superchat stockholm: fredrik carlström

© austere / photography: emil fagander

you could say fredrik carlström has immersed himself in modern design and branding since an early age and dipped his toe in a variety of pools and in different capacities. the industrious swede first appeared on our retail radar when setting up austere, a temporary concept store and exhibition space in downtown los angeles packed to the guilds with a tightly curated selection of scandinavian design. following an east coast outpost in the leafy surrounds of the hamptonscarlström has shifted his focus back to his native stockholm to launch his latest venture called alma. situated on the former premises of the illustrious beckmans design school, it's a multifaceted venue that aims to serve as a cross-pollination platform for the swedish capital's creative community and showcase for their talent. additionally, the members-only enterprise also features work spaces, a restaurant, and last but not least, austere's europe's first ever retail space. superfuture got in touch with carlström to get better acquainted with his latest entrepreneurial endeavour.

we can only assume you’re well-connected in stockholm’s creative scene, but how did the concept of alma come about? and given its multi-faceted concept, could you talk us through the process of rallying all of the project’s pariticpants and stakeholders? it's actually more straight forward than it sounds. i was running austere which was a place to promote nordic design in the states. someone approached a friend of mine about this building they had in stockholm, asking what to do with it. we came up with this concept of a membership club for creatives and then we got to working on it. we saw the space for the first time in november 2015 and a year later we showed it for the first time to outside people. it all happened very quickly, which is one of the reasons i believe it's so good1
 
could you elaborate on your role as the venue’s creative director and what it exactly entails? my job is to make it hard. hire the best architects. really work on the experience. push for great materials and design. insist that we work with the best in each discipline.
 
the meeting place will be situated in a historic building. what kan you reveal about the interior design and atmosphere of each section? it used to be a factory, and then it was an art school, so the building has many levels and quirks. i think anyone visiting can feel its history in the bones. our job was to preserve the great energy and really utilize the space in a way that makes it work in a new context. we want people to meet. to bump in to each other. we want to be a place for creative people to feel safe and nourished and spoiled.
 
alma aims to facilitate cross-pollination among stockholm’s creative community. what's the current state of the city’s creative scene and what will the added value be of the venue? stockholm is bubbling with innovation, new ideas and companies – it’s like the silicon valley of the north. but sometimes places like that become sterile. what is really important is forgotten, and people get too wrapped up in the notion of start-up, unicorns and a-round. it gets bubbly. start-ups are children of industries. they need to be part of a larger context, and they need people and ideas and nourishment. we are about creatives, and some come from old industries and some from new ones, and we want them all to meet at alma.
 
how has the response been so far within your target audience? it has been great. people get it. even the subtle things like the energy spent on the food or the way we decorate, has been noticed and appreciated by most and we are quickly reaching capacity.
 
sweden’s economy has had quite a positive outlook these past few years. to which extent has this fortunate circumstance had a beneficial impact on the local creative industry? like I said earlier – stockholm sometimes feels a bit like it's in a bubble. but of course the fertile economic climate fosters innovation and risk taking.
 
alma accomodates europe’s first outpost of austere, a concept store with a focus on scandinavian design you launched two years ago in los angeles. will the new store have the very same focus and product range? the biggest news is that we'll be launching our own collection coming february and it's something which we feel excited about. at alma we'll have an assortment of heavily curated design from all over the world and we are proud to be the exclusive seller of pp møbler, de la espada and kbh. we want to make it fun to shop for design again, and we think we've found a perfect format to do just that.
 
despite today’s growing dominance of online retail, you clearly believe in a brick and mortar presence fort the niche segment you operate in. which elements [apart from the merchandise] are vital for a retail format that resonates with savyy consumers? we believe in curation and service. If someone is looking to save a few bucks and buy a product that lots of people are selling, we're not the place for them. we sell a small selection of pieces you can’t find anywhere else and we try and deliver outstanding customer service while we do it.
 
you’ve dipped your toe in many creative pools in recent years. in which way has the alma concept been a challenge for you? we built alma in less than a year, so i'd be lying if i didn’t say time wasn't a bit of a challenge.
 

© austere / photography: emil fagander