Accounting for 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions each year, the fashion industry has come under increasing scrutiny for it’s historically unethical and unsustainable practices. Concerns over chemical waste, plastic pollution and the high water consumption of the industry has continued to grow, while the unforeseen events of this year have catalysed a sense of urgency towards the climate crisis. In an effort to address the impact of global garment production and waste, we now witness a wave of conscious brands and circular concepts taking centre stage as retailers seek to educate their customers, navigate impending environmental issues and form the foundation of a sustainable retail future. 

Photo © Matt Writtle 2020

Embracing the urgent need to change and innovate, Selfridges launched ‘Project Earth’ on the 17th August, which offers their customers a curated offering of sustainable products alongside events and services, including a repairs concierge, rental shop and refill stations for beauty and household products. Alannah Weston, Selfridges Group Chairman, says, “Project Earth is not only our bold, new commitment to stretching environmental targets, it is about imagining new ways to do business.

Since the launch of Project Ocean in 2011, Selfridges has been developing the conversation around sustainability and taken proactive steps towards improvement throughout the business. Multiple changes within the store have included banning the sale of single use plastic bottles since 2015 and more recently the pledge to remove all plastic-based cosmetic glitter from sale by January 2021. Demonstrating their commitment to protecting our planet and creating a more sustainable fashion industry, Selfridges signed the ‘Fashion Pact’ at last year’s G7 Summit and was later named Retailer of the Year at the Positive Luxury Awards in February 2020 in recognition for putting sustainability at the forefront of their future plans. 

Photo © Matt Writtle 2020

Anne Pitcher, Global Managing Director of Selfridges Group, says, “We firmly believe evolving the way we do business and supporting change in the way people shop is essential to building a more sustainable business.”

Partnering with over 300 brands, Project Earth focuses on three key areas for growth: materials, models and mindsets. The ambitious targets include a commitment to ensure that all materials throughout the business come from certified, sustainable sources by 2025. And in an effort to express these goals and concepts the luxury department store has created engaging, informative windows that highlight their achievements so far, whilst also affirming their future intentions. 

These commitments traverse into the shopping experience itself, which seeks to be informative as well as inspirational. Whether browsing in store or online, customers can discover the sustainable edit through the identifiable Project Earth Label, which highlights the unique qualities of each product. This supports the customers ability to shop with their values and develop a greater sense of engagement with the project. Encouraging a culture of curiosity and learning, Selfridges also provides a variety of in store activities and online resources, including a series of webinars and instagram takeovers to further engage and amplify the conversation around sustainability.

Photo © Matt Writtle 2020

In store, the Selfridges Corner Shop presents an exclusive preview of the new Prada Re-Nylon collection ahead of its global release in mid-september. The collection features accessories and garments made from regenerated plastic waste that has been collected from oceans, fishing nets and other textile waste. The monochromatic space also exhibits a series of short films upon the multi screened arches that connect the viewer to the origins, intentions and process of the collection. 

Photo © Matt Writtle 2020

Other engaging collaborations have included exclusive collections with Barbour, Levi’s and Craig Green, as well as the exploration of alternative retail models with the support of Vestiaire Collective and HURR. Becoming increasingly popular with conscientious shoppers, the second hand market is expected to grow 15% annually over the next 3 years in comparison to just 2% on traditional retail. To investigate this growing market, Selfridges has introduced its first own brand resale model. Taking place in store and online, RESELLFRIDGES aims to help close the loop on unnecessary production and waste by selling pre-loved designer items. The edit includes items from the Selfridges archive alongside vintage pieces and collections curated by Vestiaire Collective. 

Proceeding with alternative models, Selfridges has also launched a rental shop with the support of HURR, a luxury online rental platform, which allows customers the opportunity to rent pieces from the likes of Valentino, Zimmerman and Cecilie Bahnsen for 4, 8, 10 or 20 days at a fraction of the retail price. This move towards rental rather than ownership, enables customers to enjoy current trends whilst reducing overall consumption and limiting waste. To access the collection, Selfridges customers can either visit the in store boutique or browse and rent the online edit at 

Photo © Matt Writtle 2020

Alongside these concepts, the project also seeks to encourage a mindful approach towards the aftercare of our possessions. To do this, Selfridges has introduced a repairs concierge to help customers elongate the life span of their loved items and avoid landfill. Here, customers have the flexibility to make an appointment with the service either in store or online, which covers repairs on shoes, accessories, jewellery, eyewear and much more. And in a further effort to reduce waste, Selfridges continues their mission to tackle plastic pollution, providing customers with recycling stations for used cosmetic packaging and offering a refill service across a variety of beauty and home products.

Selfridges strives to provide their customers with the most inspiring, relevant and timely retail experiences, without losing their luxury appeal. Project Earth is the beginning of a long-term plan, which explores circular concepts as part of a radical effort to educate and stimulate change within the industry. “Achieving our ambitions won’t be easy, but we are in a unique position to be able to work with our team members, partners and customers to co-create change and explore possibilities for a sustainable future”, says Weston.

Photo © Matt Writtle 2020

Written by Georgina Saunders

Featured photo © Matt Writtle 2020

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