Country Road leads the way in green – and beautiful – design

Walking into Country Road’s newest flagship store, which opened in Chadstone Shopping Centre last Thursday, customers are drawn to a luxe-looking table, where the fashion brand’s latest accessories are artfully displayed. 

At first glance, the white surface looks like it is made from terrazzo, an on-trend stone material that would not be out of place in a Country Road store known for its “affordable luxury” aesthetic. 

In fact, the table is made from recycled yoghurt containers. The intricate herringbone parquetry? Recovered from old buildings around Sydney. Even the hooks in the fitting rooms are fashioned out of used fishing nets. 

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These are just some of the dozens of environmentally-friendly design decisions that Country Road and London-based agency HMKM made in the construction of the new store, which has earned a five-star “Green Star” rating from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA). 

Country Road is the first fashion retailer to receive a five-star rating from the GBCA, which ranks buildings across nine impact areas, including their indoor environment quality, such as air quality and acoustic comfort, energy, water, emissions, materials and other categories. 

Most of the store’s environmentally-friendly features are not visible to the naked eye, such as its use of low-VOC paint and FSC-certified timber, or the education of staff about proper waste management – and that is by design. 

“We wanted to show the industry that you can create environmentally-friendly stores that still look beautiful and don’t cost any more [than traditionally-built stores],” Alicia Buffington, store design and development manager at Country Road Group, told Inside Retail Weekly

According to Buffington, the per square metre cost of the Chadstone flagship was roughly on par with other flagship fitouts, thanks to the cost of environmentally-friendly materials, such as paint and lighting, coming down over the past five to 10 years. 

Even the sourcing of special pieces to put in the new store, such as the white tables made from recycled yoghurt containers, was not as difficult as Buffington thought it would be – though the team had to look further afield than she would have liked.  

“Once we started looking, we were amazed at how many people around the world are producing these beautiful things. Finding them wasn’t a problem. But finding them in Australia was one of the most challenging parts,” she said.

Ultimately, Country Road and HMKM settled on a mixture of items sourced from both Australia and overseas. The store’s old fitout was responsibly disposed of by a demolition waste recycler, while fixtures were repurposed in other stores throughout the network. 

“So many things need to come together to get the [five-star] rating,” Buffington said. “It means that you’re actually looking at everything in the store; it’s a really holistic approach.”

The Chadstone flagship is just the first in the network to get the green treatment. According to Buffington, the brand is hoping to receive a Green Star rating for its new store opening in Westfield Newmarket in Auckland, New Zealand. The shopping centre has been undergoing redevelopment and is due to open later this month. 

“We’ve put a lot of work into the [green store design], so it’s something we want to roll out more broadly,” she said.

As stores throughout the Country Road portfolio come up for refurbishment, they will be refit to be more environmentally-friendly. This is in keeping with the brand’s broader sustainability targets, which include ensuring that every product has a sustainable attribute by 2020.

So far, the brand has launched traceable merino, jeans made from recycled denim and swimwear made from recycled nylon. On Friday last week it also launched a new page on its website called “Our World”, where it has posted a list of its suppliers and factories, its commitment to ethical trade, information about its materials and other aspects of its supply chain. 

“Country Road is a big brand and a well-known brand,” Buffington said. “That comes with a responsibility to do the right thing.”

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