Concept: Italy-based global fashion brand United Colors of Benetton (UCB) has unveiled a sustainable store concept that includes substantial use of sustainable materials, modern technology, and energy-saving solutions. This new store, which is located in Florence, Italy, is a trailblazer for a novel approach to low environmental impact retail.
Nature of Disruption: The 160-square-meter shop is made of repurposed natural materials and is located on a single level. The floor is made of gravel from the Piave River and scrap wood from beech trees felled by Vaia, a storm that struck the Veneto area of Italy in 2018. The walls are painted with antibacterial and anti-mold mineral paint, which can also help to decrease pollution in the environment. The store interiors are made from new materials made from textile industry waste. The outer platforms and bases of the exhibition stand are made from a composite made from discarded buttons (which are difficult to dispose of) combined in hydro-resin. Recycled wool (in its raw wick form) was utilized to design the perimeter lining and as ornamentation for the dressing room drapes. Shelves, display bases, and mannequins were made from ‘Rossino,’ a material made from recycled, mixed textile fibers.
To save resources, sustainable solutions were applied in the shop window displays. A theatrical background was constructed by attaching movable transparent panels to the ceiling, forming a connection between the store and the street. Transparent LED displays with little environmental effect were placed in windows to display content regarding business information, product images, and communication. In terms of energy usage, the Florence boutique uses 20% less energy than a typical store. A system based on small sensors, data analysis, and AI was used to enhance the energy efficiency of the points of sale. One example of ensuring customer comfort is the ability for the store temperature to vary automatically based on the number of people in the store. Recycled, organic, or BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) cotton, regenerated nylon, natural fibers like linen, and other sustainable materials are used in the shop’s sustainable clothing. While shopping, one may choose from a variety of shopping bags, such as washable, readily recyclable organic cotton bags or paper bags manufactured from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified forests.
Outlook: Fashion accounts for a fair share of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, but there are ways to minimize the impact one’s wardrobe has on the climate. The new store is the result of extensive R&D, and it is part of UCB’s larger sustainability project, which aims to improve the company’s environmental and social performance throughout the supply chain, consolidate best practices, and establish itself as a global model for sustainable fashion.