Carol O’Callaghan chats to London-based fashion designer Kit Neale about his collaboration with Swedish superstore Ikea.
It seems our go-to Scandinavian home interiors shop is getting into all sorts of things these days.
Collaborating through the Ikea Foundation with Swedish humanitarian innovation project Better Shelter and UNHCR, Ikea has made refugee huts which have won the architecture award and the 2017 grand prize in the Beazley Designs of the Year awards.
Now Ikea has developed a product range to appeal specifically to a youth audience and which launches worldwide this month.
It’s a collaboration with London-born Kit Neale, a designer, printmaker and creative director of his own fashion label which he launched in 2012 under his own name.
Since then, he’s been no stranger to collaborative projects, some with major global brands like Coca-Cola, Hallmark and Lavazza.
But with Ikea, it’s his first venture into interiors, something which came about in such a way that if you didn’t believe in serendipity before, you might now.
“I was sitting brainstorming companies that I could collaborate with, and Ikea was one of them,” he says.
“A few days later an email came from them out of the blue asking if I’d be interested in working with them. It was too bizarre; I thought it was a wind-up, the email was so relaxed, almost a one-liner.”
This led to a meeting with Hendrik Most, creative leader at Ikea. There was no brief but rather they wanted Kit to come up with one.
“They wanted to challenge the way they are perceived as a brand and tap into a youth audience,” Kit explains.
“Up til then they had stuff for adults, and for kids but no youth section. If you think about it, why do you go to Ikea as a young person?
“Because you have to have a bowl and a mattress when you go to university, but you don’t go there for any other reason.”
The brief which emerged, was that Ikea needed something which explored youth culture, the music and the styles that go with it, and how they could be brought into home interior settings, while allowing for individual personality.
So for Kit, with his reputation in fashion for investigating popular and traditional culture and reflecting it in prints that are subversive, abstract references to life, it has resulted in a range of products that go beyond the typical Ikea range and style.
Named Spridd, meaning ‘chaos’ in Swedish, it’s a tongue-in-cheek, humorous selection of products which have stretched beyond the strict emphasis on interiors synonymous with Ikea’s offering.
Characterised by bold prints, vibrant colours, texture and craft, it introduces tents and duffel bags in addition to cushions, bed linens and mats which one would expect from Ikea, although with a novel, un-minimalist, un-Scandinavian look.
“They’d never had a tent before,” says Kit, “except for kids’ tee-pees, but tents are part of youth culture for festivals.”
Ikea was also keen to have home wares, something which Kit responded to with designs that created individual ownership of a mug or plate, for example.
“You know when you lived at home you had your own mug and bowl? I didn’t want anything to match,” he says, “so the designs reflect different personalities to suit your friends when they come over.”
While he was given considerable latitude in designing, there were some restrictions brought by manufacturing constraints.
“We have a print with faces and I wanted to have them peeking above the cushions,” he says, “but that was too costly. I also wanted new textures, which Ikea could do, that broke down the idea of the comfy cushion and gave it a f**k-it-all youth attitude. I’ve actually met someone who’s coloured in the boxes on the cushions.”
Allowing for individual personality is key to his approach but what he loves most is the energy and surprise in the textures and details of Spridd and the sense of being free and nomadic.
“Today we are so much more mobile so we’ve made large boxes and bags, including a duffel bag so you can just chuck everything in and be gone.”
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