What can we learn about an evolving local market?
By Elise Bousquet
Malltwen Freeman, Mat Barnes, Walid Bhatt of CAN STUDIO, part of Atelier100’s 2023 Cohort. Photography: Ayesha Kazim
“We have a much stronger idea of who our audience is now, the local creative scene and what Londoners are interested in.”
Having brought its unique initiative to London in 2022, Atelier100 is once again redefining its approach to London-based manufacturing through the think tank and store’s second drop.
Born through a collaboration between Swedish retail brands H&M and Ingka Group, the concept builds on the brands’ shared goal of nurturing local creative talent. Doubling its number of participating creatives since launching last year, Atelier100’s ‘drop02’ brings a fresh collection of products ranging from homeware and lifestyle, to fashion and accessories all made in the UK.
Reflecting on the brand’s evolution since launching last year, Austė Skrupskytė, creative lead for Atelier100, remarks “We have a much stronger idea of who our audience is now, the local creative scene and what Londoners are interested in.”
Chosen through a democratic open call, Atelier100’s 2023 cohort is made up of local product designers, fashion designers and makers. Once their applications are accepted, the group is guided by mentors from the retail and manufacturing fields, who assist them in creating their products for the collection. This year’s cohort includes south-east London fashion designer Pokuaa Ansere who creates bold and beautiful pieces themed around heritage, nostalgia and pride; founder of Ex-A Studio, jewellery designer Elliot Andre Greenfield uses 3D printing technology to create unisex jewellery pieces with materials mostly sourced from around Hatton Garden; and fashion designer Lily Rose Dambelli who creates elevated fashion essentials inspired by the demands of everyday London life.
"It has been fascinating observing how the creative communities are tuned into this and creating products that highlight the lifestyle and where they feel there is a gap in the product market."
“We very quickly noticed some trends emerging from the designers' applications – these were mostly reflecting the lifestyle in London” says Skrupskytė. “There were quite a few who applied with ideas hinting at London’s cycling culture, which I find really interesting. The Mayor of London has been an advocate for making the City of London more friendly to cyclists, and it has been fascinating observing how the creative communities are tuned into this and creating products that highlight the lifestyle and where they feel there is a gap in the product market”.
Reflecting on their approach to what local means since launching Atelier100, Skrupskytė remarks that London’s current manufacturing opportunities are actually quite limited compared to the city’s industrial history. “This year, we allowed some of our creatives to explore manufacturing opportunities within the UK and not just London, if it made more sense and would allow their products to be better designed,” she says. “Interestingly, almost all the making happens in London, but some of the material sourcing comes from the wider area outside of the city limits.”
“We definitely see London as the key city for us in terms of experimenting, both through the initiative and through the physical retail store”
While only in its second year, Atelier100 faces a unique challenge. The brand has ambitious plans to grow and be able to create viable commercial opportunities for its makers, but wants to retain its humble business model of helping local creative communities.
“We definitely see London as the key city for us in terms of experimenting, both through the initiative and through the physical retail store,” says Skrupskytė. Atelier100 is still a new brand, and its yearly cohorts provide new and impressive initiatives (such as 3D-printed footwear and a chair by CAN, the seat and backrest of which are made from London plane trees brought down in storms) that push the boundaries of design, creativity and rethinking the concept of locally-made products.