Pop-Up Clothing Shop Giving Homeless a Chance to Choose

By Maggie Freleng

Kayli Vee Levitan has disrupted the world of hand-me downs and donated clothing.

She and co-creator Maximilian Pazak created The Street Store, “the world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free 'pop-up clothing store' for the poor, found entirely on the street and curated by you,” the website explains.

“It’s not easy always to give,” Levitan, a copywriter at M&C Saatchi Abel, an advertising agency in South Africa, explained to VITAMIN W.

“But on the other hand, when you look at the people receiving donations or money, its quite degrading. Someone is giving you something...and it’s kind of dehumanizing because you feel like a victim.”

One day she and Pazak, art director and designer at M&C Saatchi Abel, were discussing South Africa’s homeless problem, particularly in the hip and trendy Cape Town where they work.

Sitting on a balcony, they were brainstorming: how could they help the homeless in a more sustainable way? In a way that had never been done before? A way that did not just give money to an unknown organization or one person?

They thought of what some of the underlying problems and it clicked.

“We wanted to give people dignity who may have never had it before.”

She explained how homeless people never get to shop. They never get to experience a choice. They are given clothing and can’t say no.

So last Tuesday, they took their pop-up shop idea to the street.  The shop, a store made simply out of posters asking for help draped with with donated clothes and shoes, was a help-yourself for the homeless.

“We needed a middle ground that was really simple for people to donate, but really dignified the receiving experience,” Levitan said.

“We gave them the feeling of being human for the first time...we gave them the option of saying no.”

She explained one story that particularly touched her of a homeless man who showed up in a suit ready for a job interview -- except he had torn up shoes, with virtually no soles.

The Street Store had just what he was looking for. Levitan said she can only hope that he went to that interview and landed the job. The confidence and appearance he gained from something as simple as a pair of shoes could have made all the difference.

“These little human moments really made it the most special,” Levitan said.

“I had to hold back tears the whole day. People were so gracious, so happy. For the first time in their life they had a choice.”

She explained the shop was a one day pop-up -- a day of giving -- making the joy of giving even greater. However, the idea was so well received The Street Store website now shares how to guides, photos, fliers and the like for people who want to spread the idea.

“We want this thing to start popping up all over the place,” she said.

And in fact, it has.

Levitan said she has had interest from every continent (except the poles) and cities all over the world.

The website will eventually host photo albums from each pop-up shop held.

“We don’t know if we can change the world but if we change a few peoples lives, that’s our world changing.”


here are a few of the first easy steps: