You may have noticed that bursting onto the Kuwait fashion scene at the moment is the Swedish brand MONKI. Brought to Kuwait by Alshaya, and with a tornado of fresh air, Monki cuts swaths through typical fashion expectations. Female empowerment, body positivity, self-esteem and sustainable living personifies the brand. This fresh attitude requires an entirely new approach to design of the retail environment and Head of Store Concept Catharina Frankander has been bringing the Monki world to life since 2006.
Catharina could not have had a more establishment education, with degrees from respected institutions the Architectural Association School of Architecture London and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. But, like the chrysalis moment of the emergence of Picasso to found Cubism, Catharina’s traditional training and expertise is used as the strongest of foundations to expand and explore modernism, moving a store from being a ‘retail environment’ into a whimsical embodiment of almost intangible ideas; the attitude, belief and style that is Monki.
While other famous Swedish brands may look to identikit stores as a visual merchandising philosophy, Monki’s interior design is organic and expressive, and in fact visually stunning. “Monki is the fashion retail brand that started as a reaction to the uniformity of retail” monki.com. proudly proclaims, “and the brand believes that the world should have a creative alternative which has led to Monki crafting a color-bursting storytelling world of its own.”
As the brand continues to develop, Catharina embraces and explores texture, textiles and futuristic finishes unexpectedly juxtaposed with traditional influences. You can see this with the oversized high-shine bubble clouds set into department ceilings, with pastel colored scalloped edged fixture detailing, and a deeply plush seating area where you can charge your phones.
With hanging baskets, disco balls and party tinsel as chandeliers this spectacular array of Monki design magic, is the ultimate setting for taking the perfect selfie. When you do, remember to use #MonkiKuwait!
Do the store concepts you design move laterally from what’s gone before, and is the latest store always the most up-to-date, modern, and Monki?
Totally. As a brand, we are always moving forward and we are always trying to find new ways to inspire and excite our customers.
While Monki is more about style than fashion, being true to yourself, how will the interior design change to reflect customers’ evolving style over the years?
The Monki World store experience is a collection of exciting destinations, taken from a smorgasbord that we constantly re-design and add new features to. The store design is therefore constantly evolving with each store, always with the customer experience on top of mind.
Do you take into account local style preferences when you are designing stores?
When we expand, it is always important to listen to the needs of the local customer, as well as being true to the Monki brand. Monki should be Monki, and offer the Kuwaiti women the same fashion experience, imaginative store design and empowering community as we do in all markets. We love to include winks to the local architecture in our shopfronts when we can.
What unique design solutions will Kuwait see in Monki that they have never seen before?
Monki stores are stories: they knit together imagination and mystery, spatial confusion and the surreal to offer whimsical experiences accessible to all. The Kuwait store brings together many parts of the imaginary Monki World into one boutique, introducing newly discovered wonders alongside re-imaginings of the most ancient lands.
The Kuwaiti customer will enter the store under a dazzling Disco Carousel which hovers high up in the confetti ceiling. Wander through wavy tentacles of Jellyfish swimming in the Sea of Scallops, elevating party tinsel to chandelier status. The lifestyle assortment is sheltered in the shades of the knobbly trees of the Knotted Jungle, arranged on branches of platters, recalling a childhood candy store.
Spinning turbine flowers in windows, mint snow balls and golden rains pouring from the ceiling. Fitting rooms stand amidst the Forgotten Forest where shoppers can view their new favorite garments from all angles and lose themselves in reflections; the ultimate selfie setting.
How does a partner like Alshaya successfully support the creation of the Monki experience?
We work together with Alshaya to ensure our brand is well presented. By partnering with Alshaya, we benefit from their local market knowledge and local construction teams. This is a way for us to open Monki stores in a part of the world where we would not otherwise be able to establish a presence using the current wholly-owned subsidiary model.
How do you ensure ethically sourced and socially responsible materials are used in production?
Monki aims to be kind to the world and the people in it. As part of the H&M group, we follow the requirements set by our Sustainability department. These requirements have a minimum standard based on UN and ILO Conventions together with national legislations.
We are only working with suppliers that comply with our Sustainability Commitment and Code of Ethics, meaning that we work with business partners that acknowledge sustainability in the whole value chain. The commitment communicates all the areas we are committed to work on to make our value chain more sustainable. Within these areas we include healthy workplaces, animal welfare, and a healthy eco system. We constantly strive to improve our sustainability performance.
Artists and architects often have secrets built into their work. Have you left any markers in the store?
Let me say this much, the store has a hidden portal into the Monki World…
Customers love the unexpected, does the concept translate into pop-ups?
Of course, it does! We always want to be where our customers are.
What is your favorite part of the Kuwait store?
The all-new lounge carousel where you can relax and get style input from friends while charging your phone.
Featured image is of Catharina Frankander (left) and the lit navigation as seen in Monki Gothenburg.