Made in London by Londoners, for Londoners

Atelier100 is a new initiative bringing together creative makers and manufacturers within a 100km radius of central London. Backed by the know-how of IKEA and H&M, the project is a radical experiment in designing, producing and selling products hyper-locally – and at scale.

ATELIER100 AT A GLANCE

+ A community for local creatives.
+ Workspace access with tools and resources.
+ A network of local manufacturers.
+ A physical marketplace.
+ A mentorship and advisory platform.

WHY LONDON?

So, why kickstart Atelier100 in London? ‘London has always been a bustling hub for creative talent,’ says Marcus Engman, chief creative officer of Ingka Group, IKEA's largest franchisee. ‘And it seems like something very interesting is about to happen again.’ London's seen a surge in local creatives launching side hustles and businesses – and innovating in everything from old-school crafts to digital design. Camilla Henriksson, H&M's global brand innovation manager, agrees: ‘Most of the big metropolises have a really good diversity of creatives, but it felt very natural with London.’ The ideal location for Atelier100's first physical shop also emerged: nestled between new IKEA and H&M stores in London's Livat Hammersmith community complex.

It all started with a casual conversation between two Swedish giants. Creative counterparts from IKEA, the design-led furniture and homewares brand, and H&M, the global fashion company, were discussing their shared challenges and brainstorming clever, impactful ways that they could approach them. And, almost immediately, one issue rose to the surface: the difficulty in finding and nurturing the world's best new creative talent – everyone from designers to merchandisers. ‘Both of our companies are dependent on attracting creatives who reflect our wide customer base,’ explains Marcus Engman. ‘But we don't always get exactly what we need through the traditional ways of finding designers.’ Realizing that a creative brand's value often relies on an authentic connection to the zeitgeist,
both companies knew that fresh creative talent played a huge role in maintaining that connection – and that there was a real business case to be made for attracting and working with creatives with an even more diverse set of skills, life experiences and cultural reference points; creatives who were working at the grassroots level, and not just from academia. There was also a business case in Ingka Group, the largest IKEA franchisee, and H&M teaming up on the issue. ‘Once we started these discussions, it became very clear that we come from the same values,’ says H&M's global brand innovation manager Camilla Henriksson. ‘This kind of partnership has to be very authentic. You can't force it. It has to feel like this is a journey we are on together, rather than trying to compete.’
CAMILLA HENRIKSSON
MARCUS ENGMAN

ENTER ATELIER100

Their solution is a new initiative called Atelier100: a design incubator, mentorship program and physical shop all rolled into one, which launches this spring in London. The vision is to become the go-to local community for creatives and manufacturers. Here's how it works: Atelier100 is essentially a platform for making new things. Designers, makers, creators, manufacturers and production studios within a 100km radius of central London (hence the ‘100’ in the name) can apply to the program. All must have a desire to create amazing products and with a hyper-local focus. That's when Atelier100's ecosystem kicks in, introducing local materials, access to funding, mentoring and advice, and the space to make it all happen. When finished products emerge from this creative cauldron, they're then sold in Atelier100's physical shop – sandwiched between IKEA's and H&M's new stores in London's Hammersmith neighborhood – and eventually on an online marketplace, too.
The two brands see their role as akin to that of a record label – acting as an enabler for creative people to do what they do best. ‘From the very start, we agreed that this is not about us; it's about the creatives,’ Marcus says. ‘We're giving the mic to them – that's important to us.’ Just as a record label provides its musicians with everything from audio production services to marketing, H&M and Ingka Group intend to provide the creatives at Atelier100 with advice on product development, communication, making things at scale, and more. They'll do the same thing for the manufacturing partners as well. ‘If you get manufacturers, creatives and consumers closer together, you'll end up with a better product, a better service and a better solution,’ Marcus says, referring to the opportunity that Atelier100 has to develop a more holistic and therefore impactful ecosystem of production. The idea is that this will create a much stronger creative industry, one that benefits all parties.
This kind of partnership has to be very authentic. You can't force it. It has to feel like this is a journey we are on together, rather than trying to compete.

A GLOBAL PLATFORM

The vision and ambition is to launch Atelier100 in London and then do the same in other key global cities. Each new city will bring with it fresh local creatives, manufacturers, materials and partners to get the program off the ground. ‘I'm already looking forward to when we can launch Atelier100 in other cities,’ says Camilla. ‘What kind of materials, producers and creatives will we find there?’
But, for now, the next few months will be all about launching, manufacturing, connecting, making and experimenting in London. ‘It's super interesting to just put a pin on the map and start exploring,’ Camilla says. ‘It's a fantastic new creative process – and one that also makes you more curious. This kind of community building just feels super exciting.’
Illustration: David Sparshott.

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