After leading a tour through the Stockholm atelier of & Other Stories, Sara Hildén Bengtsson, creative director of the new fashion brand, explains the company’s holistic approach to store design.
All of the interior design for & Other Stories stores is done in-house. What’s the concept behind the spaces?
Sara Hildén Bengtsson: It’s all about the location. We want to preserve the beauty of an existing space. That’s what we did with atelier here in Stockholm, and you can see how we treat original elements in each of our store designs. In the Stockholm store, we found intricate old flooring and a stunning ceiling that had been covered over. Every space has its own personality.
Other than that, our stores function almost like pop-up shops. Most of the furniture is on wheels and is easy to assemble. This means we could theoretically move into any space; it doesn’t matter if it’s old, new, large or small. The industrial London store looks very different to the Antwerp one, which is more like an old house. It’s important that the concept can work anywhere.
So the furniture is also designed in-house?
Yes, and it’s often inspired by what we see around us. We might pick out certain details from a vintage cabinet we like, and then create something new that has the same aesthetic appeal.
If you had to describe & Other Stories’ interior look to someone who’d never seen it before, what would you say defines the aesthetic?
That’s a very good question. I always come back to the idea of the atelier, and how when you create one yourself, you opt for pieces that are inexpensive yet long-lasting. And you work with a lot of standard-size elements. There’s a slight utilitarian feel, but everything is picked by someone who has a great eye, even for those standard pieces.
Brands like Aēsop and Camper often collaborate with well-known or up-and-coming designers for their store designs. Is that something you’d also consider?
Definitely. The people who work in-house here have been handpicked, and many have worked with big-name designers, so they are very skilled. We’ve also done small collaborations with creatives, working with the likes of Sarah Illenberger for a paper installation in our Berlin store. I could definitely see us continuing and extending these kinds of collaborations in the future.
Having trained at RCA, you must be used to interdisciplinary collaborations?
It’s almost like & Other Stories is a re-creation of RCA. While studying, I found it amazing to be able to work in all the different studios and share everything. We try to work a bit like that here. My husband is also a furniture designer – we met at RCA – so for me, switching between dimensions is part of my world. Even though we have teams working across different areas – beauty, fashion, interiors – we all share what we do. Each area influences another, and I hope that comes across.
Tell us a bit about the upcoming Amsterdam store.
It’s a fantastic building and we’ve found a few hidden gems to work with, like wooden panels. We had to make sure the builders didn’t throw away anything that we might want to keep. I think they thought we were a bit crazy! Is that an old ladder? Stop! Leave it where it is!
We’re also working on stores in Munich, Cologne and Malaga. Everyone asks: Why Malaga? It’s because we found a great space there. And if we find a really good location, we go for it.