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Goodbye, Duke Street! An Interview With Our Founder, Natalie Denyer

Goodbye, Duke Street! An Interview With Our Founder, Natalie Denyer

As we say goodbye to our sustainable lifestyle pop-up store on Duke Street after ten months, we sit down with Natalie Denyer, our Founder, to find out how she found the experience and what’s next for Zero-Living.

What was your motivation for setting up the pop-up store?

“Since founding Zero-Living in 2018 as an online sustainable lifestyle platform, we have always been looking for new and exciting ways to spread the word about planet-conscious consumption. Setting up in such an incredible space just off Oxford Street in partnership with Grosvenor gave us the opportunity to showcase our planet-friendly products on the high street for the first time.

“We styled the pop-up under the theme ‘The Home of Planet Conscious Brands’ to help visitors see how sustainable lifestyle products could fit into their homes. The in-store experience encouraged people to discover, learn and slow down their pace of consumption. I found that the thought-provoking and unique space encouraged all manner of conversations around sustainability – from the challenges of making sustainable lifestyle choices, to opinions on our products, which has helped us grow as a company.”

What was your biggest challenge?

“Opening a physical store during the pandemic was always going to be tough, and the yo-yo of lockdowns made planning ahead challenging. But, as with all successful businesses in this difficult period, we had to learn quickly and adapt.

“Part of the draw of the pop-up for us was as a physical space to host events in partnership with our brands. With social distancing restrictions, and the store being closed due to the lockdown, we responded by moving many of our workshops online. Despite the challenges of going virtual, we managed to hold a series of very successful events – my favourite was the Palentines Day Chocolate Truffle Workshop with Diggle Chocolates.

“There were even positives from moving online, as we were able to reach new customers who lived too far away to attend in-person. Thank you to all our makers for working with us to make this possible!”

What was your favourite moment at Duke Street?

“After the first lockdown, we got to hold our first in-person ‘Meet the Maker’ event with Florette Flowers. There was a real buzz about the store, with people excited to be seeing, touching, and experiencing things ‘in real life’ for the first time in months – a welcome evening of creative escapism in stark contrast to living through a screen.

“Getting face-to-face with some of our customers was a breath of fresh air for me, and it was great to see them leave with a smile on their faces – in addition to their gorgeous, dried flower wreaths that will last for years to come!”

If you could pick one thing, what are you most proud of from your time running the pop-up?

“It would have to be building the space from scratch, just as we wanted it.

“I worked with the amazing Nina Lili Holden to create a space that represented the modern home; furniture made from sustainably sourced materials from British designers, repurposing and upcycling waste materials into home accessories, minimal products with the focus on function and purpose. Calming, sensual, natural environment representing mother nature.

“We stocked furniture from designers include Fred Rigby, Sebastian Cox, Forge Creative, Will Elworthy & Galvin Brothers. Concept Object provided some incredible waste material speakers, and I loved the rock mirror by Katharine Elinsnock and wooden blocks from Forge Creative.

“A personal highlight of the process was salvaging and upcycling waste materials to style the store. We rescued rocks, tiles and blocks from a Sussex salvage yard, and metal sheets and white painted brown hanging paper from an old styling shoot that Nina worked on.”

What have you learned from the experience?

“The best thing about having a physical space was meeting our customers; it was a pleasure meeting each and every one. Having those conversations helped me understand the issues people are facing with incorporating sustainable products into their lives, getting vital feedback on our products that you just don’t get online. This feedback has already helped us find new products that meet these needs.

“It also gave me an opportunity to tell our brands’ stories. I hope that hearing about the amazing journeys behind some of our products have inspired people to think more carefully about what they are buying and where it has come from.”

You can learn more about our Makers here.

What’s next for Zero-Living?

“We’ve got loads of exciting new product launches in the pipeline. Over the next few months, we will be focusing on repurposed and upcycled waste, including our own pre-loved summer homeware line, launching very soon.

“We’re also in the process of lining up our next pop-up in London for winter 2021, and I can’t wait to get planning and collaborating with new sustainable brands. Watch this space!”

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