If the name Lily Cole isn’t familiar to you, her face most certainly will be—the redheaded British model has been one of the most-photographed faces in fashion for the past decade. Now Cole is back in the public eye for a very different reason: her recently-launched Impossible.com, a “social giving site” devoted to helping people grant wishes for free. After entering your location, you can scroll through nearby wishes to complete, or upload your own to be granted by someone in the community. From big dreams (like a plane ticket to Japan) to the simplest requests (“I wish I had a penpal”), the site aspires to turn to the gift industry on its head with a constant flow of positivity far removed from money. Cole chatted with Birchbox to tell us more about the project—and the greatest gift she’s ever received.
What made you decide to launch Impossible?
At the end of 2010, I was having a conversation with a friend about why when [the] economy struggles, society immediately struggles, [even though] we still have the same amount of skills. Society is so complex nowadays that you need a system where it’s possible to move your skills around. We thought: Wouldn’t it be interesting if there was technological platform—a website—where people could help one another?
Do you have any favorite success stories so far of people having their wishes granted?
What I find most powerful about Impossible is not actually the big stories, but the small things: The man who hasn’t played piano in two years and managed to find a piano he could borrow, or a woman I saw who wished to get her garden weeded and a neighbor said they would help.
Have you had some of your own wishes granted through the program?
I’ve been using it since the beginning—I’ve put out 27 wishes. I wished to learn how to cook and I’ve had a few different people teach me. I wished to meet two people and in both instances I’m [now] in contact with them. One is Mark Boyle; he wrote this book called Moneyless Manifesto—he lived without money for two years—and I was quite inspired by his work.
You spent several years modeling and acting—how did you get involved with the activism work that you do?
They’re all kind of interlinked. Working in fashion, I’ve been very blessed to have opportunities to support different campaigns and causes. At the same time, my attention was increasingly drawn to the impact of production chains. I was looking at the cotton industry or the diamond industry—I came to believe that big business and economics have such a huge impact on the world right now. That doesn’t all relate directly to Impossible; but I actually do see a connection because, ultimately, it’s looking at economics as a vehicle of change. Impossible is looking at the gift community as an alternative economic proposition.
Did you pick up any beauty tips while modeling?
I met Eve Lom in London and she persuaded me to use hardly any moisturizer and to just cleanse really, really, really well with a cloth to heavily exfoliate. It really suits my skin. I haven’t been using it recently, but my go-to usually is MAC Lipstick in Ruby Woo. Also sleep. That’s one thing I’ve learned from fashion too: the value of sleep.
What do you hope people take away from Impossible?
Now it’s to make it more useful to people as a way to actually get things done—and for us to draw a community through the process. I had an instinct that, if done right, people could derive a lot of value from it, not just economically but also socially, like to build relationships with strangers in the community around you.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
In all truth, the most powerful gifts people have given me have been time— big gestures of kindness and support that have changed my life. The best gifts you can ever give people are of yourself.
Photo: Emir Eralp