Retailing, it seems, is like standing near the buffet at a barbeque. Everyone is looking at the food, but no one wants to be the first to tuck in. That’s kind of the position eco-retailer TREE finds itself in. It was among the first home interiors suppliers to commit fully to the sustainability movement in Hong Kong, and now that they’ve sampled the proverbial table they’re one of many. But that’s a badge of honour. “As Hong Kong’s first eco-chic boutique we are very proud of how TREE has contributed to the growth of the eco-conscious movement in the city,” says Managing Director Kate Babington. “Eco-living by all aspects is becoming more popular. Not only because it’s a current trend, but because there is real concern and understanding that we live in a world that cannot sustain the speed at which civilisation is growing.”
Babington chalks up the increased interest in sustainable design to education, which in turn increases demand for responsible consumption. She also believes more and more retailers will heed that demand and that’s a good thing overall — as long as it’s the real deal. TREE has made a name for itself by recycling, upcycling, reclaiming and using FSC-certified woods and forging careful partnerships. But that green label is everywhere these days and though imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, “We continue to evolve and offer new products on an ongoing basis.” The flagship store is also evolving, and though Babington is tight lipped for the time being, shoppers can expect a revitalised retail space, as well as some, “Exciting new collections coming soon. So keep your eyes peeled for new pieces … over the next few months.”
If TREE is going to hold on to its position as vanguard, it has to keep things in the store fresh. We many not change our sofas as frequently as our shoes, but innovation is key nonetheless. Fortunately, Babington loves the challenge. “We genuinely love the hunt, and are constantly looking for new reclaimed, recycled and reloved home furnishings to add to our collections. From abandoned driftwood, to up-cycled hand blown glassware, to discarded oil drums, we love to branch out and find the unexpected,” she says. Working with local designers is also a high priority, which can be seen in the ceramics from Faux by Hong Kong designer Mariko Jesse and the socially progressive So Soap! products (for sale and in TREE’s facilities). “I’m also keeping my eyes and ears open to discover more grassroots initiatives in different countries where sourcing their products will support keeping local handicraft traditions alive as well as provide a source of income to these small communities,” explains Babington. “The world is a big place and there’s so much more to discover.”
For now, a new season is around the corner and TREE has a line of new accessories designed to jazz up a room for the summer. Cushions, lamps, tableware and seating in recycled, reclaimed or petrified woods, marble and ceramic are the tip of the iceberg, but the standouts include the Summer Neutrals and Vietnamese ceramics. Among the Neutrals highlights are the new lamps, using driftwood found on various Southeast Asian shorelines. The resulting standing lamps are distinct, with no two lamps alike, and come ready to adorn desks, tabletops or stand in the corner. Similarly, the new mango wood stools (ideal as extra seating for those summer barbeques) double as ornamental displays. True to TREE’s mandate, mango wood is a fast-growing, sustainable material with a unique finish in wildly varying shades. Finally, the latest in tableware comes from Vietnam. The handmade bowls, platter, tea jars marry old world tradition and modern accents to add something just a little different to the dining room.