Say Hello To ARKET. The Store ThatCould Actually Change The Way You Shop On The High Street

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by: Chloe Mac Donnell
24 Aug 2017

‘So what do you think?,’ asks Ulrika Bernhardtz, the Creative Director of ARKET, as I get to the end of my sneak peek of the new and highly anticipated concept store from the H&M group. When I reply; ‘It’s very dangerous,’ she looks at me concernedly. ‘In a good way,’ I explain…’This is a place where I can see myself spending a lot of time and money. I’ve already made a mental shopping list of things I want!’

Opening its doors to the public on London’s Regent Street this Friday (25th of August) the store is set to change the way we think and shop on the high street. Ulrika and her team in Stockholm, have been working on developing the concept for the past two and a half years after they noticed there was a gap in the high street market for: ‘Quality products at an affordable level.’ The resulting ARKET (which means ‘sheet of paper’ in Swedish) aims to fill that void. ‘A modern day market is how I would describe it,’ says Ulrika. ‘It’s one destination with a broad but carefully curated assortment of products for women, men, kids and the home.’

Walk into the store and the first thing that strikes you is just how vast it is. With its speckled stone floor, walls in a Farrow & Ball Mole’s Breath-esque grey paint, carefully placed marble tables plus neat and tonally organised product display units that give Marie Kondo some stiff competition, you quickly forget that outside is one of London’s most frantic shopping streets.

Menswear (think slightly cropped trousers and grey marl sweaters AKA what your dream Danish boyfriend would wear) dominates most of the ground floor, interspersed with homeware featuring simple glass jugs, Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage crockery, linen tea towels and even bottles of Sicilian olive oil. On the second floor you’ll find womenswear and kidswear. In an era of the highstreet mantra of ‘buy now, wear once’ thinking, ARKET stands out with its focus on longevity.

‘The collections are based around a solid foundation of the types of things you want to find again and again and again,’ explains Ulrika. ‘We call these the “Archtypes.” Each item is striving to be the best version of their kind.’ So for women you’ll find merino wool knitted jumpers, silk blouses and  simple navy peacoats while the kid’s department includes organic cotton baby-grows and puffer jackets with labels stating; “Please Hand Down When Outgrown” featuring five blank lines for five different names. ‘We will carry these archtypes over from season to season and sometimes present them in new colour-ways and with new details. But on top of that we have a seasonal layer too, which is essentially the mood for the season.’ For Autumn Winter 17, this means checked coats, trousers suits and red knits. 

Functionality is also key to the brand, so cotton t-shirts and those merino wool jumpers come in three weights, allowing the wearer to style them all year round, while outerwear features interlocking layers so you can wear a waterproof parka to a rainy British summer festival then come winter add a warm inner puffer layer to it. Taking this notion of long-term investment to the next level is the ‘ARKET ID,’ where every item is give a nine-digit code meaning that say you buy a navy pair of trousers this week, then next year you can search for the code in-store and online and see if the same shape now comes in a different colourway or fabric. Alongside ARKET’s own products, you’ll find a selection of other brands across footwear, homeware and accessories including Adidas, Nike and Hario. ‘The customer is already mixing different brands so it’s nice to be able to curate them here,’ say Ulrika. ‘We think these brands have done a perfect version of the product they are producing so we leave it to them. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.’

With a café featuring a Nordic style vegetarian menu, ARKET feels like the perfect hangout for those obsessed with The Killing and all things hygge. Plus with ARKET’s sister brands including & Other Stories, COS and the recently opened Weekday all thriving on Regent Street, why does Ulrika think Londoner’s are so keen on the Scandi way of life? ‘We have our Nordic heritage that is a filter throughout the development of Arket and this is reflected through the ideas of functionality, simplicity and durability. These values are not uniquely Scandi but we are happy more and more people share them. People want to find simple solutions to their everyday lives and I think the Scandinavian values have provided this. More and more people appreciate that.’ 

Reiterating ARKET’s less trolley dash, more destination approach to retail, is a dedicated in-store space for exhibitions that will change every two weeks. It’s this way of thinking that aims to persuade consumers to visit the store rather than just browse online. ‘A problem with the traditional high street is that it’s so crowded. So a physical store really has to be attractive, otherwise what’s the point in going in?’ says Ulrika. ‘A store will never compete with the speed and convenience that comes with shopping online, but both have different strengths. Online you can provide much more product information and in-depth details or the imagery that has inspired something. Whereas in-store we have staff who can tell you these things. Plus you can touch and feel things. And sense things. Ultimately, the brand explains itself through the in-store experience.’

The word ‘experience’ is used a lot when referencing high-end stores such as Colette in Paris or Story in New York, but is often used negatively when describing shopping on the high-street. With the store not even launched and having already amassed over 50K followers on Instagram, many who comment asking when its going to come to their city too, it looks like ARKET are already well on the way, to changing this. 

Ulrika’s Three Buys For The Ultimate Bang For Your Buck…  

‘What I love about this silk shirt (£79) is the hand feel. The texture is really nice but you can just wash it in the machine. That is so great! It also comes in cotton. It’s such a good style.’ 

‘This peacoat (£290) is a classic but feels so today. I see myself having this for 20 years. This is a good example of when we say products are striving to be the perfect examples of themselves.’ 

‘This top (£60) is actually made from recycled polyester.  We like for all our pieces to be versatile. So this can be worn over a t-shirt say with jeans and trainers for a casual look, or zipped up and styled with trousers and a heel for something dressier.’ 

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