The Eataly of Fashion and Lifestyle: Green Pea Democratizes Sustainability

MILAN — Innovation requires time. Sometimes quite a lot. It actually took 10 years for the Farinettis, the Italian family behind the success of high-end food emporium Eataly, to realize a project that Oscar Farinetti envisioned a decade ago.

“We were strolling around the West Village in New York and my father’s attention was caught by the window of a store where knitwear was presented next to the image of a sheep,” explained Farinetti’s son Francesco. “We realized that that fashion store was doing what we were doing with food at Eataly and he had the idea of bringing the same concept, which is offering something tasty, clean and fair, outside the food industry in the world of things: a sort of Eataly of things.”

That’s how the idea behind Green Pea was born. Described by Francesco Farinetti, Green Pea president and chef executive officer, as “the world’s first green retail park,” Green Pea combines education, fashion, interior design, beauty, automotive and entertainment into a 161,459-square-foot space entirely dedicated to sustainability.

Opening on Dec. 8, Green Pea, which spans over five floors, is located in Turin in the Lingotto district, where Eataly opened its first location in 2007. Controlled by Farinetti family’s Eatinvest SpA, while another 10 percent is in the hands of the Orecchia family behind Turin’s Vestil fashion store, Green Pea required investments of over 50 million euros. Its state-of-the-art building, an example of the most advanced sustainable architecture, is owned by Eataly Real Estate S.r.l., which also owns the Eataly locations in Milan and in Rome’s Ostiense neighborhood.

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“I think that with this project we are inaugurating a new way to do commerce: we brought 100 partners working together under the same roof with one mission, selling sustainable products,” said Farinetti, who expects that about 3 million people will visit Green Pea every year. “We are opening in the middle of a pandemic and, despite the difficulties of the moment, let me say that this is probably the best moment to launch this project. In fact, this pandemic really pushed people to reconsider their relationship with nature and boosted a new desire for a healthier lifestyle.”

Fashion plays a big role in the project. “When 10 years ago, Oscar [Farinetti] called me to discuss his idea and asked me what was the status of sustainability in the fashion industry, I told him that we were far behind. Ten years ago there were only a very few brands producing green products and they didn’t look good, they were for sustainability-addicted only,” said Roberto Orecchia, Green Pea’s fashion brand director. “We couldn’t think of boosting a real change with those types of products, so we started making researches contacting brands and manufacturers, learning more, sharing ideas and pushing labels to include sustainability in their key goals.”

Green Pea, which is based on a mall-like concession retail model, doesn’t only feature the stores of brands that are 100 percent green, but also a selection of labels that for this new project offer in their shops sustainable products exclusively.

“Behind this strategy resides the concept of supply chain: we are pushing the industry to learn to be more sustainable, it’s an ongoing process,” Farinetti added, saying that Green Pea will have 37 shops of fashion brands. The houses involved in the project span from Timberland, Patagonia, Ecoalf, North Sales and Esemplare to luxury firms including Brunello Cucinelli, Ermenegildo Zegna, Sease and Herno.

The Green Pea sustainable retail project Courtesy of Green Pea

“The goal is combining the pop and the top, for the wider audience possible,” said Farinetti, noting that in the area dedicated to automotive the Fiat 500 electric city car is shown next to the new Maserati hybrid sedan and on the interior design floor, which collects 40 companies, a recycled wool kitchen retailing at 3,500 euros finds place next to Valcucine luxury designs.

“We embraced the same approach to food, which is a must in our projects,” said Farinetti, explaining that at Green Pea, visitors will have access to both the Pop Bistrot and the Casa Vicina Michelin-starred restaurant.

Along with a tailoring workshop and innovative machinery to create avatars, on the rooftop Green Pea features a club, including a spa, a cocktail bar and an infinity pool, overlooking the Alps. These will be accessible to Green Pea card owners, who for 50 euros a year will have at their disposal a range of facilities, as well as promotions, sustainable content and experiences.

Asked about the criteria used to select the brands and the products included in the project, Farinetti said they decided to not stick to any certifications currently available on the market. “There are way too many certifications available and to be honest consumers don’t know even one of them,” he said. “So we wrote a manifesto that sums up our vision, and we asked our partners to comply to that and to honestly share with consumers in the store what they have actually achieved and what they are still missing in terms of sustainability. That’s our way of interpreting sustainability, as a journey which we are doing all together.”

In order to raise awareness about sustainability, Farinetti decided to welcome visitors with a 10,7634-square foot museum dedicated to green technology and environmental themes. “Knowledge is key to boost a change in people’s lifestyle,” the executive said. In addition, a library dedicated to sustainable materials will give access to a wide range of suppliers, offering a service for the Italian manufacturing supply chain.

In keeping with the products it carries, Green Pea’s building, which has received the ITACA certification, was designed by architects Cristiana Catino and Carlo Grometto, as well as by engineer Gabriele Gerbi, to be a green organism. In fact, powered by geothermal wells, photovoltaic and solar panels, it uses renewable sources guaranteeing high efficiency and a reduction in CO2 emissions. Thanks to a sophisticated titanium and wood wind blade and high-end technology installed in the flooring, it captures both wind and kinetic energy. For the store, Green Pea used wood from 250 trees that were destroyed in the course of natural events.

Green Pea won’t sell its products online, although it does have a web site offering engaging content. It will start a global expansion in 2022 with a location in the Middle East. “Then, we will surely invest in the U.S., most probably on the West Coast in Los Angeles, which is particularly sensitive to the green issue,” Farinetti said. “We are also receiving requests from London and Paris. I think that with the difficulties that malls and department stores are facing, the idea of enriching your offering with the best of the Italian lifestyle is very appealing for many players.”

Farinetti aims to replicate the success of Eataly, which comprises 42 locations worldwide. A new 53,820-square-foot store is opening in Dallas on Dec. 9, and additional units will debut in London, Brussels, Madrid and Verona.

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