Brooks Cook makes shopping a good deed

It’s a novel concept. Do what you are going to do anyway (shop), but make it a good deed (give back). So simple, so genius. It’s the concept behind the Culver City-based e-commerce site Community Collection, launched last month by 26-year-old Los Angeles-native Brooks Cook. “I wanted to give [to worthy causes], but I didn’t have faith in the way charities were accountable for the funds they use,” says Cook, who left his job at the private-equity arm of a real estate development and investment firm when the earthquake in Haiti convinced him he wanted to do something that would make a global difference. “The money can fund an executive director’s salary or TVs in conference rooms—you never really know if it actually goes into the cause you want. So I set out on a journey to create an opportunity for transparent giving, where the consumer would be able to understand exactly how their donations impact those in need.”

Cook describes the site as a place for women to “get style and give back.” The style part is care of some 200 designers the site has partnered with—Marchesa, Helmut Lang, Alexis Bittar, Diane von Furstenberg, Pamela Love, and Current/ Elliott, to name a few. And the giving-back element comes from the approximately 20 charities Community Collection has aligned with—Goods for Good, World Wildlife Fund, American Cancer Society, Heal the Bay, Partners In Health, and Best Friends Animal Society among them—each paired to a designer who cares about that cause.

Shopping That Serves
The premise is simple: Buy something from one of the designer boutiques featured on the site (six collections are featured each week), and 20 percent of the total sales price—a surprisingly generous amount for an e-commerce site—benefits a specific project of the charity with which the label is paired. Once the charity implements the program, Community Collection e-mails consumers to inform them about the impact of their dollars, showing exactly where their money is going through photos or videos.

“The idea is not to hone us down into one thing, but to really try to make a difference because [so many causes] need funds,” says Cook. “It’s a tangible outcome.” Basically, you buy something from Community Collection, and your money does good—and you see exactly how much good.

The designers launched each week are chosen strategically so that the items can be paired and styled together on the site. The inventory consists of current pieces from the various lines, showcasing nearly full collections.

“We want to provide a platform whereby these designers can express both a personal and a philanthropic side,” says Cook. “Everybody wants to be charitable, but is also bottomline driven, so there has been no real avenue for them until this, which gives them an opportunity to hit their projections but also have a philanthropic voice.”

Ultimately, Community Collection aims to feature exclusive creations by the designers inspired by the cause they are aligned with. So far, Erickson Beamon, Lulu Frost, Clare Vivier, and Alexis Bittar have already committed to making unique pieces for the site.

As for the genesis of the Community Collection name, Cook’s explanation is simple. “One of the things about our site is we’re not membership only—the whole thing is to promote community,” he says. “It’s a collection of a number of different designers and voices, but they all come together to make a difference in the world.”

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