When Ikea falls in love with fashion designers

After officially taking charge of menswear creativity at Louis Vuitton, on 30th April Virgil Abloh presented his latest collaboration with ...Ikea.

“One of the questions I’m most frequently asked about this collection is whether it will be affordable, and available everywhere. The answer is yes, because Ikea’s goal is to democratise design.” These were the words with which the US designer and planetary fashion superstar began his speech, as he unveiled his first creations for the Swedish furniture giant.


Virgil Abloh with one of the rugs of the ‘Markerad’ capsule collection - Ikea/Youtube
 
Ikea, which currently operates 355 stores worldwide, began to collaborate with fashion designers in 2016, with Bea Akerlund, Kit Neale and Katie Eary. “We are introducing an increasing number [of collaborations], because in general we believe it's a beneficial exercise, bringing together different disciplines, environments and people,” said Ikea's Creative Director Henrik Most. Ikea’s marquee collaboration, with the founder of the Off-White fashion label, was announced in 2017. The line is called ‘Markerad’, and so far it features only a handful of articles: two rugs, a chair and a series of translucent sneaker showcase boxes. Ikea is stage-managing the capsule collection’s launch with painstaking care, on social media too. The products will be available in-store not before 2019.


A prototype of the renowned Ikea shopping bag, reinterpreted by Off-White’s founder - Ikea/Instagram

In a livestream broadcast on 30th April, Virgil Abloh explained his design philosophy, and said he hopes that Millennials could be as fascinated by furniture as they are by his Off-White sneakers. This is the challenge for Ikea: to be able to attract a clientèle aged 18 to 25/30 - the age when people tend to buy their first furniture - which yearns for products that are consistent with its inclinations.

“By teaming up with Virgil Abloh and Chris Stamp, we don’t think we are working on fashion collaborations,” said Henrik Most. “We want to work with them because we are keen to understand the everyday life of the young generations. Fashion designers are also good at creating narratives, and they are effective in reaching out to specific target groups. In our case, a younger audience,” he added.

For this spring, Californian streetwear designer Chris Stamp devised a furniture capsule collection for Ikea which is inspired by urban culture, clearly targeting young people, and skateboarding fans in particular, and featuring a set of t-shirts and hoodies too. “Fashion and interior design are different, but the creative process is similar,” said Chris Stamp, who launched his fashion label Stampd in 2011. “Whatever the product in question, to design always means finding the appropriate solution to a problem,” he added.


Furniture from the Ikea collection styled in collaboration with Chris Stamp - Ikea
 
In 2019, Ikea will also join forces with Ben Gorham, founder of Swedish fragrance label Byredo. His mission will be to redefine what interior fragrance means for the Swedish giant, whose annual revenue is €34.1 billion. And, according to Henrik Most, more collaborations with fashion designers are on the cards in the near future. Ikea is also keen to organise attention-grabbing events around these collaborations, sequencing the launch of new capsule collections in the manner of a concept store, and building communication plans around these launches. This will allow Ikea’s advertising strategy to differ from the traditional approach adopted by major furniture retailers.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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