In 1825, the John Nash-designed parade on Regent Street was the world’s first purpose-built shopping street. Now, two centuries later, it is home to the world’s first 3D-printed store, made from upcycled waste plastic. The innovative and notably futuristic space is the flagship store of Bottletop, a brand known for leading the charge for a sustainable approach to luxury with its recycled ring-pull handbags that have been endorsed by the likes of Naomi Campbell, Annie Lennox and David Bailey.
“We want to show through our entire ecosystem – both our collection and our retail environments – that you can combine humble recycled materials and innovative production techniques to create spectacular accessories and interiors,” says Bottletop co-founder Oliver Wayman. On Regent Street this means a lean minimalist design by Krause Architects – manufactured by robots at pioneering northeast London-based technology company Ai Build – featuring a sinuous ceiling constructed from thousands of upcycled drinks cans. Transparency is a design keynote, echoing the brand’s mission to be transparent in its supply chain.
“We’re constantly looking at developments in cutting-edge materials and techniques to create products with purpose and positive impact,” Wayman enthuses. Their signature process starts with ring pulls rescued from landfill in Brazil, in exchange for a fair wage, then handpainted and combined with certified zero-deforestation leather at the Bottletop atelier in Itapua to produce bags such as the neat coral-coloured cross-body Helena (£195) and the Morela Mini tote (£295), in uplifting Mellow Yellow. The tabs are also crocheted into belts (from £65) and braided into panels on a unisex leather backpack (£495).
“With our store we’ve tried to achieve as near to zero waste interiors as possible,” adds Wayman, “with a view to paving the way for sustainable retail design.” Indeed, the Crown Estate, which owns the majority of Regent Street, now plans to lease the renovated Quadrant Arcade to beauty and wellbeing brands with ethical or philanthropic priorities. “It’s exciting we can have a wider impact on fashion and retail,” says Saul, who launched Bottletop in 2002 through a collaboration with Mulberry, founded by his father, Roger Saul.
The initial experimental design of the bags was based on one that Cameron encountered while working with an NGO in Uganda, created by local artisans from used bottletops and developed with leather off-cuts from Mulberry. The brand’s Kenya‑made bags were a forerunner of fashion’s sustainability movement, and the start of Bottletop’s full-cycle business that is environmentally responsible while also empowering local artisans with skills and livelihoods, and simultaneously raising funds for local health education programmes. Today the Bottletop foundation supports health education projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, the UK and Brazil, while the brand’s fashion credentials include collaborations with DKNY and Narciso Rodriguez (Luisa laptop sleeve, £395; Candice bag, £1,250). Up next is a global partnership with the UN Foundation launching early next year, championing 17 Global Goals for sustainable development. Watch this space.