Inspiration can come from anywhere for Catharina Frankander, head of store concept at Monki. She talks us through the process of creating a new store and why every light fitting, sign and rack is important.
The first thing I do in the morning is drink water, do a little yoga and make a list of the day’s most important to-dos.
A typical week for me involves meetings galore. The week always starts with our weekly department and expansion meetings, but will also include purchase handover, design reviews, project feedback, and end with a team-leader/budget meeting on Fridays. Some weeks, I’ll be travelling to look at possible new locations in existing or upcoming markets and some weeks I’ll visit our head office in Gothenburg for management or project meetings. I always try to fit in a few hours each week to plan for the store concept department’s future and my own development.
Fresh out of architecture school, I founded my own brand agency with product designer Joel Degermark. Monki became our first client and we felt an immediate connection with the brand. We were inspired by the idea of a fun, empowering retail brand for young women and were willing to work around the clock to make it happen. In the beginning, we created an entirely new store concept each year to increase the brand awareness.
Monki’s interiors can be inspired by anything: youth novels, brilliant songs, quirkiness in nature, mesmerising art installations and stupid YouTube clips. When you enter a store, you step into a part of Monki’s world. Every floor rack, chandelier and sign is designed as an integral piece of the story, to inspire and excite our snap-happy customers.
I’ve learnt that you need to always anticipate and prepare for change. Focus only on the thing you have the power to change or improve and always sharpen your tools to stay ahead. What took us here won’t take us to the next level.
The main phase in creating a new store is the briefing stage, where we decide on a new story to develop and collect input from stakeholders – that usually takes around four to six weeks. Then we move on to the concept phase, where we start sketching, drawing, rendering and using cardboard mock-ups. It usually takes 10 weeks before we move on to the detailed design, where we draw construction drawings and order things such as light prototypes. For our new Vienna store, we have managed to go from the initial briefing to building a test store in around eight months.
My ability to handle stress and sell new ideas has been key to my success. The fact that I’m never completely satisfied has also helped.
One of the biggest challenges in my career has been handling Monki’s transition from a small start-up to a medium-sized company, while still keeping the brand DNA and entrepreneurial spirit alive. The strategy is still evolving. For me, that means building a department, setting processes and developing an all-new store concept, while opening a lot of stores worldwide at the same time.
My advice to anyone working in fashion would be to find a great team of people to work with and dare to be brilliant. Don’t accept anything less than the best from yourself and others.
I’m really excited about our big store openings this in Hong Kong in late September and Vienna in late October. The store in Vienna will debut the latest interior design and will be the best one yet.
MY OTHER CAREER
I would write paperbacks or start a chain of inspiring food stores in Scandinavia.
2013-present H&M/Monki head of store concept
2009-2013 H&M/Monki store design director
2006 Co-founder of design agency Electric Dreams with Joel Degermark
2005 Master of Architecture, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
2004 Master of Architecture, Royal College of Art, London
2003 RIBA Part 1, Architectural Association, London