- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
Swedish fashion and lifestyle brand Arket, from the H&M Group, has unveiled its long-awaited debut flagship store on Regent Street, ahead of its official opening on Friday, August 25.
Located within the unit that once house Banana Republic, Arket has transformed the 17,000 square foot space into a calm, modern and very grey environment, with bespoke terrazzo stone floor, cement-grey walls and an OCD-neat layout that is light, airy and simple in its construction.
The interior has been developed by the brand’s in-house team and centres around the simplest of contraction elements - the plank, and features larch, birch, ash, stainless steel, aluminium, rubber, textile and bespoke terrazzo stone, all chosen for their “practical needs of the construction” explains Arket “in order to waste as little raw material as possible”.
“The plank creates the entire system vertically as well as horizontally and is reused on tabletops and mirrors. It is the repetition of this simple element and the monochrome palette that forms the concept,” the brand adds on the design on its Instagram.
The whole idea of Arket is to be a fast-fashion disrupter, the brand is looking to offer “durable products designed to be used and loved for a long time” with items geared around the whole family, which is why the store houses menswear, womenswear and childrenswear, as well as homeware and a cafe, which is based on the New Nordic Food Manifesto, featuring a vegetarian menu.
Arket aims to disrupt the UK high street with London launch
What instantly hits you when you walk into the store is the space, the design and OCD approach to the styling of the clothes and accessories means that you feel calm. There isn’t masses of rails to weave around, no huge displays of mannequins showcasing the latest trends, instead there are shelves not filled, racks are evenly spread out in colours, and tables are covered with individual items rather than piles.The design is definitely all about attention to detail, it makes you focus on the quality of the product and adds a more luxurious feel to the traditional high street shopping experience.
Also a surprise is that Arket has given menswear the unprecedented ground floor spot, with the men’s tailoring and knitwear being the first thing customers will see when they enter. The menswear then leads into the very Instagram-friendly homeware and beauty department at the heart of the store, which I’m sure will be a firm favourite with consumers. Rounding off the ground floor is the vegetarian cafe, which has its own entrance opposite Liberty’s, which is probably the most exciting prospect as they really are hoping that Arket will be more than just a clothes shop but rather a shopping destination.
Upstairs is dedicated to a womenswear and childrenswear, showcasing the curated edit of its ‘archive’ collection, which sets about creating the building blocks to creating a capsule wardrobe filled with an “everyday uniform” of quality staples in a minimalistic design in fabrics such as organic cotton, silk, recycled cashmere, wool, and polyester yarn made from used plastic bottles, all colour coded across the floor.
Essentially, Arket is billing itself as the “modern-day market” offering wearable pieces that focus more on quality, simplicity and functionality, rather than trend. While you won’t see the latest catwalk copies at Arket, like you would in H&M, you will see seasonal updates to the core collection, such as colour and material changes.
There will be comparisons made regarding the fashion offering to sister brand Cos, however, the aesthetic is more classic and traditional at Arket, with premium staples being at the core, from the organic cotton T-shirt to recycled cashmere jumpers, as well as functional items such as the two-in-one Series fish-tail parka that features a lightweight, weatherproof outer and a detachable padded lining designed for all-year wearing.
To ease customers through the ‘archive’ the layout features all the same colour together, and each style comes with a unique nine-digit ID code, identified by department, category, product and material, for instance anything in the women’s department has a 2, knitwear is 22, while cashmere is 087 and anything recycled is easily identified with an R at the end. This code also helps tie-in online with in-store, as shoppers can simple search online for the specific item to see if it comes in a new fabric or colour, and even to see if it their favourite items has been restocked.
In addition to Arket’s own-brand ‘archive’ collection, the store also features a number of “complementary” third-party brands mainly across shoes, accessories and homeware, such as Adidas, Nike and Veja, as well as less well known brands such as Danish toy brand Nature Zoo and stationery brand Deskstore of Sweden.
Arket opens debut store in London on August 25
The brand is also putting sustainability at the forefront of its proposition, with each piece featuring a tag displaying the country it was made in as well as the supplier and factory, and even informing customers about the care of the products in an attempt to prolong their lifespan and reduce waste.
On the brand’s website it states: “The starting point for each product is quality, building on the strengths of each production market. Value for money will be ensured by economies of scare, by initiatives like the yarn projects, and above all, by establishing enduring styles.
“The result will be a seasonless production flow, lower development costs, and the flexibility to refine over time. This will also help achieve strong, long-term relationships with suppliers working together towards the same goals.”
Such initiatives are showcased in its Merino Yarn Project, where Arket has designed a unique knitted fabric made from organic merino-wool fibres that runs throughout the collection, and the Cotton GSM programme that has developed four different weights from one fibre to create a core collection of jersey, meaning you can buy the same style in different weights for all-year round wearing.
The thing you notice most about H&M Group’s new brand is that it is very well-considered, from the design and layout of the store to the website and its ability to search by department, colour or even pattern, as well as material and where the piece was made, and the clothes itself, its pieces have literally been designed to be “widely accessible, well-made, and durable” for longevity.
Arket is being positioned as H&M Group’s most premium brand, trying to target a gap in the market between mid-priced and luxury, with fashion prices starting at 3 pounds for a pair of socks to around 300 pounds for a coat. It will sit alongside H&M Group’s other brands, which also happen to be its neighbours on Regent Street including fast-fashion brand H&M, & Other Stories, Cos, and Weekday, which recently opened, as well as Cheap Monday and Monki, both close by on Carnaby Street.
Coinciding with the Arket opening in London on August 25, the brand will also launch its e-commerce, shipping to 18 European markets including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden. Consumers who signed up to the brand’s website before August 23 were sent out preview access to the website, along with a 20 percent discount code.
Commenting on the opening, managing director Lars Axelsson, said: “We’re very excited to reveal Arket to the public. We’ve been working towards this day for over two years, and look forward to finally meeting our first customers in London as well as throughout Europe online.”
The Regent Street Arket flagship will be followed up by a further London store in Covent Garden on Long Acre by the end of the year, which will house a bigger cafe, as well as openings in Copenhagen in September, and Munich, Brussels, and Stockholm planned for 2018.
Images: Danielle Wightman-Stone