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LONDON — Swedish cult sneaker brand Axel Arigato is betting on its fast-growing apparel business to lead the growth.
The label on Wednesday is launching an expansive ready-to-wear collection for the fall 2022 season with a full range of products focusing on both men’s and women’s offerings for the first time, WWD has learned.
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Max Svardh, cofounder and creative director of Axel Arigato, said doubling down on apparel is a natural step for the brand after seeing the shop floor feedback. The brand ventured into apparel in 2017 with a six-piece menswear capsule, featuring the brand’s signature bee bird embroidery.
The brand secured a $7.5 million investment from the specialist fund Vaultier7 in 2018. At the time, Svardh revealed that the money will also be used to ramp up the clothing and accessories offerings, as well as physical and online retail expansions.
“Since we opened the first store, we saw that the customer had a big appetite to complete the look, not only buying just the sneakers but actually buying the full sets. That’s why we dipped our toes into hoodies, T-shirts and sweaters in the first place,” he said.
To spearhead the expansion, the brand hired Jens Werner, former creative director at J.Lindeberg, who has also worked on Y-3 by Yohji Yamamoto at Adidas and Tory Sport at Tory Burch, as head of rtw.
Werner said the direction of Axel Arigato’s apparel business aims to serve the brand’s core footwear customers, as well as new customers, by adding styles gradually and eventually building a recognizable style.
“Axel Arigato is a sneaker brand, so I’d like to evolve the collection around the sneaker silhouette, mind-set and the consumer. I would say the fits and the silhouette of the garments are less Scandinavian as it has a lot more graphic elements. In fact, Axel Arigato has never been a classic Scandinavian brand. It started internationally and it had that London vibe from the first day. I think that that’s a lot that we look at as well,” Werner added.
He positioned the brand’s apparel line in the affordable luxury segment. “We sell a pair of shoes for 250 euros and we will have maybe our most expensive hoodie at that price. And then for some items such as knitwear made with sustainable luxury yarns, it will be priced around the 300 euro mark, which is still an affordable price point,” Werner said.
Launched in 2014 by Svardh and chief executive officer Albin Johansson, Axel Arigato expects to grow at a similar pace as last year, which ended with a 76 percent increase in revenue, while the duo expects the rtw business will grow even faster, at 90 percent, compared to last year.
Svardh credited the robust growth to its community-building program, as the brand regularly turns its stores in cities like London, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Gothenburg, into party spaces to connect with all sorts of customers.
“Everything we do around the stores is a reflection of who we are and what we personally like to do. Things started when we opened the first store in London, then we organically grew that whole community in London around that space. And we have completely different events in different cities where we exist. Here in Gothenburg where I’m sitting, we host more local artists and local events versus the ones we have in London,” he said.
He sees them as a long-term investment to keep the brand relevant among customers. “We don’t want to throw products in their mouth. Rather, we are giving them a nice experience that they can talk to with their friends and maybe one of their friends comes back and buy in a year. That’s good enough for us,” Svardh added.
Looking ahead, Svardh confirmed that the brand is opening one new store in Europe this upcoming summer, and is looking for more space to expand in London and Paris, as the brand received a 56 million euro investment in 2020 from the private equity firm Eurazeo to prioritize its growth in Europe.
“In terms of strategy going forward, we want to penetrate the European market much more. We are also looking into the U.S., with plans to establish stores there. We are also looking into South Korea. We’re launching on Tmall in a couple of weeks, but we don’t have any plans in the pipeline today of opening up any physical retail in Asia. We’re doing it step by step,” Svardh added.