Selfridges on Oxford Street is the place to shop if you’re into fashion and design. On every floor and at every turn one sees beautifully designed items. Their window displays, works of art in themselves, show off the luxury products they sell and, up until June 12th, you can see the new item they are promoting – an environmental campaign.
Project Ocean is an all encompassing piece of ‘retail activism’ that is campaigning on sustainable fishing to Selfridges’ customers and the wider public. The retailer has partnered with more than 20 environmental groups including Greenpeace, WWF and the Zoological Society London and the result is a spectacular, interactive and informative installation that has taken over the whole store.
The window displays are perhaps the most impressive feature. They include beautifully crafted visuals to engage passersby on the prospect of an ocean without fish. This includes a life-size stall selling only jellyfish and chips. There is also a highly original interactive window at which people can text their name and instantly see a fish swim past with their name on it, while at the same time donating money to the conservation project itself.
It is, however, much more than just a few token (albeit very creative) gestures in the windows. All 2,500 staff have been given insights on the environmental issues by experts from the Zoological Society. They are also showing their support by wearing their ocean blue campaign ribbons with several of the youngest and hippest staff sporting Katharine Hamnett designed slogan t-shirts. The Ultralounge, located on the lower ground floor, is hosting a series of events delivered by members of the marine conservation community. Shoppers can even try their luck on a ‘whale rodeo’. For the fashionistas, there is also a marine-inspired vintage and haute couture design exhibit entitled ‘Washed Up’ which includes Lady Gaga’s crystal encrusted lobster hat.
What is most impressive however is the fact that the campaign is more than just a show. Selfridges have altered their own business behaviour to accommodate the campaign. Based on the expert insights and advice they’ve had from marine conservationists, Selfridges have removed 70 types of fish from their food hall and restaurants; they’ve even created a pocket-sized fish guide to inform the consumer on which fish to eat and not to eat.
Retail activism is undoubtedly a powerful tool to engage consumers on issues where there is low awareness. Selfridges have taken it to a new level by promoting a cause that they passionately believe in even though selling fish is a small fraction of their business.
So, if you are on Oxford Street in the next couple of weeks, go check it out.