It all fits.
Question: How is the r.e.a.l store unqiue?
Virginia Bruce: We try to source products that have a traceable cradle-to-cradle life span. We also run charity initiatives through the shop. We promote conscious consumerism and we can always explain the impact of all the products in our store.
Question: What products does the store sell?
Virginia Bruce: The concept is ordinary products with extraordinary messages, which leaves it pretty open. We currently stock furniture, homewares, giftware, clothing, soaps, books, music and also the products for our charity campaigns Protect the Child and SEAT.
Question: Where are these products sourced from?
Virginia Bruce: All over the world. We have clothes made in a prison in Oregon (Prison Blues), disposable tableware made in Japan (Wasara), furniture from China, Indonesia and Tibet (Water Tiger) and locally handmade jewellery and candles.
Question: What programs does the r.e.a.l store support?
Virginia Bruce: Protect the Child: campaign to raise funds for NGO Save the Children to build a school in the Congo.
SEAT: to raise funds for The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.
Question: Why did you choose to support these causes?
Virginia Bruce: We work with the Hands That Shape Humanity, and together we run a Hand Up Mentor Program through universities. The students are asked to design an ordinary product with an extraordinary message. So, one of the students designed SEAT- a sustainable stool for 5-10 year olds. This inspired the idea of reading and community, so we approached the ALNF. Protect the child was also a Hand Up Program outcome, although Jason Giam the designer, chose the cause. He designed the graphics around raising awareness about the war in the Congo. We thought they were really cool, so we approached Save The Children, who already have a base in the Congo, and they partnered with us to sell the Ts and raise funds for their programs.
Question: Can you explain your 'butterfly effect'?
Virginia Bruce: It just shows that one small thing can have a huge impact. SEAT for instance started with Hands That Shape Humanity which inspired the message left by Georgia Byng (childrens author and Hands participant), which through the Hand Up Mentor Program inspired Niki Banados to design a sustainable stool for children. The SEAT is being produced in a sustainable factory in Vietnam, which siginificantly contributes the economy of the community, especially the women. From there, SEAT comes back to Australia and becomes a catalyst for community engagement, and will raise funds for The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation who do the important work of raising literacy levels in Indigenous communities. From there the project will continue to evolve, continuing to affect positive social change in a continuum we call the butterfly effect.
Interview by Brooke Hunter