I have always had a soft spot for the Silverlink, that nice little shopping haven nestled between Newcastle and the Coast. For those of you that remember those halcyon days when Borders (the now defunct book store) was still operating, complete with a Starbucks upstairs, I spent many a Saturday afternoon there with my girlfriends catching up on the weekly gossip (more often than not with a hangover). I have witnessed the growth of the Silverlink from a sparse random collection of shops that were largely furniture and household focused to a much more appealing offering including M&S, River Island, Boots, Next and HM. I have to admit, I haven’t visited for a while, actually I haven’t been for the last three years for one massive reason; the construction of that sodding triple-decker bridge. So when I was invited to visit for a shopping trip from the nice Silverlink people I jumped at the chance to reminisce and see if it still held its original sparkle.
You would have to live in a box (hopefully a biodegradable one) to have missed the buzz about what we are all doing (or supposed to be doing) to make our lives, eating habits, travel and purchases more sustainable. As a society, in many cases we are becoming so much more environmentally aware and in other areas we are undoing all our good work, I like to think that I do my bit, but my efforts are at times lacklustre to say the least. Marks and Spencer and H&M are currently front runners for leading sustainable initiatives in their clothing and on my visit I wanted to find out a little more.
Marks and Spencer
I love Marks and Spencer, if they didn’t sell food, I would be a millionaire by now, I don’t know if it is just me but all of the food tastes so much better, I swear a tomato from M&S tastes different to ANY other tomato, they say ‘its not just food’; I agree wholeheartedly, it’s really awesome food. I had never really considered their sustainable fashion before so I was quite excited to see what they had to offer. There has been a huge drive on sustainable cotton in partnership with the BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) and the WWF (World Wildlife fund) to make all cotton used in Marks and Spencer products sustainably sourced, something they have now achieved. In real terms this means that farmers get a fair price, water used in the process is efficient and there is less wastage as well as cutting down on chemicals and ensuring more ethical working practices. This is all fantastic, a big well-done tree hug, however, it is not greatly obvious in store – you would think that they would be showing off a bit more! I asked a couple of lovely staff members, and whilst they were unsure, they called over the nice friendly manager who was armed with the additional information I required. This is a fantastic scheme that has clearly been a long time in the making to not only get going but to actually achieve it. Bravo!
As expected with M&S, the cotton is high quality and as my Mam would say ‘washes well’. Only thing is, as a shopper I really had to spend time looking items that were 100% cotton by reading labels and making sure that it wasn’t a blend or a mix. I picked up some lovely cotton PJ’s for the summer, and I had no environmental or social guilt! How delightful, I am sure as a result I will sleep a lot sounder.
Next, I wandered down to H&M, their ‘H&M Conscious’ scheme hits you from the moment you walk in the door, signage telling me all about how they are doing their bit is instantaneous, they really are practicing what they preach. All clothes that are part of this initiative are clearly labelled with a green tag. This means that these items are made using recycled or sustainable products. At the moment a whopping 57% of items in stores and online are part of the conscious collection which is huge, it isn’t just clothing either, it is across the board from bags to shoes. I picked up four items from the range and there is no discernible difference in the quality, fit, style or how the product washes. It really is a no brainer to buy from this collection. Also, the staff here were really knowledgeable, not just about the range but also about other schemes that were helping H&M be an environmentally aware retailer such as the ‘clothes recycle scheme’. Now, you need to read this bit as I have been missing a trick here! The scheme has been running since 2013, take in a bag of your old clothes to any H&M and they will have them reused, re-worn or recycled to avoid going into landfill, not only that, but the nice H&M people give you a £5 voucher to spend in store for your efforts! Wowsers! They give you a reward for being an environmental do-gooder!
I had to do a lot of research for this post, although this was an affiliated post I never agree to put my name to anything that I don’t believe in or actually care about. When stores like H&M are bending over backwards to make us more sustainably aware with our fashion choices it is actually more difficult to avoid making these choices. I had a really nice time, so much so that I had lots of photographs taken to show you nice fashion blog reading bods. The downside of this was that I appeared to the other shoppers that I was on my holidays at the Silverlink, having my photograph taken outside and inside the shops like I was at the Effiel Tower (mild cringe). Going to visit these stores at the Silverlink was so much more relaxing than a busy Saturday in the city centre, the staff had the time to sit down and talk to me about the schemes properly rather than pointing me in the right direction. If you are local to the North East it is worth a trip, if you are really good you could cycle or walk there….. I drove…. I didn’t say I was perfect (yet).
I was invited to the Silverlink to look at the sustainable fashion initiatives by Be Wonder creative group. I received expenses and a fee for my visit and write up, all views are my own.