There was much ambiguity around what “sustainability” is and how it may be defined. For many years, sustainability has been tied to ethical, circular, slow, or mindful fashion. Several decades ago, some brands saw an opportunity to showcase sustainable products in their offerings. It was either the material from which those products were made, whether they were first-hand or second-hand, or whether they were green or environmentally friendly. However, there was much ambiguity as to the significance of these definitions. Does an environmentally friendly product contribute to the global well-being? If so, what?

Customers and the public are becoming more informed about sustainable development, as it has become closely linked to the environment. Having been washed down on consumer practices, they have become more demanding in understanding anything that goes beyond the simple term “sustainable”. Customers paid more attention to the brand’s rhetoric and all the claims they made about their sustainable offer, and how it impacted them and the planet. Additionally, customers wanted to be closer to brands to understand and learn how to integrate their sustainability processes into their models. 

Ghalia BOUSTANI. Senior retail consultant at Univers Retail | Published author | Visiting lecturer.

Naturally, fashion brands have embraced sharing on their methods. They changed their perspective by doing business by including clients in their practices. From a brand perspective, sustainability was a challenge: being able to deliver a profitable business while considering environmental, economic, and social resources for present and future generations. With an openness to sustainability and sustainable practices, today’s fashion brands embrace people, aware of social impact and looking at economic performance. In addition to the Elkington 3Ps (1998), place is an important variable to consider. 


Fashion brands and sustainability

Fashion brands needed to show action, not just deliver promises. Recognizing that the industry is one of the most polluting and resource-intensive, rethinking design, material selection, supply, production, and delivery. More recently, sustainability has also been reflected in how brands furnish their stores and the equipment they focus on making their stores more sustainable.

Fashion brands investments are more concentrated towards creating value for customers, engaging them, and engaging with them. Fashion brands are also highlighting any activity related to sustainability as it aims at showing customers that it is actively seeking best practices related to sustainability. Sustainability is becoming a common business practice, either at the executive or product level. Integrating sustainability, therefore, incorporates all aspects of the brand’s culture and expertise. 

Luxury brand sustainable practices 

Luxury brands transformation toward integrating sustainability into their business models is now part of their ethos. Under a sustainability context, luxury brand practices are shifting towards giving more meaning to “luxury” without being overly “luxurious”. Brand practices aim at supporting sustainability and letting profit be a result. Luxury brands are also committing to adding value to the customer’s experience with the brand through all sustainability-related actions. 

Vancouver’s Prada Pop-Up put Sustainability Front and Centre – Source

Sustainable luxury brand pop-up stores 

Retail store attributes consider the brand’s overall image and different atmospheric variable that influences their intention, emotions, behaviors, and assessment. For many years, the store was considered as an opportunity, differentiating the brand on one hand, and making the store stand out on the other hand. Pop-up stores have integrated luxury brand channels. They follow brand guidelines and could experiment concepts that luxury brands find appealing. 

Luxury brand pop-up stores put forward the physical format along with the theme, story, product, and communications. They could use elements from the geographical surrounding, reuse elements from previous stores, collect pre-owned furniture or rent out furniture or even a place to repair. Whatever option that luxury brands might have, their pop-up stores respect their principle to make their processes more sustainable at all levels. Being so, pop-up stores are becoming a place to apply the strategy of 5Rs: Re-cycle, Re-duce, Re-use, Re-sell, Re-value.

Dior launches 3D printed sustainable pop-up Source

The customer journey in the sustainable luxury pop-up store

Successful pop-up stores are engaging, immersive and fun. Whether curated by a fashion brand or a luxury fashion brand, a pop-p store is an “expression” and doorway to open brand-customer exchange and communication. Through their visit to the pop-up store, customers expect to experience and experiment with the brand. 

To conclude, it is crucial to insist that luxury brand’s actions must be louder than words. Customer-centricity is key to the luxury brand’s actions. As sustainability applies at different luxury pop-up store levels, brands can highlight one or several aspects sustainable (ex. Product and/or construction materials). Through sustainable pop-up stores, luxury brands want to share a message, provide customers with novelty, exchange with them, give them space to participate, engage or co-create. Therefore, luxury brand pop-up stores are inviting customers to be more involved and to participate in all activities that it might put forward. 

Luxury brands are invited to put sustainability at the heart of all brand touchpoints (culture, process, product, and place. They are also invited to let their pop-up stores be vessels of communications; through these vessels, luxury brands tell the story and allow customers to live it. The store becomes even a Place of awareness and a Standard for Sustainability. The living place for Sustainability.

*This article is inspired from research on sustainable luxury pop-up stores. The study thoroughly analyzed 6 luxury sustainable pop-up stores and their practices to understand their impact on customer experience.