Meet the Creatives behind Atelier100
Meet the Creatives behind Atelier100
If you didn’t already know, Atelier100 is the child of H&M and Ingka Group (the largest IKEA franchise), who launched it in April 2022, as a joint venture that nurtures up-and-coming creatives in London. Catching up with three members of Atelier100’s class of 2022, Andu Masebo, Clara Chu and Elna-Marie Fortune, there was an common understanding between them, that being a part of the programme has elevated their business.
Taking designs and creations from concept to physical product, and then to sale, can be a costly dream for many and Atelier100 nurtures talent to aid their journey through this process. “We believe in testing and trying. Last year the Atelier100 pilot programme brought some of London’s finest up-and-coming creative minds together to push the boundaries on what local manufacturing can be.”, explains Engman, Creative Director at Ingka Group.
All participants have since had their products sold on the Atelier100’s online and physical store, for product designer, Masebo, this featured the innovative use of materials such as stainless steel car exhausts to create a chair. For Chu, who uses everyday objects to re-imagine the realms of design for accessories, this was her CD bag. And for Fortune, who specialised woven textiles, neutral tones and dyed yarns to create products of unique character, this was her Woven Tote Collection.
In line with the intake of applications for the 2023 cohort, we talk to them to find out what the experience has been like, what they benefited from and how the programme streamlined their visions into reality.
How would you describe what you do?
Elna-Marie: I make hand-woven cloth for home interiors. I like working in textiles and trying to make something different and new.
Clara: I’m an artist and a designer, a handbag designer by trade, but I work on installation, and props as well. I’ve also worked on social media for brands as well.
Andu: I’m a product designer. If I was to say it in a longer way, I would say products and furniture designer.
Everyone’s pieces have such unique design elements, what is the process of concepting like for you?
Andu: So, truthfully, like everyone at Atelier100, I’m still figuring out how I work. For instance, with the Stainless Steel chair, I was looking at what was available – the industries and people around me – and trying to have conversations with them through the things I was making.
Now, I probably wouldn’t design something from the top of my head. I have the privilege of having conversations with retailers who tell me what they need, so I design to their specifications. When it comes to my own work, I’m more self-indulgent and work on areas that I find interesting without really thinking about the target market.
Clara: When working with other brands, I apply my own processes but often need to compromise and simplify things. With social media, you have to capture the vision quickly. It’s not about over-conceptualising. Everything moves fast; I did a prop job with a week turnaround and had to work with what I had. You have to work fast and focus on bringing others’ visions to life rather than storytelling or documenting processes.
Andu: Clara said something that resonates with me: on social media, you can’t be self-indulgent in holding attention. It’s more about colours and shapes and giving a taste of your aesthetic. I’m always negotiating between simplifying things for social media and not reducing my work. Our practices are simple, colourful, and fun, but there’s also a lot of background – craft, research, and intuition. That doesn’t come from not having a big background in work.
How do you source your materials?
Clara: Mostly I use second hand materials and source them from community art centres. For my projects with larger-scale organisations and potentially department stores, I’m hoping to get different products from warehouses and not being used.
Andu: For me, sourcing materials is secondary to the concept. Once I’ve decided what I’m going to do, choosing materials becomes a problem-solving exercise. It’s more about bringing other people’s voices into my work. For instance, with the car chair project, I hadn’t designed the chair when I started. I just knew I wanted to work with car exhaust manufacturers because I valued their skills. So I devised a strategy to start a conversation with them and learned how they worked. Once I understood their parameters and language, I used that knowledge to design something they could make that still had their thumbprint on it. It was just an excuse to have that conversation; I’m more interested in seeing how they do what they do than in the chair itself.
What has it been like to work with Atelier100?
Elna-Marie: It was a very good experience. Everyone got along and understood each other’s making process, even though we were working on different things. I haven’t had that before – where even though we’re not in the same industry, we still understood what each other was doing. It is such a supportive environment, and it helped to hear from people who had gone through the same thing.
Clara: Everyone had incredible skills and was great at their craft. Being surrounded by talented people doing well was inspiring. It’s been a great opportunity to work with other designers and have different conversations and perspectives on making processes.
Andu: It was a huge leg up and a confidence boost. If I were to be critical, they picked people with interesting projects and gave us one critique before leaving us to our own devices. That was great because Atelier100 focused on things designers aren’t good at – writing about themselves, talking in front of a camera, and doing photoshoots. They connected all the dots and left the designing and making to us. The downside is that I don’t know if anyone had a strong grasp of retail. The point of Atelier100 is to show you how to enter into batch production and start working in retail. It’s hard to leap from making one-offs to making 100 of something.
Do you think you’ve seen growth during the programme?
Clara: It definitely helped me rethink my business model. I’m used to making one-offs, but I purposely approached this in a different way. In terms of bag making, it was still different, but I divided the assembly into only two ways for 10 products, which sped up the process. Moving forward, I’m going to try a similar approach and apply what I’ve learned from the retail experience. It was a good learning curve for me.
Elna-Marie: I’ve definitely seen growth, my next steps are going to be getting in touch with manufacturers to make my products, because I can’t do it myself in a feasible way. I also don’t have a studio anymore because I couldn’t afford it, so the making side of what’s coming up has been completely flipped. I’m trying to balance what’s the best way and not rush into it just because I want to make it. I want to go into it thinking that this business is going to work out.
Andu: The conversations I’m having now compared with before are clearly level up from what they were a year ago. It’s hard to separate that from the exposure that Atelier100 has given. The more products you make, the cheaper it becomes and the easier it is to sell, so being able to scale in terms of numbers has been crucial.
For the opportunity to be a part of Atelier100’s 2023 cohort, apply following this link. To find out about Andu, Clara and Elna-Marie and their products, visit the Atelier100 website or the store in Hammersmith.