Swedish Fashion Brand, Axel Arigato & Carina Lepore, Winner of the 2019 “The Apprentice UK”
Read on to get more acquainted with the 5th & 6th impressive entrepreneurial forerunners in our feature.
5: Max Svardh and Albin Johannson, Founders – Axel Arigato (Swedish entrepreneurs)
Axel Arigato exemplifies a new more responsive and responsible fashion label model. Founded upon the denunciation of the traditional fashion retail landscape, the Swedish sneaker powerhouse is renowned for doing things its own way. Disregarding seasonal collections and traditional sales channels to instead focus on engaging directly with its loyal following. It’s minimalist yet individual streetwear-inspired pieces which include footwear, clothing and ‘objects’ are released weekly in an aim to stay tuned in to changing customer demands and to minimise any overproduction.
What makes Axel Arigato unique?
Max & Albin have explained that there are many brands offering sneakers and that are inspired by streetwear, however, to them, the essence when working with fashion is to always reinvent what you do and how you inspire your customers. The duo stated that; “If you stay where you are, you might end up where you don’t want to be. Our ‘Drop of the Week’ does put a level of pressure on ourselves to constantly offer something new, it does start with the product but needs to be backed with content, communication, events, distribution, and a lot of other elements.”
Since starting Axel Arigato, they forged a direct line of communication between the brand and the customer – be it via Instagram or meeting the community on the ground when hosting weekly programming events at their stores. In this way, they keep the customer at the focal point of their design process.
What is it that drives the design duo, and what is in store for the future of Axel Arigato?
The pair state that prior to the conception of Axel Arigato, they couldn’t find a brand that they truly could identify with and wanted to create a brand for the next generation. At that time most of the competitors were still doing everything in the same way, so they decided to flip the approach and do most things in the opposite way. They talked directly to the customers, built a community, and only sold their products directly through their own website with zero wholesale accounts.
The focus for the brand is on in-store experiences to drive brand awareness and sales. “I want to create spaces that are inviting and open, the same feeling you get when you walk into a gallery. I also wanted to allow flexibility for upcoming projects and collaborations. Axel Arigato is a young brand that is constantly evolving. For us it only makes sense to create spaces that can evolve as well”.
– Max Svardh, Co-founder & Creative Director
With a multifunctional retail space that offers creative flexibility, the brand aims to evolve with the times and utilize their space in whatever way they see fit for the development of Axel Arigato.
The brands’ key philosophy and inspiration is that of minimalism seen in Swedish & Japanese thinking and culture. The word Arigato or Thank you in Japanese, originally and literally means “difficult to exist”. It was used to express something that was valuable and not easily found. A very suiting name for their brand ethos.
Their approach may be unconventional, but it’s clearly working for the brand. Seven years since its inception, Axel Arigato continues to go from strength to strength. We look forward to seeing what lies ahead for this alternative artistic brand.
6: Carina Lepore – Dough Bakehouse Owner, Winner of the 2019 “The Apprentice”, & Guest Judge at the CRMP Soapbox event (British Businesswoman)
Carina Lepore, winner of ‘The Apprentice’ in 2019, lives in South London with eight-year-old son Lucas. As a result of winning the BBC TV contest, Lepore got a £250,000 investment (from Lord Sugar), into her artisan bakery and coffee shop business, Dough Bakehouse. Her plans to open a chain of shops had been put on hold by the pandemic, but the highly driven businesswoman won’t let this stop her and is back in business after the many setbacks she faced in 2020 & 2021.
Carina Lepore, winner of The Apprentice in 2019, lives in South London with eight-year-old son Lucas. As a result of winning the BBC TV contest, Lepore got a £250,000 investment (from Lord Sugar), into her artisan bakery and coffee shop business, Dough Bakehouse. Her plans to open a chain of shops had been put on hold by the pandemic, but the highly driven businesswoman won’t let this stop her and is back in business after the many setbacks she faced in 2020 & 2021.
Talking about her upbringing
Talking about her upbringing, Carina stated that her parents were always very humble when it came to money. They would encourage her to save and not splurge on non-sensible things, and they taught her to work hard in every aspect of her life. Her father was a baker, and her mother was an NHS worker. Growing up, her mother would work nights so that she could split the childcare. Her father would make them dinner and her mother then did the school run first thing in the morning. Carina states: “I’d say we were a middle-class family. Money wasn’t tight – we lived in a nice house and went on family holidays – but it was carefully managed.” Their valuable parenting lessons and example in saving and working hard definitely formed the foundation for her great work ethic and business acumen.
The journey to opening up her first business
Three years ago, before she appeared on The Apprentice, Carina left her job at Marks & Spencer where she had been working for ten years and had got quite high up in a management position at a flagship store. Her father’s bakery burnt down, and she then decided to set up a coffee shop with him. She states that she knew it would be risky and that she wouldn’t be able to have much of an income in the first year, but she felt excited about running the business. She put as much money as she could into the shop that year: investing in the product, the cups, new designs and marketing materials and only paying herself a minimum wage to save on costs where she could.
A couple of years down the line, when her coffee shop started to flourish, things once again started to look up for Carina. It was then that she decided to enter The Apprentice, with her main aim to win every challenge presented to her…and she did just that. After going on to win the show, Carina said that the having a cash injection of £250,000 into her business bank account from Lord Sugar was one of the most amazing feelings she’d ever experienced, and the publicity from the show generated a lot of exposure and interest in her business.
Set backs faced following ‘The Apprentice’
Putting in the hard work and effort to convert the exposure and interest into sales, when takings from the first shop went up, they then managed to open a second shop. She ended up earning a six-figure sum and was so grateful and excited for future possibilities. When the pandemic hit, everything changed for everyone in hospitality, and her dreams and aspirations suddenly seemed to be a distant memory. Her staying power and creativity were put to the test during the pandemic, and she mentioned how tough it was to stay afloat. Her business was ‘just’ ticking over at that stage, and she had to really conjure up every bit of determination she had left to keep her business going. She states, that if it wasn’t for the pandemic, she would probably have had three or four shops by now.
Her admirable business intelligence made her a perfect candidate to judge the Completely Retail Marketplace, Soapbox event held on the 26th of April at Old Billingsgate, London. Whilst speaking at the Soapbox event, Carina gave some key advice to the entrepreneurs pitching that day. Her first point was to stay on top of market trends. Make sure to know your market and what is happening in terms of new developments, in this way you can adopt any key trends if they would work for your business model. Her other point was, to never give up. Having her fair share of setbacks, she stated that you need to learn from any mistakes and not take them to heart. Use your mistakes as lessons on how to do things differently and move forward.
Both Dough Bakehouse shops can be found in Beckenham and Herne Hill, South London, and are open for takeaways and coffees.
Read on to hear about American Entrepreneurs, Sophia Amoruso & Dan Fleyshman.