Arkadiusz Likus is the mastermind behind Vitkac, the premier fashion destination in Poland. Likus, a prominent figure in the Polish fashion scene, drew inspiration from the late Yves Carcelle of Louis Vuitton to create a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Vitkac is a combination of a concept boutique and a specialty department store, offering an unparalleled selection of top runway brands from cities like London, Milan, and Paris.

What sets Vitkac apart from other stores in Warsaw is its unique features. The cult roof-top restaurant provides a remarkable dining experience with a stunning view, while the store itself carries a range of luxury brands and generates a significant amount of revenue. Likus, who hails from Cracow, comes from a prominent commercial family that also owns the trendy Warszawa Hotel, which has been featured in Polish Vogue.

Likus has not stopped at one successful destination store – he recently opened a new store in his hometown. Vitkac also operates online through a strategic partnership with FarFetch. In an interview, Likus shares his insights on revolutionizing the fashion scene in Warsaw and his experience of managing a department store during the pandemic. He also discusses how Poland’s increasingly intolerant government is affecting his brand and his staff.

When asked about the inspiration for Vitkac, Likus recalls his childhood visit to Berlin’s KaDeWe department store, which left a lasting impression on him. He was fascinated by the idea of bringing a similar experience to Poland. Likus had the privilege of meeting Yves Carcelle, who provided valuable advice that shaped the concept of Vitkac. The store combines elements of a department store, a concept store, and an exclusive collection of carefully curated pieces.

The name Vitkac is derived from Likus’ favorite artist, Witkiewicz, a highly influential figure in Polish art and culture during the early 20th century. With over 180 global brands, Vitkac offers an extensive selection of luxury powerhouses like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Saint Laurent, as well as design-driven labels like Balmain, Givenchy, Ann Demeulemeester, Vetements, and Off-White.

While the store initially focused on offering beautiful brands, Likus emphasizes that the focus has now shifted to providing a unique and enjoyable shopping experience. Creating a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere for customers is of utmost importance, with sales seen as a positive outcome of a positive experience.

The architectural design of the building is credited to Stefan Kurylowicz, a renowned architect who unfortunately passed away in a plane crash. Likus plans to negotiate buying the building, which is currently owned by his family. In terms of financial performance, Vitkac achieved a turnover of 500 million zlotys (around 110 million euros) last year.

Interestingly, the pandemic had a strangely positive impact on Vitkac. Despite being closed for almost two months, Likus devised a new strategy that led to a remarkable recovery. By providing staff with the necessary equipment and utilizing technology platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom, and video, Vitkac managed to achieve nearly 30% sales compared to the same period in 2019. The store even introduced a luxury drive-through booth for contactless purchases, establishing itself as a pioneer in implementing such a system.

Likus, who owns the majority of Vitkac, identifies fashion-forward individuals and fashion enthusiasts as the target customers. With around 20,000 different products carefully selected to meet the demands of its trendy clientele, Vitkac offers an unparalleled shopping experience. The store’s rooftop restaurant, Concept 13, enhances the overall experience with its breathtaking view of Warsaw and rotating concept menus. It also features a conference area and a kindergarten to keep children entertained while parents shop.

Looking ahead, Likus plans to continue expanding Vitkac, with a second department store in Cracow, a popular tourist destination. The Cracow location offers the same brands as the Warsaw store but is housed in a stunning 17th-century building.

Reflecting on the luxury retail landscape in Poland, Likus acknowledges the initial difficulties the industry faced. However, over the past five years, the industry has experienced significant growth, with sales increasing by 30% to 40% annually. Likus remains confident in the future of luxury retail in Poland, considering the country’s growing affluence and the influx of funds from the European Union. Unless major setbacks occur due to the pandemic, he expects the industry to continue growing at a respectable rate.

The conversation also delves into the challenging political situation in Poland, particularly regarding the government’s treatment of the LGBT community. Although Likus prefers to avoid involvement in politics, he recognizes the negative impact it can have internationally. He expresses concern for his staff members, some of whom have felt compelled to leave Poland for more accepting environments. Despite these challenges, Likus remains optimistic and values the remarkable individuals he has encountered through his business.

Arkadiusz Likus has made a significant impact on the Polish retail landscape through the creation of Vitkac. With his visionary approach to fashion, unwavering dedication to providing exceptional experiences, and ability to navigate challenges, Likus has positioned Vitkac as the pinnacle of fashion destinations in Poland. As Poland continues to evolve and grow economically, Likus and Vitkac are well-prepared to seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

Useful Links:
1. Vitkac Official Website
2. FarFetch