Oxfam added a digital twist to one of its stores in London earlier this year — one to make high-end fashion stores envious. Take a smartphone picture of the QR codes attached to the tags on Oxfam’s items, and you’ll see videos of celebrities telling the stories behind their former pieces that were on sale.
The store, called the Oxfam Curiosity Shop, was a pop-up shop this past spring within London’s Selfridges department store. It garnered all manner of celebrity clothing donations and some hand-picked vintage styles.
Proceeds from the sales go toward supporting Oxfam‘s charitable efforts. Big-name celebrities including Annie Lennox, Colin Firth, Helen Mirren and Kate Moss, donated pretty impressive clothing.
The shop paired with tech company Tales of Things to attach QR codes to every item. Potential buyers could scan the codes with their phones or with an RFID reader in the store. After scanning, a short video launched of a star explaining what the article of clothing means to them or where the money will go.
For example, scanning a code on a dress donated by Annie Lennox reveals that she wore it to Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday party.
That sense of collective memory is what lies behind Tales of Things, a collaboration between scholars at Brunel University, Edinburgh College of Art, University of College London, University of Dundee and the University of Salford. The team is focused on exploring social memory and the emerging “Internet of Things,” the idea that all objects will someday be connected to the Internet.
“In modern life, it is all too easy to discard objects, sell them on eBay, donate them to shops without a thought of our time with them,” said Andrew Hudson-Smith, a member of Tales of Things and director of the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London. “Yet, if we step back and think, we realize that each object has memories attached.”
That was the goal behind attaching QR codes to the Curiosity Shop. A sense of collective memory not only brings the items to life, but it will give them more significance to potential buyers.
“For us it is about changing public perceptions of second-hand goods and increasing the value of the items, moving away from the idea of having to buy the latest thing and instead valuing what we have and moving away from a throwaway culture,” Hudson-Smith says.
What do you think of adding QR codes to everyday objects? Does knowing the origin of an object make you more willing to buy it?