Country Road leads charge from sustainable fashion to the shopfront

Country Road store
Country Road's refurbished five star Green Star rated store in Melbourne’s Chadstone Shopping Centre. Photo by Guy Lavoipierre

Vogue sustainability editor Clare Press says the sustainable fashion movement in Australia is led by pioneers such as Country Road Group, Bassike, Tigerlily and Kowtow. The next step is sustainable fitouts of the stores such as Country Road’s new Chadstone Melbourne store with recycled yoghurt containers, carpet crafted from fishing nets and wall cladding made from old magazines.

The world of fashion retailing isn’t known for its green building credentials but Australian brand Country Road is leading the way with the first five-star Green Star Design Review rating for a fashion store.

The refurbished store in Melbourne’s Chadstone Shopping Centre is only the beginning of the company’s green building journey, with plans to design more five-star Green Star stores in future.

The store is decked out in fixtures made from recycled yoghurt containers, carpet crafted from fishing nets and wall cladding made from old magazines. It also has Australian parquetry flooring rescued from old buildings.

The recycled elements and accompanying signage communicate the company’s sustainability ambitions, said Vogue sustainability editor Clare Press. 

Press, who moderated a panel of experts at the launch of the store last week, said the fitout also presented an opportunity to educate the uninitiated about the hard work that goes into constructing and operating green spaces.

As a first for the industry, the move represented the “next frontier” for the rapidly advancing sustainable fashion movement in Australia, led by pioneers such as Country Road Group, Bassike, Tigerlily and Kowtow, she said.

The “conversation is advancing to the point that sustainability is unavoidable,” she said, but many brands are still in the early stages of addressing sustainability in their business.

“But when you see a big group like Country Road Group making a retail space sustainable and rolling that out to other stores, that lifts the game.”

Press said the conversation had so far centred on recycled materials and sustainable fabrics, with many retailers also trying to address packaging concerns in response to consumer pressure.

“It’s not enough to sell a more sustainable product, to tweak it a bit. If you’re bold, [having a green retail store] is one of the ways you could really push it.”

There’s still a long way to go, she said, before most fashion businesses are addressing sustainability in a holistic way.

Gordon Renouf, cofounder and chief executive officer of ethical brand rating platform Good On You, agreed consumers expect and deserve companies to address the most material issues in their supply chain, and stores are a part of that.

But he said that bricks and mortar stores are only be part of the equation. Renouf knows of brands that are vocal about their LED lightbulbs but are doing nothing to address trickier sustainability issues, such as scope three emissions and resource consumption.

For Country Road, a company that has a comprehensive sustainability strategy, a suite of green stores “can be a signal that the company has been built from the ground up on sustainability,” he said.

Although Renouf agreed the fashion industry had made inroads on sustainability he said  some companies stalled after addressing “low hanging fruit,” such has supply chain transparency and using eco friendly materials.

Despite promises on issues such as scope three emissions and labour rights, progress has been slow, he said.

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