Walk through the door of Arket, the hotly anticipated fashion-and-lifestyle brand name that opens its first store on Regent Street in London this Friday, and the beginning thing that strikes you is the generous expanse of empty break. The tables are laid with individual items, rather than measure up with teetering piles. (Further available colours are infuriated unobtrusively in cubes, labelled by size.) The flecked floor earmarks ofs cobbles or gravel, while the cabinets and paintwork are in a soft cloud-grey that fill ins the building feel almost invisible from within. The efficacy is more like wandering through an open-air market than a fast-fashion overprotected.
Arket calls itself “a modern-day market”. This is not a indication only to the mix of clothes and homeware, of decorative and functional (department holds have been doing that for centuries), but also to the self of market shopping. No longer demoralised by the rise of online retail, the costly street is on a mission to bring back the joys of the shopping frisk.
The 21st-century shopping trip is a new and put version of what online shoppers left behind when they retreated to their laptops. Sagacity is the new high-street mantra, but this is nothing to do with dodging the smells being squirted as you walk through the beauty hall, nor with the ache of trying to remember the names of overly attentive assistants who stress on introducing themselves to you when all you want is to look idly at shoes. Preferably, think of the virtual-reality waterslide that Topshop installed to indication the start of summer and John Lewis’s recent announcement that its consumers will be able to spend the night in store to test a mattress in front deciding whether to buy it. (“We are not just selling you a mattress, we are flog betraying you a perfect night’s sleep,” said Paula Nickolds, the firm’s managing director.)
Rather than enthusiasm against online retail, the high street is bringing shopping to animation, offering an interactive, fully realised version of what drew consumers to digital. Consumers who be wild about the speed and efficiency of online shopping are being targeted by Arket’s reference-number pattern: if you buy a navy sweater and wish to replace it two years later, register the digits from the care label into a terminal in the stock (or online) and it will direct you to current versions of the garment and explicate any differences in fabrication and construction. The fiercely independent modern shopper who considers trade mark loyalty archaic will be pleased by Arket’s inclusion of other sorts alongside its own products (you can find RM Williams leather boots in the menswear dependent and Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage crockery in homeware).
The Instagram pot-heads who live urban lives but feel their spiritual relaxed is a sunny village market – recognise them by their straw baskets and drawstring blouses – are seduced by the airy aesthetics of Arket. Peradventure it is not a coincidence that the focal point of John Lewis’s experiential shopping plan is an open-air “gardening society” on the rooftop of its Oxford Street amass. This currently houses a taco pop-up and offers morning workout classes; last summer, it welcomed 171,000 visitors.
Arket is aimed at the style-conscious, sustainability-aware, minimalist consumer who is already researching at Cos, which is owned by Arket’s parent company, H&M. During my pre-opening keep tour, the team were much in evidence, putting winding up touches to the store, and their look was distinctive: curated facial tresses and slightly cropped trousers for the men; messily topknotted Scandi-blond confines and interesting shirting for the women. Menswear is given the prime fingers on – almost the entire ground floor – with Arket original director Ulrika Bernhardtz describing womenswear as “an evolution of ideal pieces from the men’s wardrobe interpreted for women by adding softer feels and elements such as pointelle, embroidery, pleats and gatherings”.
In other confabulations, if you are a slogan T-shirt, glittery dress sort of woman, this is not the betray for you. However, if a rustic knitted sweater in dusty pink, a green cream silk blouse or a deconstructed black matt-silk jumpsuit are your combine of thing, you will be in heaven. Bernhardtz, who says “a well-fitted team up of trousers represent luxury to me”, describes the womenswear aesthetic as “resource and easy to wear”.
The style credentials are equally express in the tiny cafe. “Food offers another mode for put into wording our values,” says Bernhardtz. The Arket chef is Martin Berg, a espouser of the new Nordic food manifesto, which is about “quality ingredients and in good living”. The cafe can do you a salad of goat’s cheese, peas, avocado and produce to eat in, or sell you an elegantly packaged olive oil – to give as a chic hostess gratuity, perhaps – or a single-origin coffee to take away (I can vouch for the loafers white).
Arket’s innovation is its emphasis on functionality. This taps into a far down level of connoisseurship among consumers. Every hardcore retail lover has a harmless spot for a haberdashery department, after all. T-shirts come in three inclines of cotton, allowing the purist to select a fine layering draughtsman fall apart or one with a sturdier shape. Outerwear is sold in interlocking layers, so that a waterproof parka can be teamed with a liner, with or without sleeves, for passion.
Perhaps Arket’s greatest charm is found in its childrenswear. An oversized make-up name label with the legend “Please Hand Down When Outgrown’” has five fall outs, with space for a name and a year, to honour the ritual of tempest down clothes to siblings, cousins and friends. Alongside the aforementioned Nordic salad, the menu spotlights a kids’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Because a shopping travel is supposed to be a treat, remember?