SHANGHAI — 3R Labs (“3R” stands for reduce, recycle and reuse), an eco-friendly themed urban lifestyle store, is in the game to make sustainability cool.
Located in a leafy Shanghai neighborhood, the plant-filled, minimally designed retail outpost is only a few blocks away from LMDS, Aesop and Lululemon, and has already become a friendly pit stop for the downtown fashionable crowd.
Billed as a purpose-driven retail concept, 3R Labs is led by Vincent Fong, a plain-spoken, 32-year-old serial entrepreneur who is also a fourth-generation member of Hong Kong’s real estate giant Hip Shing Hong.
Instead of joining the family business, Fong decided to cut his teeth in the tech and fashion world. Apart from spearheading the material science company Raze Technology, Fong was also responsible for bringing Justin Bieber’s Drew House label to the China market.
By introducing design-driven, moderately priced, and certified eco-friendly goods to the local market, Fong hopes the store can promote the idea of “sustainable urban living” to a fashion-forward customer base. 3R Labs is backed by Townson Smart Energy, a Hong Kong-listed renewable energy company.
“The lifestyle in China, driven by e-commerce, is truly convenient, but that also caused a lot of harm to our environment. You can certainly compensate by refusing to use disposable chopsticks, you can help plant millions of acres of trees via online surrogates, but it’s also easy to do a little bit more in terms of sustainable living. We’re here to tell the shopper that by switching up your lifestyle, you can make a bigger difference,” Fong added.
“The Chinese retail market is a hyper-competitive space and only a fraction of the shoppers are willing to shell out for environmentally friendly products, so it’s definitely an educational process,” Fong continued.
“You want these eco-friendly brands to be presented in a comprehensive manner, well curated, not just stocked at a corner of a fashion multibrand store,” Fong added. To wit, Warren & Laetitia 3D printed recycled plastic vases, A-list bento boxes made from coconut fiber, as well as niche fragranced candles have been particularly popular at 3R Labs since its soft launch two weeks ago.
3R Labs’ launch comes at a time when the country’s policymakers started pushing for “green lifestyle” in late 2022. The world’s second-largest economy is aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
In recent years, Shanghai Fashion Week and sustainability platforms launched by fashion veterans such as CanU and Yehyehyeh, have been taking the lead in promoting fashion sustainability. Last December, local fashion retailer Zuczug joined Chinese luxury yak wool brand Norlha and lifestyle label HaoBottle as a certified B Corp.
“Ultimately, 3R Labs’ idea is simple,” Fong continued. “We want to attract more young people, the fashionable crowd. They are the ones who can influence our market futures.”
To bring that idea to life, Fong enlisted Shanghai-based design studio MHPD to revamp the 200-square-meter space. Known for fashion retail projects such as Shanghai’s Looknow and Chengdu’s Clap, MHPD’s Paul Hsu created a chessboard-like modular system that enabled more than 50 percent of the shop floor to be reconfigured for various needs.
Aside from retail, 3R Labs is currently hosting a sustainability exhibition and a weekend farmers market where shoppers can pick up leftover blueberries, or “ugly blueberries,” from Hangzhou’s Peng Gong Farm.
Fong is also candid about how putting impact first might mean sacrificing profits in the short run. “To allow ample space to showcase our cause, our sales-per-square-meters might have to be compromised, but at the end of the day, maximizing impact is our priority,” said Fong.
“We hope 3R Labs can spark a small movement, so more people will want to partake in the business of sustainability and eco-design. At least in Shanghai,” Fong added.