Interview with Lars Axelsson

Lars Axelsson
Lars Axelsson

Your intention is to make longterm fashion. How do you intend to achieve this? How exactly do you determine a durable design that works in all markets?

To attempt to make products with a longer life, we invest time in their development. This can be in the form of studying vintage garments and source material to identify the archetypal qualities of a particular style or print, the development of custom yarns and fabrics by our in-house technicians, or longterm collaborations with textile experts around the world. We see quality as the basis for longevity and sustainability, and we strive to make products that are refined and versatile, that can be combined in many ways to suit different needs and occasions. Sustainable design builds on simplicity and functionality and means that the products need to be able to withstand both wear and seasonal trends. At the core of our collections is a base of carryover products, ones we intend to keep in the collection for a long time, allowing customers to find their favourites time and time again. Our solid foundation of core products also creates room for play season-to-season through materials, colours and proportions.

How much fashion do you allow yourself in the collection?

The archive is the starting point for all Arket collections, which means going back to the original idea of each product category to understand why it was developed, why it looks and works as it does.

Beautification or experiments with different materials enhance the function and utility, and help the products find their place in the modern world. Each new collection is defined by a unique theme or reference, expressed through signature pieces, shapes or fabrics, but always stands on a foundation of products that traverse the seasons. The idea of transitional wear, layering and functionality is fundamental to how everything we design and develop. 

Your collection is very colourful. How does this fit to long-lasting design?

Quality, functionality, simplicity, versatility and durability are all fundamental parts of sustainable design, which is a concept we've been talking a lot about during the development of Arket. Whether it's a garment or an item for your home, the design of our products always starts with defining their purpose. Our customers should trust that everything we make deserves its place on the shelf. The colours we work with form a creative framework for each new collection, where soft shades and nuances within a limited palette help create richness and depth in a simple and refined way.

How many collections do you work with each year? How often do new styles come to the store?

Within our Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections, we frequently release smaller drops with seasonal variations and new additions to the core assortment.

What happens to the part of the collection that cannot be sold?

The vast majority of our range is sold in our stores or online. We also actively move products to stores where we see a greater demand, or even to other countries where we have too few. But naturally it is impossible to always accurately predict demand, especially during the early stage we are in. If products remain unsold at the end of the season we evaluate storage until the next season. Only in exceptional cases where no internal solutions are feasible would we consider external buyers of overstock, but it is something we are fortunate not to have had to do.

How exactly do you ensure that your workers can make a living from their work?

Arket works with independent suppliers and does not employ garment workers directly. However, we want all our suppliers to pay a fair living wage, and we definitely see it as our responsibility to work for fair wages and good working conditions in the countries where we buy products from. The best way to improve wages for textile workers in the long term is to improve the wage structures for the whole industry. We believe in doing this together with factory owners and factory employees, with other brands, as well as with the governments in the respective countries. The first necessary step is to create an enabling environment where wages are negotiated between the factory owners and democratically elected worker representatives.

Will your experience in designing sustainable processes also have an impact on the processes at H&M?

All brands within the H&M group share a common sustainability ambition and strategy. Naturally, each brand chooses areas where they can have more impact and drive change, but at the end of the day we all learn from each other.

The store concept is very unique as you integrate a café. Why?

Our ambition has been to create a new type of destination, a modern-day market, combining carefully curated collections with a New Nordic vegetarian café. We've looked at what kind of store experience we were missing as customers, a place where you feel inspired and at ease, where it's easy to find what you're looking for, and where you can get an understanding of the quality of the products. We also wanted to offer something more than shopping, and making the café a central part of the stores felt a natural direction. The café is a warm and generous environment that invites you to a slower pace, and also what creates a unique atmosphere in each of our different locations.

What are your long-term plans with Arket?

We're still a young brand and our current focus is to develop our version of the modern-day market. We have a broad customer group in 18 different markets and we want to be in close dialogue with the people spending time at Arket in order to refine our offering. Our mission is to democratise quality, to offer our customers an everyday uniform, and to create a destination for essential things that encapsulates a feeling of warmth, innovation and tradition, both online and in our physical stores. As of today, we have opened several new stores this year, and more will of course follow.
Published on: 05/10/2018

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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