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Monki store design by Electric Dreams

Monki 2: The City of Oil and Steel

Monki store design by Electric Dreams

The Monki World is a story about a parallel universe inhabited by little black creatures with dual personas, born in the derelict City of Oil and Steel. Monkis are cute and friendly, but also evil and deceptive...

Monki is a Swedish retail concept aimed at teenage girls, one that embraces a magical fantasy story about ‘little black creatures with dual personas’ that live in a derelict City of Oil and Steel. Sound strange? Well it is, this isn’t your typical high street teen clothing outlet, this is a conceptual world which is represented in massive detail throughout the store interiors, graphics, accessories, printed garments, shopping bags and even down to price tags and receipts. This is a retail vision like no other, and having recently been bought by fellow Swedes and giants of high street fashion H&M, it’s a concept which could well be coming your way in the near future.

We had the chance to speak to Joel Degermark and Catharina Frankander from visionary architecture/design studio Electric Dreams who are behind Monki’s otherworldly store designs. Interview and mind blowing in-store photography follows…….

Monki Girl Store Design

Monki is, as of yet, a Swedish thing, for the benefit of our international readers can you quickly sum up what you’ve been doing for them and the concept behind the store and it’s design.

The Monki World is a story about a parallel universe inhabited by little black creatures with dual personas, born in the derelict City of Oil and Steel. Monkis are cute and friendly, but also evil and deceptive. Their world is made up of places as surprising and ambiguous as themselves; part magical and part ghastly; stunning beauty alongside revolting ugliness.

The Monki saga is plucked from the Peacock Fields, fished from the Everlasting, and woven along the shores of the Rosehip River. Their story is a wild hotchpotch of wondrous adventures among leeches, butterfly choirs, turbine flowers, bow trees and mysterious chemicals. Nothing is impossible in the Monki World!

This story is the foundation for Monki’s all-embracing retail concept.  The story is not only communicated as printed patterns on garments, graphics, websites, and store designs; the Monki World is represented even in the smallest details, such as accessories, shopping bags, price tags, and receipts.

Monki has several interior concepts running simultaneously. Every concept is inspired by a different part of the Monki World. So far, the secluded Forgotten Forest and the powerful City of Oil and Steel have been launched. Future concepts will portray other areas of the vast Monki landscape. We did 11 stores with the first concept and after next week, we’ll have six stores with the second concept.  Ultimately, all the stores together form an entity that combines recognition, repetition and variation or surprise.

Monki Girl Store Design

This 12th store you have designed has rewritten the blueprint for the first 11, why is this?

There are three main reasons: One is purely conceptual. The Monki World consists of several places, not just the Swamp and the City of Oil and Steel. It will eventually grow into maybe six different concepts, each inspired by a different part of the Monki World. The different store concepts will belong to the same form family, but each with its own strong individual characteristics. As Monki’s range of products grow, there might be one interior concept devoted simply to selling stationery for example: a refined Monki Stationery Shop inspired by the Peacock Fields or a refined Monki Make-Up Store with an interior inspired by the Sound Farm. The Monki brand will be an umbrella for a multitude of different products, similar to concepts like Hello Kitty or even Muji. Large multi-level shops might also feature more than one concept.

The second reason has to do with scale. The first eleven stores were a huge success in Sweden. Monki wanted to establish new stores faster than they had originally planned. None of us knew in 2006 that H&M would purchase Monki after two years, with the pronounced intent to expand and establish the brand globally. When you have three Monki shops on one street, it’s nice if they are not identical. And, after several years when one Monki concept needs refurbishment, we’re faced with the redesign of, say, 11 shops instead of 200.

The third reason is to keep satisfying the expectations of our zap-happy, easily distracted, quickly bored target group: teenage girls.

Monki Girl Store Design

You mentioned that Monki has recently been bought out by H&M, do you think we will be seeing your work in the rest of Europe soon?

We don’t know yet, but we really hope so!!

Your work is massively inspiring, bold and visionary. Where does your inspiration come from?

We think misunderstandings, fever and optical illusions are very inspiring!

Monki Girl Store Design

How does Electric Dreams work? Is it still just yourself and Joel? Are the designs always collaborative? Do you take time out of the office to dream up these crazy designs or do you get stuck straight into it? What is your working environment like?

When we are in the process of designing something, ideas bounce back and forth really fast, like an alternating current or a pingpong ball… Usually, we’re adding and adding, then testing against our set criteria to distill the essence of a concept. Our way of sketching is very telling – Joel is always sketching with a black felttip pen on white paper and making cardboard models – all Catharina’s sketches are digital and usually in 3d. After agreeing on a basic concept we take different roles, Joel likes to focus more on objects, Catharina is more about thinking how different objects relate to each other… the aim is always to form as strong a visual impact as possible.

The core design team is still just Joel and me, but we have other people helping us out when the workload is massive. We’ll probably grow in size soon. I’ll try and find a photo of our office!

Monki Girl Store Design

Your vision is pretty ‘out there’, are there many things that are in your head but you just can’t physically (or for reasons of cost) realise in the stores themselves?

Most of our ideas seem impossible to realize physically at first, for reasons of cost or things like gravity. That’s the challenge though! A good idea that is too complex, too expensive or require too much work is simply a bad idea. It’s our job to come up with creative ways of realizing our ideas in the physical world. We work hard with our detailing and material choices, to make our ‘out-there’ designs buildable and cost-efficient.

Monki Girl Store Design

The target market is teenage girls, do you think a lot of this twisted fantasy design madness is lost on them? What’s the feedback been like from the public?

No, it’s absolutely not lost on them!! Monki’s owner estimates a positive-negative ratio of about 95 to 5. I think the girls appreciate the completely integrated whole and the love that goes into every single detail-the clothes, the graphics and the store. Entering a Monki store is an experience!

Monki Girl Store Design

You know that we like to pick out the best places to stay, eat and drink in, when we’re next in Stockholm what do you recommend for us?

Restaurants & bars: Pleasant Bar, Restaurant Le Rouge, Café Chaikana, Akki Sushi, Hanoi Restaurant

Where to stay: Anglais

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