Meet the Duo Behind Cult Footwear Label Axel Arigato

5 min read

Albin Johansson and Max Svärdh

MOJEH talks to Albin Johansson and Max Svärdh, the brains behind box-fresh brand Axel Arigato

Known for pairing simplistic style with luxury details at an affordable price point, Swedish footwear label Axel Arigato has created a minimalist design ethos that is often spotted on the soles of supermodels or Copenhagen street stylers.

Founded in 2014 by Albin Johansson (CEO) and Max Svärdh (creative director), the brand has been built in a a digital age where cutting-edge design isn’t enough in an overcrowded market — but when Bella Hadid organically slips on a pair of your shoes you’re the brand everyone is talking about.

Axel Arigato

Axel Arigato SS20 campaign, courtesy of Level Shoes

Using Instagram as tool has helped Axel Arigato to stay one step ahead of the pack, establishing a brand that starts conversations with its effortless cool factor and high-quality that isn’t out of reach. 

While in Dubai to launch their SS20 collection for men and women at Level Shoes, we caught up with Albin Johansson  and Max Svärdh to discuss the beginnings of the brand, its cult following and the colourful designs exclusive to the Middle East.

What’s the story behind the brand?
AJ: We are both Native Swedes and raised in Gothenburg. We met in our mid-twenties through common friends. The main reason for launching Axel Arigato was that we couldn’t find a brand that we could truly identify ourselves with. We felt that existing fashion brands weren’t changing at the same speed as consumers. We wanted to create a brand for our generation without any legacy.

ss20 campaign

SS20 campaign, courtesy of Axel Arigato

What sets you apart from other footwear labels?
When launching the brand, we set out to make something different which led to forgoing traditional sales channels, strictly selling through our own e-commerce and working after the concept of “Drop of the Week”. By launching a new style every week, we are placing the customer at the focal point for product creation and using constant customer feedback for development of new styles. Our release model helps us achieve a healthier inventory and also contributes to more conscious buying. 

Did you always want to create a shoe brand?
MS: I’ve been in the creative industry most of my life. When I was 17 I started to import jeans and soon after that I launched several e-comm ventures. I have always had a great interest in sneakers from a customer point of view and saw a gap in the market. With Axel Arigato, I wanted to start conversations. I think that’s the success of Axel Arigato. We speak to a young demographic and our customers really look for something unique.

Level Shoes The Dubai Mall

The Axel Arigato pop-up at Level Shoes, The Dubai Mall

How would you describe the aesthetic of the brand?
MS: I do believe Axel Arigato has become synonymous with minimal footwear. We experiment and try to constantly push ourselves to try out new things. At the same time we always seem to employ the same minimalist design ethos that runs throughout all of the collections and our visual expression. It’s our roots and it’s what we do best. Besides that, we have a very product focused approach and we try to create products that aren’t too abstract. I look for inspiration in my everyday surroundings and the ideas come from the environment that I am in. 

How much of an impact does Instagram have on your brand?
AJ: We always say Axel Arigato was founded on Instagram. We were quick to realize that social media would be the number 1 tool for us to show what the brand is all about and to communicate with our customers on a daily basis all over the world. We never have to wait for a publication to communicate our message or our products, we do it ourselves.

Axel Arigato

Axel Arigato SS20 campaign, courtesy of Level Shoes

Has your celebrity following helped to put you in the spotlight?
AJ: It’s always nice to see celebs and tastemakers in Axel Arigato. Bella Hadid wears the Marathon Runner which we’ve seen great results from only that. Plus Justin Bieber, Margot Robbie, Ryan Reynolds among others. Our main focus lies in our customers who put us in the spotlight through everyday conversations.

How do you keep the label fresh and innovative?
AJ: We constantly try to reinvent ourselves and with everything we do. Since the inception of the brand we have changed business model, new logo and assortment. It is almost like we have a crisis meeting every other week asking ourselves if the things that we do are relevant and exciting since we all know is that the consumers will demand something different tomorrow. 

Axel Arigato

One of the Clean 90 Tori Bird designs exclusive to Level Shoes

What are your plans while you’re in Dubai?
AJ: It’s our first time and we came here for our partnership with Level Shoes, launching a 4 month long pop-up store which is located within the Trend area of Level Shoes. Besides that, our main focus is to meet our customers in Dubai and welcome them into the world of Axel Arigato. 

Tell us about the exclusive styles for Level Shoes?
For SS20, there are 3 exclusive versions of the Clean 90 Tori Bird available at Level Shoes which incorporates silver and multicoloured birds embroidered onto the shoe. 

Find Axel Arigato’s SS20 collection at the exclusive pop-up in Level Shoes, The Dubai Mall or online at

  • Words by Jenna Calvert
  • Images: Axel Arigato and Level Shoes