Festive Shopping Goes Green in London

LONDON — The run-up to Christmas has long meant increased spending, but some brands and retailers are proposing a new, and more mindful, approach to festive shopping.

It includes pop-up shops — mostly dotted across buzzy East London — that offer sustainably made fashion and lifestyle products, as well as talks and events aimed at educating the consumer on how to make better purchasing decisions and live a sustainable life.

“I want consumers to know that every single person can make a huge difference with their purchasing,” said Cora Hilts, cofounder of the sustainable luxury lifestyle platform Rêve En Vert.

Rêve opened a concept pop-up at The Factory in Dalston in November, offering customers the chance to shop a selection of the brands it stocks online, and to be part of panel discussions or workshops spreading the sustainable message.

Brands featured in store include the Scandinavian women’s wear line Envelope 1976, organic cotton brand Organic Basics, fragrance house Sana Jardin and the plant-based skin-care brand BySarah, among others.

“We talk about the notion of strong-knit community so often at Rêve En Vert that I really felt the timing around Christmas was great to create a space where we could be collaborative,” Hilts said. “The space provides an opportunity to get together more with our audience in a physical capacity, which is really important.”

In the store’s Honest Space, Hilts also hosted panel talks on sustainability in fashion, beauty and food with industry leaders such as E.L.V. Denim’s founder Anna Foster; Bonnie Stowell of the food delivery service Spring Green London; Cameron Saul of Bottletop; skin-care influencer Emma Hoareau, and Caryn Hibbert of Cotswold hotel and spa Thyme.

Inside the Rêve En Vert pop-up. 
Courtesy Photo

Discussions touched upon the importance of responsibility in the fashion industry and what natural and clean beauty can mean for brands and consumers.

Rêve is also pushing alternative gift ideas and experiences such as an eco-Christmas box making station. It’s working with the One Tree Planted charity to plant a tree on a behalf of customers for every purchase they make.

Transparency and honesty are two important values Rêve looks for in the brands it decides to stock, said Hilts. “We work with predominantly small and independent designers as I find that they are the most willing to talk about every single aspect of their sustainable design and production. I think those stories are so inspiring to our customers.”

For 2020, Rêve plans to expand its home and wellness offerings along with the introduction of Rêve Enfant, a sustainable baby section, and season two of its podcast series Rêve on Air. Hilts also hopes to open a permanent store in the future as a natural extension to the brand’s growing product mix, which will allow it to facilitate more relevant panel discussions and talks.

The performance brand Dai opened a pop-up at Spitalfields for the festive period earlier this month. According to the brand, which mainly uses Oeko-Tex certified raw materials, sales have been strong from the get-go.

Dai will also feature an edit of its online collection in-store, and use the space to offer customers wellness sessions, organic drinks and career workshops, as well as installations that demonstrate the technical innovations behind the materials it uses.

These companies have been resonating well with shoppers who are placing an increased importance on sustainability.

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According to a report from Capgemini and YouGov, 29 percent of U.K. shoppers say sustainability is a priority when making a purchase, more than any of their global counterparts. Convenience and quality are other key factors.

Kantar provided similar evidence, with its latest report detailing that over three-quarters of U.K. fashion shoppers have, in the last 12 months, switched, avoided or boycotted buying certain fashion brands, based on their environmental policies. More than 90 percent expect brands to take more responsibility for the waste their products create and the impact they have on the environment.

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