Starting a sneaker company with your best friend sounds like an idea from when you were 13, not an actual way to make a living. And yet: there’s ARKK Copenhagen. Founded in 2015 by childhood friends Kasper Høj Rasmussen and Thomas Refdahl, ARKK Copenhagen is predicated on the idea that at the intersection of design, fashion, and technology, you can produce beautiful sneakers.
“Thomas and I were at a party together and he asked if I could think of any really cool sneaker brands. And I had all the usual answers: performance sneaker brands that have become fashion, like Nike and Adidas. Those brands do really cool stuff, but there isn’t a lot of diversity in the fashion sneaker market. So we thought, why don’t we do that? We both love sneakers as well as design.” Kasper tells me.
Kasper comes from a fashion background, while Thomas was previously in banking and finance. “We were both looking to something new, and to do it ourselves. It seemed like the right thing, and the right moment.”
However right they thought it might be, Thomas and Kasper couldn’t have predicted the immediate success of ARKK. “We’ve been pretty overwhelmed with the response,” Kasper admits, “but it just goes to show that the market was really hungry for something like this. A brand that respects design and sneaker heritage, but is also something new. We’re not a performance brand, so what we’re really focused on is aesthetic, simplicity, and quality.”
Each of the sneakers has its own story, with designs that often reference Danish architecture. There’s a focus on high-quality materials, minimalism, and incorporating tech in ways that improve user experience. For example, there’s a water-resistant sneaker in the works; perfect for year-round cyclists. ARKK Copenhagen also design their own soles, something that most shoe companies don’t do. “Our soles are totally our own thing,” Kasper explains, “and that contributes not only to the quality but to the silhouette and overall design.”
So what makes a good shoe, I ask? Both men consider and Thomas answers, “one that we want to wear.” He elaborates: “Something comfortable, lightweight, and you should be able to wear it with different outfits.”
This versatility is one of the main strengths of ARKK. Although they have both women’s and men’s lines, all of the shoes are essentially unisex. “We’ve found with the women’s line, we can get a little bit more creative and funky with fabrics, colors, or details, and that’s really popular. But of course, anyone can wear any of the shoes. It’s just a matter of what you like,” Thomas says.
That’s very much in-line with the way people wear sneakers in Scandinavia generally, which is to say: with everything. With a suit, with a floral dress. Scandinavians are masters of elevated casual dressing, and nothing is more “elevated casual” than a really well-made sneaker.
As for why ARKK has expanded as rapidly as they have, Kasper and Thomas credit hitting a gap in the market, a worldwide interest in Scandinavian aesthetic, and social media. “Social media, especially Instagram, has fundamentally changed the way we find clothes and shop online. We recognised the power of that early on, and we’ve incorporated it into our strategy. That’s worked really well for us; 95% of our sales are exports, and we’re currently in over 30 countries.
Next up, ARKK Copenhagen plans to continue their global expansion as well as accelerate the number of shoes they’re producing per collection. “Our next collection is our biggest yet,” Kasper explains. “And the one after that…will probably be even bigger.”
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