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La Maison Simons takes major step toward sustainability

A rendering of a Simons store.

Carlyle Routh

Sustainability is a big topic of conversation across all industries, and the fashion business in particular is taking a hard look at all points of its supply chain, from the byproducts of manufacturing and global shipping to the eventual textile waste that results from over-consumption and production.

As awareness spreads about the environmental impact of the fashion industry, retailers are making changes to the way they do business. At H&M stores, customers have been invited to drop off unwanted textiles since 2013 to be reworn, reused or recycled. The Swedish fast-fashion giant also aims to be climate positive by 2040, meaning that it will be operating net carbon negative. Last June, Marks & Spencer announced its Plan A 2025, a sustainability program designed to convert the British retailer into a zero-waste business. Levi's has adopted its WaterLess program, which produces denim with minimal water use, and the company says it has conserved one billion litres of water since 2011.

Now, a big Canadian department store is attempting to demonstrate its commitment to change at the retail level. On Mar. 15, Simons opens its first net-zero energy store in Canada. Located at the Galeries de la Capitale in Quebec City, the 80,000-square-foot location was six years in the making and includes geothermal boreholes drilled under the parking lot for heating and cooling, as well as a highly visible solar-electric system in the parking lot and on the roof.

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Co-owner and president Peter Simons says pursuing a more sustainable approach was an easy decision. "We've always built our business with quite a strong feeling of responsibility towards not just share holders but really towards everyone that the company interacts with," he says. "In terms of our values and what we want to do, on the horizon, I think we're really seeing the issues of our generation are really two issues: We're talking a lot about the question of social equality and we're talking a lot about the environment."

Even taking into account the opening of his new store, Simons says there's still a long way to go, and that the brand is committed to continuously moving forward in its improvements. "We still have an enormous amount of work to do across our whole supply chain," he says. "This is a big step for us, I think physically and visibly with the solar fields and the zero energy, I'm hoping it's part of a conversation and it gets people talking and thinking about it."

This week's style happenings

On now until Jul. 2, the Aga Khan Museum's new exhibition The World of the Fatimids examines the opulence of the North African Fatimids Empire of the 10th to 11th centuries. The objects on display include make-up containers carved from rock crystals, drinking vessels made of ivory tusks and golden filigree. For more information, visit www.agakhanmuseum.org/fatimids.

Air expert Dyson has released the next generation of its air-purification system, the Dyson Pure Cool purifying fan. It automatically captures 99.97 per cent of allergens and pollutants in a room for a proper clean. For more information, visit www.dysoncanada.ca.

French label Lacoste has partnered with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to help fight animal extinction. The brand has created a collection of limited-edition polo shirts featuring 10 of the most threatened species in the world where its crocodile logo normally sits. For more information, visit www.lacoste.com.

Hudson's Bay has launched Discover This, a new eco-themed pop-up concept shop, in store and online. Featuring eight fashion and beauty brands not previously available at the department store, Discover This includes T-shirts by Kotn, beauty brand Cool and lingerie by Kent. For more information, visit www.thebay.com.

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