Ikea and H&M launch ‘ideas factory’ for London designers and creatives

Swedish retailers Ikea and H&M are teaming up to create an “ideas factory” on the high street that aims to seek out, mentor and promote designers and small-scale manufacturers in London.

Swedish retailers Ikea and H&M are teaming up to create an “ideas factory” on the high street that aims to seek out, mentor and promote designers and small-scale manufacturers in London.

Atelier 100, the first joint retail venture between the world’s largest furniture retailer and one of the largest global fashion chains will open in Hammersmith, west London, in May and is launching an open call on Thursday for creatives and producers based within 100km of the store to help stock its shelves.

The store is in Ikea’s first UK shopping centre, Livat, which opened in February, and is intended to be a meeting place and workplace for designers and makers, helping to foster new alliances and ideas, and be an outlet for selling their creations. Successful applicants will receive up to £10,000 to help scale up their ideas into commercially viable products, and training and mentoring from Ikea and H&M insiders as well as other experts.

All kinds of projects will be considered, from beauty and fashion to jewellery, art and even music. The only limitation is that any end product must be small enough for shoppers to carry away from the Hammersmith store. The look and feel of the store is also likely to change to reflect the interests and ideas developed by those involved.

“We want to be open to ideas,” said Camilla Henriksson, the global brand innovation manager for H&M. She said the two retailers wanted to “come closer to the customers” and to local people with ideas to ensure they continued to provide what people want.

Marcus Engman, the chief creative officer at Ikea’s parent Ingka Group, said the Hammersmith outlet was a year-long pilot project. If it works, further venues will be developed in other cities around the world in future.

He said that the idea for Atelier100 had been under discussion for some time but was part of the search for new ideas to recreate high streets that have been hit by the pandemic and the shift to online shopping.

“You can either see it as a challenging time for retail or that there has never been more opportunity for developing the future ways of retailing than right now. We try to have a positive outlook and see things will get better,” Engman said.

The first 20 applicants for Atelier100, who have until 24 April to put themselves forward, will be able to begin selling their existing products in Hammersmith from next month. It is hoped that new items developed with help from the project will go on sale from October.

Atelier100 has already linked up with the creative community around London by cataloguing more than 200 businesses that are designing and manufacturing products such as fashion and furnishings and the materials used to create them.

The project is now attempting to spread the net wider with posters in London neighbourhoods as well as a digital campaign.

“Instead of taking known routes we wanted to explore new ways to find creatives, new materials and small-scale producers existing here in London,” said Henriksson. “We see this as the start of a very exciting adventure. London is bursting with brilliant ideas and creative people, we want to meet these creators where they are.

“Opportunities in arts, entertainment and recreation have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. H&M and Ingka Group see this as an opportunity to engage directly with creatives and makers, to give them the visibility that they deserve and to support them in taking their business to the next level.”