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Meet the H&M group veterans bringing Weekday to London

 

 

Ahead of Weekday’s first UK store on Regent Street this summer, Drapers talks to creative director Louise Lasson and managing director David Thörewik about the brand’s plans in the UK, Scandi style and championing causes.

 

London’s Regent Street is in the midst of a Scandi-invasion as the extended H&M family, including & Other Stories and the soon-to-be-launched Arket, moves in. Weekday, another H&M fascia, will also open a 7,000 sq ft store on Regent Street in mid-August, bringing its androgynous look to the West End. The Swedish brand is headed up by managing director David Thörewik and creative director Louise Lasson. Both are eagerly looking forward to opening Weekday’s first UK home when Drapers meets them in the industrial surroundings of shared working space Soho Works earlier this month.

 

“Honestly, it’s been on our agenda [to open in London] for a long time,” explains Thörewik. “It’s something that we’ve really longed to do and it’s been about timing – we’ve found the perfect location and the time is right to launch here.”

 

Weekday has come a long way since it was first founded in 2002. Starting life as a small denim and vintage store in a Stockholm suburb, it now has stores in eight countries and ships to 18 markets. A Paris flagship opened in April and a second London store is planned before the end of the year, although exact details have yet to be confirmed. H&M group does not break down sales figures by brand, but reported “strong sales growth for Weekday” in the full year results to 30 November 2016

 

“Weekday started 15 years ago. A couple of friends [Örjan Andersson and Adam Friberg] got an idea. It was a really small store in a destination area – it wasn’t in the city centre of Stockholm,” says Thörewik. “But it was really successful and a lot of young people went there, and it soon became popular. The store was only open on Saturdays and Sundays, and was then called Weekend. That was how it started, and after a few years, when the performance was good and there was an interest in what they were doing, it moved to a more central store and the assortment increased. It felt natural for them to increase the opening hours to Monday to Sunday, so it became Weekday.”

 

Weekday stockholm

Weekday stockholm

Weekday’s Stockholm store

The brand continued to expand in its native Sweden. In 2008, H&M bought a 60% stake in Weekday’s parent company, Fabric Scandinavien – which also owned denim brand Cheap Monday and women’s label Monki – for SEK564m (£46.6m). The retail giant bought the remaining 40% stake two years later, saying at the time it believed the brands had great potential for international expansion. Cheap Monday and Monki have already appeared on UK shores – both have stores on London’s Carnaby Street and Monki also has a shop in Bristol.

 

Weekday autumn 17 2

Weekday autumn 17 2

Weekday autumn 17

As veterans of the H&M family, Thörewik and Lasson are ideal candidates to bring Weekday to the UK. Thörewik has been managing director of Weekday since 2009, having previously held several positions elsewhere in the H&M group. Lasson started her career as a design assistant at H&M, and also moved around the group before joining Weekday in 2014. Both were Weekday customers before they started working at the brand. Thörewik was a fan of its denim and Lasson heard a buzz about the brand while studying at Stockholm’s prestigious Beckmans College of Design

 

Weekday might be the last of the three brands open a UK store, but the market is not completely uncharted territory, as it already operates a transactional website and is stocked on Asos.

 

“We are already selling through our online store to the UK, so we know there’s an interest in our brand and we see there’s interest on social media,” adds Thörewik. “We have a family of people who are interested in us here in the UK. Looking at Regent Street, we can see our customers there and we think we can add something to the environment. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes, but I’m confident we have a really good fit.”

 

Buying into unfussy Scandinavian style is increasingly easy for UK shoppers, who can have their pick from high street retailers such as H&M group members Cos and & Other Stories, and brands such as Samsøe & Samsøe, Ganni, Wood Wood, Baum und Pferdgarten, and Gestuz.

 

However, Tiffany Hogan, a senior analyst at Kantar Retail, argues that the bubble is far from bursting: “This look feels very relaxed – it’s the opposite of trying too hard for fashion. It’s not as formal, which fits very well with the casual trend we’re seeing across the board. We talk about the casualisation of workwear, but we’ve really seen the casualisation of everything and Scandinavian style fits with that mentality.”

 

Weekday’s customer is young, urban and cool. Denim is an important part of the men’s and women’s offer, as are oversized basics in muted tones. Prices are accessible – they range from £8 for a T-shirt to £70 for a men’s bomber and £225 for a women’s leather jacket. Jeans are priced from £30 to £45.

 

Weekday autumn 17

Weekday autumn 17

Weekday autumn 17

Thörewik describes the brand as “Swedish, youthful and influenced by street style,” while Lasson says its signature is “powerful minimalist”.

 

“If you were to sum up the aesthetic of the collections, I would say it’s minimal, but with an energy and dynamism. When we’re creating the collections, we’re always working a lot with contrast to create a dynamic assortment within the brand. We’re Swedish, so we’re obviously influenced by that environment,” she says.

 

For Sofie Willmott, a senior retail analyst at Global Data, Weekday is the younger sister of H&M stablemate Cos: “It has that edgier style, quite similar to retailers like Urban Outfitters, but at a lower price point so it could steal market share from them. It’s appealing to a similar target market to Topshop and Zara, but it’s a crowded part of the market, so they’ll have to work hard on store design and the offer to stand out.”

 

Lasson took inspiration from 1973 sci-fi animation Fantastic Planet for the autumn 17 collection, which will be sold exclusively at Weekday’s London store for three weeks when it opens, before being launched online and in the rest of the world. The look is utilitarian and futuristic. Key pieces include a women’s oversized cream shearling coat and a men’s white puffa jacket.

 

Inspiration can come from anything, but we often start with art or music

Louise Lasson

“Inspiration can come from anything, but when we start off we [Weekday’s in-house design team] often look at art or music. We travel a lot together, and it could even be inspired by an abstract mood or feeling that we want to explore further,” says Lasson. “For autumn 17, we’ve created a playful collection where we mix light, optimistic colours and darker, deeper shades and heavier fabrics.”

 

Weekday autumn 17 white puffa

Weekday autumn 17 white puffa

Weekday autumn 17

Unusually for a high street fashion chain, Weekday is prepared to shout about what it believes in. It markets itself as modern and mindful, and champions several social causes. Previous initiatives have included MTWTFS/HE – a limited edition capsule collection of pieces designed without a specific gender in mind, named in reference to the days of the week – and a range of condoms produced in partnership with the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education. Perhaps even more left-field was the tie-up with Scandinavian insurance company If for autumn 16 to create a range of reflective accessories to encourage customers to stay safe on dark winter nights.

 

“We like the idea of using our voice to speak up – that is something we’ve done from the start,” says Thörewik. “A nice example is our Zeitgeist project. We create a new print every week, based on anything that’s happening in the world. It could be something that went viral, or it could also be something that we don’t think is right – something that we should speak up about.”

 

The prints are then used on T-shirts and tote bags in limited edition collections available in selected Weekday stores. The project mixes serious slogans – a “fight like a girl” T-shirt coincided with January’s Women’s March on Washington – with light-hearted references to topical news stories. The mix of high and low culture reflects the mindset of millennial customers and helps give Weekday a point of difference, the brand believes

 

“Weekday is competing in the younger end of the market. It has that millennial vibe,” adds Kantar Retail analyst Hogan. “By focusing on hot-button cultural issues such as gender equality, it is selling an idea to customers and giving them another reason to be interested in the brand. That’s particularly important because it has a large basics offering, so needs to position itself differently.”

 

As with much of the H&M group, Weekday is also stepping up its sustainable credentials. It uses organic denim for its jeans and its basic jersey fabric is made from organic cotton. It also launched a sustainable swimwear collection, made from recycled polyamide and polyester, for spring 17.

 

Weekday autumn 17 cream shearling

Weekday autumn 17 cream shearling

Weekday autumn 17

“Part of our design philosophy is that we should have longevity in our garments,” Lasson adds. “With our aesthetic, the customer should be able to wear the clothes for a long time, combining with them new pieces to create their own style every season.”

 

“The opportunity to work closely with the collection and oversee the whole creative direction for Weekday – that for me was a perfect combination,” she says.

 

For Thörewik, opening a UK store is a personal ambition, as well as a business goal. Although the brand was still relatively small when he joined and had only just expanded out of Sweden into Denmark, he has long envisioned a UK presence.

 

“My time at Weekday has been the most interesting part of my working life. When we started our international expansion in Europe, that was a big step for Weekday. Honestly, being able to open in the UK now is a real highlight.”

 

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