Chúk Odenigbo - The Fascinating Connection Between Fashion Retail and Nature

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May 17, 2016
by Chúk Odenigbo
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Chúk Odenigbo - The Fascinating Connection Between Fashion Retail and Nature

Working with both the Canadian Parks Council and fashion retailer Club Monaco, the two-time Salzburg Global Fellow details what steps he has taken since leaving Schloss Leopoldskron Chúk Odenigbo at Session 557 | Nature, Health and a New Urban Generation

Wealth in wisdom is a commodity that was in abundance at the inaugural session of the Parks for the Planet Forum: Nature, Health and a New Urban Generation. Attending this event were people prominent in their fields and their organizations, and in the knowledge they shared, there was not only a demonstration  of the importance and beauty of the natural world, but also a sense of practicality rarely seen amongst idealists. Although the Forum was only three days long, it pushed us all in a direction – whether it simply reinforced the value of what we already did, or redirected our efforts to a magic yet untapped. 

On a personal level, the Forum inspired me to really take a hold of the deficiencies in the subject matter at hand and challenged me to engage myself and find solutions. One of the common themes that continually arose was the lack of research and the lack of information surrounding the intersection between nature and quite a few other sectors, including fashion, retail, health, and urban planning. Upon returning to Canada, I immediately disseminated all the information I gleaned and distributed it amongst my network. I gave a summary report to the Canadian Parks Council, senior management at the popular retailer Club Monaco, and got in touch with Calgary Parks

As the Operations Manager for the Club Monaco (Chinook location), I was quick to insist on using plants and greenery in our store design and set-up, such that when customers would walk in, they would get the not-yet-fully-understood benefits that arise from simply looking at nature. They were also a great source of beauty to the store. In addition to this, the clothes were organized to tell the story of how their designer was inspired by the Icelandic landscape. As the customer would walk in, they were greeted with reds, whites and beiges with hints of black, whispering the stories of Icelandic volcanoes. Then as they walked into the adjoining room, the varying shades of blue would take over, speaking to the surrounding ocean. Finally the third room was filled with greens, representing the forests. Efforts to really involve nature in the shopping experience were paramount to my vision. 

In furthering this, I was able to head back to Salzburg for the session Beyond Green: The Arts as a Catalyst for Sustainability in February 2016. This session focused on the influence artists have in advancing sustainability issues and how they can use their ability as cultural innovators to really enable society to move forward in an environmental fashion. 

The connection between fashion retail and nature is a fascinating one. The materials the clothes are made from, where they are sourced, and how they are sourced tends to be what first comes to mind to most people, but in focusing on the retail aspect of it, the following are some of what comes to mind:

The origin of inspiration for the clothing (was the designer inspired by nature?);

The layout of the store and how it reflects nature;

The design of the store and what accessories are used to make it look attractive (e.g. plants, paintings, photographs, vintage furniture etc.);

The durability of the clothes and whether consumers can see themselves wearing it to go to the park or to do something outdoors;

The advertising – whether it is nature-oriented or not;

How the clothes are romanticized to customers – do the sales associates use nature-oriented language to speak about how incredible the clothes are?

What is especially interesting about change in retail is if you can cause change in one branch, and it is found to be profitable, then one will start seeing that change replicated in all the other branches around the world, and as other retailers look to their competition, successful changes will then be copied. 

In my work with the Canadian Parks Council, I was quick to emphasize the best practices that had been shared at the session with my co-authors as we continued forward on writing a document geared towards connecting young Canadians with nature. Finding out what worked for other people in other countries, what has been successful, and innovative ideas that have yet to be tried but sound interesting, has definitely helped in shaping the document. 

There is so much more I plan to do as a direct result of the Parks for the Planet Forum, and I have many potential projects in the works.