A private members club in central London’s exclusive Mayfair district may sound like an unlikely location for the city’s most buzzed-about new sustainable retail pop-up, but today, that’s exactly what’s happening inside The Conduit. More than 50 sustainable luxury clothing, homewares, accessories and jewellery labels have taken up shop for the third installation of the monthly pop up concept store, the Maiyet Collective.
From the November 29 to December 2, alongside the pop up shop, the space will host panel discussions, book signings, workshops and opportunities to meet the creative minds behind the brands. For many designers, it’s their first and only physical retail presence, as well as a rare opportunity to put their products in front of the Conduit’s sustainably minded, and crucially, affluent members.
“First and foremost, it provides inside access to a community of members who are already committed to positive impact in some form,” explains Paul van Zyl, co-founder of the Maiyet Collective, who also runs the fashion label Maiyet, which is not currently stocked in the collective. “In addition to exposure and brand awareness within a relevant audience, it also provides a potential network and opportunity for collaboration and the sharing of knowledge.”
The collective grew from a desire to create a community in which to collaborate with other like minded ethical brands. “Initially we were approached by smaller brands who wanted brick-and-mortar exposure in New York’s Soho,” says van Zyl. “We knew that there was a growing demand from our [Maiyet] consumers, who often asked for recommendations for other ethical and sustainable brands... One additional brand became two, two became three, and very organically we evolved into a collective of complementary brands.”
The Maiyet Collective works in collaboration with a rotating roster of designers (a core group of which return each month) to curate a cohesive product selection that compliments the wider offering as well as the overall visual language of the concept. “We ensure there is newness for the consumers to discover each time they return, so even if a brand is returning each time, the offering will change to feature different pieces or a bespoke customisation service,” says van Zyl. “For this week’s pop-up, we’ve partnered with lots of seasonal brands to bring a festive feel to the opening,” he adds.
Indeed, the deliberate brand curation presents opportunities for knowledge sharing and collaboration, which both brands agree is on the cards for the future. “I would love to work with the other brands which are part of the collective,” says Ioanna Topouzoglou, founder of one year-old vegan handbag label Mashu, which released an exclusive collection for the Maiyet during last month’s pop up. “It could be quite nice, whenever we have a photoshoot and need some garments, to collaborate with sustainable brands that would compliment our bags.”
Community and collaboration is inherently woven into the Maiyet’s business model. “We have all these amazing brands with different areas of expertise — from blockchain to recycled material to sourcing gemstones,” says van Zyl. “So by bringing them together, we aim to spark collaboration and create a community of people who are committed to changing the way we think, create and consume fashion and luxury goods.”
Partnering with the Maiyet Collective is already reaping rewards for certain brands, especially the emerging players, for whom the greatest value so far is in brand exposure. “The fact that the Maiyet Collective has received a lot of press is important,” says Mashu’s Topouzoglou.“It’s hard for a small sustainable brand to get really big press around the brand. Of course you always want to make sales, but because we’re so young, it’s more important to get the brand out to the right audience,” she explains.
For others, the Conduit’s striking interiors — natural Scandinavian minimalism which is paired with the colour and texture of global craftsmanship — was a major drawcard. “It’s not like a normal concept store, it has a life of its own,” says Elliot Atkinson, design director at BITE Studios — the London and Stockholm-based label, whose understated design and attention to quality also makes it a natural fit within the curated aesthetic of the Maiyet Collective. “Their aesthetic is very balanced in that they have brands which are very different to BITE, but have a unity in the concept and workmanship.”
“The biggest impact is made when both little and large companies come together to all shout about sustainability.”
It should be acknowledged that while the driven by noble intentions, the positive environmental potential of niche ethical luxury brands on a wider scale is a drop in the ocean, compared to that of major luxury brands and fast fashion giants. “They obviously don't have the purchasing power and heritage that larger brands have, nor of course the budget,” concedes Diana Verde Nieto, CEO and co-founder of Positive Luxury, a London-based consultancy which awards brands with a Butterfly Mark to certify their sustainable practices. There is power, however, in small brands partnering with larger entities like the Maiyet Collective. “The biggest impact is made when both little and large companies come together to all shout about sustainability,” Nieto says. “After all, if everybody did a little bit, it has much more impact than a small group of people doing a lot.”
As for the future of the Maiyet Collective, both permanent brick and mortar stores and an e-commerce presence are being considered. “The great thing about the concept is that we can be nimble and reactive and go where the tide takes us. We’d love to take it to different cities — I think we all have a wish list of locations and brands we’d love to work with,” he enthuses. “The world is our oyster.”