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Fresh and so clean: the Swedish/Japanese philosophy behind Axel Arigato sneakers

Words by Rob Chilton

A disruptive business model and a simple design code have helped Axel Arigato walk tall in the sneaker world

Clean. That’s the word that springs to mind when looking at a pair of sneakers from Axel Arigato, the Swedish brand founded in 2014 by two friends Max Svärdh and Albin Johansson. Speaking to EDGAR in Dubai, the founders shrug and explain that they couldn’t help but make minimalistic sneakers.

“It’s our personal taste,” smiles Svärdh. “We are Swedish and Scandinavian people are quite minimalistic in general. It’s our upbringing in terms of all types of design, whether furniture or clothing. Minimalism is in our DNA and it’s something we’ve injected into our brand.”

Max Svärdh and Albin Johansson

Perhaps the most elaborate facet of the brand is its name, which is a nod to the kinship Svärdh and Johansson feel for Japan. “We feel there is a correlation in terms of style between Japan and Scandinavia,” says Johansson. “Japan has always been a source of inspiration for us.”

Svärdh agrees, “There are lots of similarities between Sweden and Japan. When we started, lots of people used their own names in their brands, which we felt was a bit corny. We didn’t want to state the obvious and so we created this persona who is Axel Arigato. Some people don’t understand the name at all and think it’s weird, but I think that’s a positive thing – it’s a conversation starter.”

Subtle branding

“We never wanted to be in front of the brand,” adds Johansson. “Having Axel up front meant we directed the focus from us to the product.”

The product he mentions is quality sneakers, clothing and accessories at very enticing prices. A pair of Axel Arigato’s Clean 90 white leather sneakers made in Portugal are AED 860. However, a similar pair from Italian brand Common Projects, also with a subtle gold embossed logo, come in at AED 1,540.

Axel Arigato’s success is a tribute to modern thinking and risk-taking. “When we started the brand,” Johansson begins, “we thought, why are businesses not adapting to the young consumer and their new digital behaviour? Why are they still working like they did 30 years ago?”

Swedish simplicity

Svärdh and Johansson ignored the cycle that tethers fashion brands to seasonal collections and instead decided to launch at least one new product every week. “All the industry experts said we were on the wrong path,” smiles Johansson, the economic brain of the duo, with Svärdh in charge of design. “We were young and inexperienced but we believed in it. Everybody is afraid of taking risks, but we thought it was a risk to not take a risk. It’s so important to never get into the rhythm of other companies. Most big organisations take 12 months to make a decision, but it takes us five minutes.”

Svärdh grins, “It’s a fast pace, but the speed is a motivator. We never claimed this was easy – it’s been a fantastic journey.”

Axel Arigato can be found at Level Shoes in The Dubai Mall

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