Axel Arigato embodies a new kind of fashion label. Founded upon the rejection of the traditional retail landscape, the Swedish sneaker powerhouse is renowned for doing things its own way – foregoing seasonal collections and traditional sales channels to instead engage directly with its loyal following. Its minimalist yet characterful streetwear-inspired pieces – which include footwear, clothing and 'objects' – are dropped weekly in a bid to stay attuned to changing customer demands and to minimise overproduction.
The approach may be unconventional, but it's clearly working. Seven years since its inception, Axel Arigato continues to go from strength to strength. We caught up with its co-founders Max Svärdh and Albin Johansson – creative director and CEO respectively – to learn more about what drives them and what the future of Axel Arigato has in store.
How did the idea for Axel Arigato come about?
Max: We couldn’t find a brand that we truly could identify with, we wanted to create a brand for the next generation and at that time most of the competitors were still doing everything in the same way so we did most of the things in the opposite way, talked directly to the customers, built a community and only sold our products directly through our own website with zero wholesale accounts.
The market is saturated with an ever-increasing number of sneaker and streetwear label. What sets Axel Arigato apart from the rest?
Albin: It is true that there are many brands offering sneakers and are inspired by streetwear. However, the essence when working with fashion is to always reinvent what you do and how you inspire your customers. If you stay where you are, you might end up where you don't want to be. Our ‘Drop of the Week’ does put a level of pressure on ourselves to constantly offer something new, it does start with the product but needs to be backed with content, communication, events, distribution and a lot of other elements.
Max: Since starting, we forged a direct line of communication between the brand and the customer – be it via Instagram or meeting the community on the ground when we had weekly programming of events at our stores. This way, we keep the customer at the focal point of the design process.
What, in your opinion, makes the perfect pair of sneakers?
Max: If it’s aesthetically pleasing, innovative and utilises planet-conscious materials.
What does Axel Arigato's approach to the design process look like?
Max: Everything starts with the customer, who are we creating this product for and what is the purpose. Once that is decided we adapt everything from shape, materials, colours to that.
Axel Arigato draws on cultural references like music, art and architecture for inspiration. Which aspects of culture are you feeling most inspired by and excited about at the moment?
Max: Both the brand and me personally are deeply rooted in music. At the moment I'm inspired by Zuukou Mayzie - Be Water and excited to hopefully soon be able to go to a festival.
Albin: I'm very inspired by the younger generation and how they constantly push barriers and aren’t afraid to strive for social change.
What do you envision for the future of Axel Arigato?
Albin: The possibilities are limitless but at this moment in time we’re focusing on growing our European footprint. In the immediate future, key markets for us are London, Paris and Germany – and in the second half of the year we are looking to grow our global presence by exploring new markets such as the US and Asia. At a time when there’s so much uncertainty, especially around retail, there’s one thing that we’re all looking forward to – and that’s being able to open our doors up again and reconnect with our customers through events and store experiences.
Can't get enough of Axel Arigato's minimalist aesthetic? Read our guide to minimalist menswear for more brands championing the less-is-more look.