There’s all kinds of exciting new collections at Ikea, exploring new frontiers, driven from a platform of simplicity, relevance, and daring to be different. First, the return of poufs, reimagined for the modern home – and this year’s comeback as the living room staple – with Ikea doing geometric round knitted shapes that make a statement at the foot of your chair or functioning as extra seating. Then there’s beautiful bedding dyed in new ways with recycled orange peel, nutshells, and leaves.
But perhaps most interesting of all, is the Swedish behometh partnering with fashion designer Virgil Abloh – the artistic director of Louis Vuitton – to create an upcoming collection, “Makerad”, hoping to convince millennials to collect rugs and chairs the same way they hoard Nikes.
The collection is expected to sell out in a day, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. IKEA held an intimate preview of its upcoming homewares collaboration with Abloh — one of the closest-watched creative people in the fashion world – and let the public in on the in-progress development of a rare marriage between souped-up streetwear and everyman furniture.
Thousands tuned in on IKEA’s website. Never before has IKEA lifted the curtain on its design process, giving shoppers (and potentially competitors) an opportunity to see their half-finished prototypes.
Throughout their nearly thirty minute presentation, Abloh and IKEA creative head Henrik Most present a handful of prototypes of slightly tweaked takes on the company’s classics, with the collection set to debut in 2019 including a Persian-style rug ironically screenprinted with “Keep Off.”
Apparently the 16-piece collection will be sold at “average” IKEA prices, in line with Abloh’s recent collaboration with Nike, retailing at “average” Nike prices, which sold out the day it was released.
The “progress report” livestream—an atypical move in the guarded design industry marks a first for IKEA. By showing an unfinished, imperfect collection, the Markerad livestream marked a rare exhibition of design transparency for a global company like IKEA. While answering questions from viewers, Most and Abloh weaved in anecdotes and lessons from their in-field research for the project—relating how they visited starter apartments of post-college kids with undersized bank accounts, a key IKEA demographic. The design team quizzed these millennials about their lifestyles, then formulated their ideal environments.
After the livestream, IKEA recreated one of these surveys, bringing six twentyish-somethings into a circle with Abloh and Most, who asked such questions as “Which furniture item are you currently looking for?” and “Which furniture item would you buy if you had a million dollars?” and “Where do you buy your furniture?” as an audience of IKEA employees and a few journalists looked on.
If you are a company that works behind closed doors and you’re not creating a dialogue with your customers, then you become self-sufficient and out of date, so we need to connect,” said Most in an interview. In these focus groups, he observed the central frustration of young consumers: You want more than you can afford. “Something we work with a lot at IKEA is that millennials only have so much money so they end up getting the shitty stuff like a folding chair.” His goal with Markerad is to “turn that upside down” and show that just because you don’t have a lot of money, you can still buy a specialized item that “adds value” to a starter apartment.
Our mantra, always – which proves you don’t need money to have style. In the meantime, hotfoot it to Ikea for Tom Dixon’s Detakig ‘open’ sofas collection that are designed to be hacked (customized), now officially available.
Plus, Sandared poufs; flexible, knitted seats-cum-floor-pillows-cum-footstools which come in three different sizes, weaves and colours – beige, grey or navy, which you can contrast and coordinate to taste. Oh and, the covers are removeable, so you can pop them in the washing machine. Price from $59-$139.
Also, discover Ikea’s quality new Flodalen towels in soft, fluffy pure cotton that is highly absorbent in a palette of white, beige, grey and lilac, $14.99 each. Plus Jofrid throws and cushions made entirely from sustainable sources in 80 per cent cotton and 20 per cent linen where the yarn is recycled, grown with less water, less fertiliser, less pesticide, (meaning increased profit margins for farmers). It’s also produced using a pioneering dye technique that utilises agricultural waste from recycled leaves to nutshells and orange peel for a beautiful natural finish that improves with wear. Plenty of new rugs, cushions, and mattress toppers, too. In-store, this month.
“My job, impossible as it may be, is to make one thing we’d all like,” said Abloh.
For Abloh, innovation is part of the game: Given Abloh’s track record of sell-out collaboration releases in the fashion space for Nike, Equinox, Sunglass Hut, Jimmy Choo, Kith, Warby Parker, all eyes will be on IKEA to see how he will reinvigorate our living spaces, too. We can’t wait.