Occupying a sought-after two-storey corner spot on London’s Regent Street, Arket is the new hotly anticipated lifestyle brand born of Scandinavian behemoth H&M. Positioning itself as the utilitarian sibling of Cos, & Other Stories and H&M, the brand describes itself as ‘a modern-day market place’ with a product offering that encompasses menswear, womenswear, childrenswear and homeware.
The doors to the first London outpost open today, to be swiftly followed by the launch of a flagship in Copenhagen next week, while a Covent Garden location is slated for September.
Two years in the making, Arket eschews trends, and instead aims to offer its customers well-made reliable staples for their homes and wardrobes. The more unusual items that pepper the shelves – such as the traditional Portuguese ceramics or ecological trainers – are supplied by an expertly edited selection of over 40 external brands.
Arket created its own scent concepts for its candles
‘We have less expertise within some areas, like shoes, accessories and homeware,’ explains Arket creative director Ulrika Bernhardtz, who has overseen the brand’s development. ‘We don’t want to revamp a product that we believe that someone else has already perfected. We’d rather bring that product in and mix it with our assortment.’ Trained as an architect, Bernhardtz has worked with the H&M group for over 23 years and has previously masterminded store design development at & Other Stories, (2011-2015), and at Cos (2005-2007).
At Arket, which means ‘sheet of paper’ in Swedish, the store concept takes its inspiration from historical archives, a fact which is abundantly clear in the store’s design, from the flexible floor-to-ceiling shelving to the 9-digit searchable product codes. Displayed like archived artefacts, the clothing is colour-coded, and hung or folded with near-surgical precision across cool grey shelves and rails made up of simple repeating grids and vertical and horizontal planks. ‘The idea is for it to be a really calm background to the product,’ says Bernhardtz. ‘We want the product to “pop” from the interior, rather than make the interior the centre of attention.’
Understanding that a retail store needs to be more than a space for transactions, and also that its customer base has a keen interest in food, the London store features a café based on the New Nordic Food manifesto led by Martin Berg, a Michelin-star chef from Stockholm. Cookery books and Arket’s own line of natural beauty products line the shelves, as does its own brand of olive and balsamic oil made in Sicily.
At the Arket store, products are displayed cross cool grey shelves and rails made up of simple repeating grids and vertical and horizontal planks
‘This customer is interested in how they take care of themselves and particularly how they eat,’ says Bernhardtz. ‘They are more interested in lifestyle trends than they are in fast fashion. There is a huge interest in food and it’s often connected to health.’
This level of attention to detail is also reflected in the store’s considered materials and furniture. On a walk through the space, Bernhardtz highlights a café chair with a subtly concave backrest that was designed by the late Swedish furniture designer Carl Malmsten. Having found the chair at an auction, the team tracked it down to Malmsten’s archive, where they discovered that it was originally designed in 1933 but never put into production. Now made exclusively in Skövde for Arket, the chair is handcrafted from oiled oak.
Similarly, the store’s terrazzo tiles have been custom made in Italy, where Bernhardtz and her team visited the quarry to hand pick the stone fragments they wanted to use on floors and counters. ‘Quality to our customer is many different things,’ reflects Bernhardtz, ‘I think they’re looking more for quality as the concept, and this is what we’re trying to bring.’