• fashion-psychology

Project Earth

Updated: Oct 5

Selfridges. A shop I went into once because they are a stockist for my favourite designer, Cecilie Bahnsen, and I just had to get a feel of this particular fabric she was using in her Spring '19 collection (by the way, it did not disappoint).

Sure Selfridges have those unmistakable bright yellow bags, and their window displays are undeniably captivating - having us pressed up against the window of the 94 bus as it heads down Oxford Street - but did you know that sustainability and circularity have been playing a central role in their business model for some time? I didn’t until recently.

Let me start with those iconic yellow bags that are actually made from 20% recycled coffee cups. Cool hey?! The process is known as Cupcycling, and apparently occurs not that far away in Cumbria.

And there are plenty more fun facts where that came from. Shall I go on?

Fun facts

  • Selfridges were recently awarded Retailer of the Year at the Positive Luxury Awards 2020, in recognition of their sustainability achievements.

  • Selfridges partner with the Zoological Society of London for their Project Ocean, which works towards protecting our oceans from overfishing and plastic pollution. As part of this initiative the business has worked towards removing the sale and use of single-use beauty wipes, products containing plastic micro-beads, single use plastic water bottles, and plastic straws. They have also pledged to remove all plastic-based cosmetic glitter by January 2021.

  • Selfridges do not sell products containing fur, angora, or exotic animal skins (e.g. python, crocodile and alligator).

  • Selfridges have their own podcast series called Selfridges Hot Air, which explores how luxury and sustainability can co-exist.

  • Selfridges garment covers are made from recycled plastic bottles.

  • At the G7 Summit last year, Selfridges signed the Fashion Pact, which is a global initiative within the fashion and textiles industry, working towards a set of environmental goals that focus on stopping global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans.

“Let’s change the way we shop”

Selfridges have popped up in the news again recently, this time for their sustainability programme Project Earth. With a target of 2025, this initiative aims to change the way we shop - “reinventing retail”. This rather ambitious and bold programme promises to offer sustainable materials, new business models, and to challenge consumer and partner mindsets. All of this will be accompanied by events, talks, and activities that will encourage engagement and keep the conversation going. I have even signed up for some of the events myself (if it isn’t too late when you are reading this, you can check out Eventbrite for more details).

This all sounds pretty good to me. But what does it actually mean? And how are they planning on achieving this? As a multi brand retailer, it won’t be an easy feat.

In a nutshell, from what I have read it can be broken down into;

  • Materials with a focus on certified sustainable materials, and enhancing transparency through the request for detailed sourcing information.

  • Resale with their first won-brand resale model Resellfridges, which will allow customers to shop pre-loved and/or archive fashion and accessories. This is fundamentally an extension of the secondhand clothing concession that they launched with online resellerr Vestiaire Collective last year.

  • Rental by teaming up with online rental platform Hurr Collective, which will will allow customers to rent pieces from the retailer’s archive of unsold stock.

  • Repairs with a concierge service, offering repair experts that will be able to provide both in-store and online consultations in order to help give items a longer lease of life.

  • Labelling systems that will help identity such things as which products are organic, vegan, or those which are helping to reduce waste.

A game changer?

The topic of sustainability is nothing new. Couple that with the fact that recent events have definitely given us some new perspective, and caused us to re-evaluate our values, it is no wonder that retailers are having to evolve to say the least.

So will Selfridges Plant Earth be a game changer? I guess only tIme will tell. But what can we unpack already?

  • Sustainable (and ethical) choices need to become the default, and this initiative could definitely go a long way in achieving that goal within the multi-brand retail space. This move may just force the competition to implement similar programmes in a way to stay “relevant”.

  • Selfridges are helping to bring resale, rental and repair onto the high (or at least Oxford) street. Something we could always do with more of. We know that one of the best things we can do when it comes to reducing our environmental impact is to increase the number of times we wear a single piece of clothing. Why? Because it reduces resources consumption from production processes, and reduces the number of garments that are disposed of (either into landfill, or otherwise) each year.

  • In order to see real change, the industry needs to work collaboratively. It is nice to see that Selfridges are making attempts to work collaboratively with their brands on this initiaitve. The onus shouldn’t (and can’t) be placed solely on others (say, designers) to bring about change. Collaboration is key!

  • Selfridges have made it (visibly) easier to shop in-store and online according to our values through their new labelling system. They have bought important information to the forefront (literally), in an easy to understand format. Maybe you are looking out for emerging talent, or simply vegan products - it is worth checking out there website, which has a really good breakdown of why we should be choosing these types of products.

I’m on the hunt for positive news stories at the moment, and at the end of the day this is definitely a step in the right direction for the fashion industry, so kudos to Selfridges. Let’s hope other retailers follow suit!

Let me know if you see any other positive initiatives that you think should be highlighted!

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