• Alice Bodkin

Changing the Way We Shop: Selfridges Launches Project Earth

Updated: Jun 22

Image source: Selfridges.com

Nested on the infamous Oxford Street, London, Selfridges bears the sign ‘lets change the way we shop’ in bold, yellow, capital letters. It’s aptly positioned above its corner shop, where earlier this week, the luxury department store debuted its Project Earth initiative through a collaboration with Italian fashion house Prada. Dubbed Re-Nylon, Prada will occupy the Corner Shop space at Selfridges and distribute classic pieces made from regenerated nylon including women’s and men’s ready to wear and accessories. The fashion brand has often used Nylon throughout its collections, however the Italian house has made the pledge to only use recycled nylon by 2021, firmly cementing the company’s commitment to sustainability.

However, the collaboration with Prada is just the start of many sustainable driven initiatives for

Selfridges, who has announced a five year plan for Project Earth. The department store intends to collaborate with 300 brand partners, as well as charities including WWF and Woodland Trust.

Promoting ‘earth conscious collections’ Selfridges is inviting consumers to ‘rent their wardrobe’ with fashion retailer Hurr. The idea is to extend the lifespan of clothes that already exist, as opposed to consistency buying new and thus reduce the environmental impact of shopping for clothes. Resellfridges is another strategy the department store has employed and a Resale Kiosk will be ran by luxury reselling platform Verstiaire Collective.

Yet it’s not only the fashion department that gets a sustainable overhaul. The beauty hall has also experienced an environmentally conscious makeover. Consumers can select products with the knowledge as to whether their purchase is ‘reducing waste’, ‘cruelty free’, ‘vegan’ or supporting local with ‘British Makers’.

In terms of consumer engagement, Selfridges will be hosting thought provoking events and sharing positive ideas via social media. The include meeting the masters of trainer upcycling, to insights or how to reimagine what to wear with a sustainable spin from Stella McCartney.

The announcement for Project Earth illustrates the rise of new retail models and introduces new anti-consumerist strategies revolving around reselling, repairing and renting into the shopper experience. It’s a refreshing retail response following months of store closures due to COVID19, showcasing a commitment to create a better future for the planet, yet also illustrating a shift in consumer sentiment between the relationship of shopping and the environment. According to research by HSBC, ‘the pandemic has changed some consumer attitudes and habits for the better. Increasingly, customers are buying locally-sourced food, cooking from scratch and minimising plastic waste’.

The phrase ‘new normal’ has documented headlines across varying markets, sectors and industries. However, it is imperative for brands to consider a new normal where we have new business models that inspire regenerative design and anti-consumerist consumption patterns based on recycling, reusing and renting.

In order to safeguard the future of our planet and its inhabitants, is not only the eco-conscious consumer that needs to engage with these new business models, but rather they need to become mainstream and widely adopted.

Regardless of market or industry, brands must ask themselves how they can create strategies for consumers to anti-consume. The goal needs to shift from growth, to degrowth. Yet equally, brands must break down this experience and ask themselves how can product distribution and education be fun, informative but also enable the consumer to have an element of choice. Human beings love choice. For instance, Selfridges has selected the environmental consequence of purchasing different beauty products. However, what would this look like for a chocolate brand or a car retailer? The opportunities to engage with this ‘new normal’ is limitless. However, it must feel co-created between brands and consumers in order to generate real change.

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