It all felt terribly Swedish in a small corner of west London last week.
Ingka Group – the real estate arm of Swedish furniture giant IKEA – and Scandinavian fast fashion colossus H&M had come together to introduce Atelier100, their first maker-based concept store for local creatives.
This one is in London but it could be in Stockholm or Paris, Berlin or Barcelona, and despite the fact that it is the community-based lovechild of two enormous global retail corporations, the idea is that it is the antithesis of corporate but instead rooted firmly in its place.
This Swedish Smorgasbord has taken residence in Livat, a former shopping center in London Hammersmith that Ingka this year converted into an urban, community-based retail center. That means a city-format IKEA, convenience stores, plus community spaces, a for hire store and Sook – a pop-up host specialist.
And now LIvat includes Atelier100, showcasing London-based – or to be strictly accurate, those within 100km of London – designers and creatives representing a sustainable and ‘hyper-local’ approach to retail. The project initially launched in April with a call for creatives, makers and manufacturers to share their ideas and the aim is for the first selected to begin selling their products from Fall 2022. In the meantime, the shop will showcase items designed and manufactured by London-based creatives.
But it’s more than just a showcase, the Atelier100 funding and mentorship program means that includes financial help and assistance with everything from accounting and creating a business plan through to manufacturing and bringing the products to market. The space has been designed to host workshops, talks and events, making it as much a temporary exhibition space as a store.
IKEA And H&M Promote Local Creatives
The end goal is not that these become available within IKEA or H&M. Rather, at the launch Marcus Engman, chief creative officer at Ingka Group, was at pains to explain how arduous the task of taking a product over the hurdles to find its place in the IKEA Marketplace was, which would ultimately stifle the creativity objective.
Espousing its green credentials, the Atelier100 space includes the use of recycled materials from Topshop’s former flagship Oxford Street space, which was purchased by IKEA in October last year and will reopen as a flagship IKEA in 2023.
IKEA and H&M were also keen to stress that while their Swedish sensibilities made them natural partners, they would happily work with other retailers, and that while they hope to do more, they distanced themselves from the idea of an international rollout. First up, they want to see how the concept translates and goes down with shoppers. Also, they see it as so hyper local that while an Atelier100 might appear in New York, it could be completely different from the one in London.
Engman said that the two companies had given the initiative its head and allowed them to get on with it. “We mustn’t be afraid to fail,” he said. “They have trusted us and we will learn and adapt. More than anything, we just want to see this idea out in the world.”
H&M Sustainability Drive
Camilla Henriksson, global brand manager at H&M, added that local relevance is at the heart of the project and the form must be dictated by the host city and its creative community. “We want to see how this plays out,” she said. “It has to be driven by the makers and it is a challenge to us to simply be curators.”
How the story is going to be translated in-store is less convincing. For the most part, the makers and people behind the brands won’t be there, so potentially the biggest hurdle will be telling the story.
Henriksson was also in charge of developing H&M’s Looop initiative in Stockholm, where customers can bring in old apparel to be re-made as something new. Henriksson said that it has proven popular but that it remains in “the early stages of developing at scale” because the machinery is large – although getting smaller – and the process takes three to four hours.
“We do hope to build more,” she said. “It very much fits with our ethos to be responsible for the whole lifecycle of our products.”