Today’s Pop is David who oversees thepop.com using string and silicon. David is Swedish. His favourite Abba song is "The Eagle", a number one in Belgium despite being the longest
"Acne headquarters" 2009,
If you haven’t yet realised
Last year, Acne moved into a grand Stockholm building previously occupied by one of Sweden‘s richest and most prestigious industrial families, the
Not only did I want to supply you with a look into this environment, but somehow outline the strange Acne odyssey so far via this blog chat with Jonny Johansson, the founder and Creative Director of Acne.
DG: Let’s start from the beginning, how come an ad-agency decided to start making jeans?
JJ: Well, from the beginning our idea was to create a creative collective, where people would come together to do different things with different disciplines like photography, film, art, etc. We were all inspired by each other and wanted to make a new type of company together. It all started happening quite rapidly, within a year of starting up Wallpaper ran a spread on us.
I remember that piece. Tyler Brûlé came down to your little design studio on Drottninggatan.
That’s right. Thinking back, it all happened a bit too early for us, as all we had really done was buy several inspiring books, a big sceen TV and designed our own furniture. We wanted to do both consultancy work as well as our own products and the business idea was really to have the money from our consultancy work finance the products we wanted to make. We got round to working with fashion because we said from the beginning that it would be one of the cornerstones of the company, plus we had already done a lot of consultancy work for H & M, Whyred, J. Lindeberg and WE. We started with jeans because of our own history, not to mention the fact that scene felt closest to who we were at the time.
You started by creating a limited edition of 100 pairs of jeans, for friends and family, after-which you started working on a collection. What was your inspiration?
I had a friend who was a pattern constructor who I brought in to help me. I didn’t really know how to do it myself. He taught me a great deal. I could design the clothes but the constructions I couldn’t manage. We didn’t want to only be a jeans label, we wanted to work in fashion, so we decided that jeans would be the centre of the label, building from the idea that jeans were the most important garment for people. We looked at Acne as a canvas where we put jeans in the middle and the rest around it and asked ourselves – how can we move things around this season? I later went to an exhibition of Ann-Sofie Back and was amazed by the things she did and the energy that she had and decided I wanted to work with her.
She was still at Saint Martin’s at the time, so this must have been her graduation exhibition, right?
Yes. At the time fashion was all about deconstruction which was something she did brilliantly. I wanted her to bring that to us. It also worked well for me, it made it easy for me to come into the fashion world as an undereducated fashion designer.
I can understand that, perhaps because deconstruction is a bit more conceptual and perhaps not a part of traditional tailoring. So Ann-Sofie (who just last month was confirmed as the head designer of the most recent H&M acquisition, Cheap Monkey) moved back to Stockholm then?
Well, she went back and forth. She did the women‘s line and I did the men’s. I was so happy to work with her, because she was so inspiring and taught me a lot about design. We worked together for over two years and then she wanted to work on her own label. I was sad about her leaving, but I think it was good in a way also because I had to learn to rely on myself.
Since the beginning, Acne has not only changed company structures several times but also directions and logo. Do you look at Acne as always evolving or do you feel that you’ve now found your niche?
I’ve been heavily criticised for making those quite radical brand changes. I think some of these decisions are part of my own personal travel and development as a designer. At the same time our brand is built around a creative collective and I like to work with people who are better than me and influence me and help develop the brand. Therefore I think Acne will never be a traditional line in terms of “you make one statement and then you stick to it”. I like movement.
From the beginning the Acne label could be said to, very much, be a part of the ‘ironic generation’, having more in common with perhaps Cheap Monday than Comme des Garçons. Now you seem to have gotten more sophisticated and are more at home with some of the Belgian brands and at a place like Dover Street Market than Top Shop. Was this a deliberate shift?
I think I always wanted to go there. Acne as a design and advertising company did many things which could be seen in that ironic light, but I always wanted to steer away from it. The more I grew comfortable as a designer, the more I went in that direction. I feel very at home now.
You’ve expanded very quickly the last four years, opening up stores worldwide. What has been the strategy?
It has all been very opportunity driven. The first one in Stockholm, we had a friend who offered us the store space very cheaply. It was in a quite ugly part of town but we thought that instead of opening up in an obscure part of town with a hidden store, we’d do the opposite: open a concept store in a very commercial, tacky part of town. And that worked really, really well.
And the next stores: Copenhagen, Berlin and Paris?
The same thing. We found the right partner who wanted to help us. By now we have twelve “Acne Studios” including Vienna and New York City.
Tell me a little about the New York one. How has that turned out since it opened last year?
New York started very well. Paris was a bit slow from the beginning, but after some good press in French magazines it’s now doing very well.
I’d like to talk a little bit about the interesting collaborations you’ve done. Some of them have been quite unprecedented – the Browns Focus / Acne store swap for instance. How did that happen?
Well, we said from the beginning that Acne should have really wide boundaries and be open to all kinds of things, as long as the partner had the same philosophy. The Browns thing happened that way: it was a fun thing which was mutually beneficial. Like the Lanvin collaboration, I don’t thing we even have a contract with them. As long as they like it and we like it, it’s was all good.
How did the jeans collection (I’m actually sporting a pair as we speak) with Fantastic Man come about?
Mattias Karlsson and Thomas Persson, fashion director and editor of Acne Paper respectively, knew the Fantastic Man boys. We were once all in Amsterdam together on a sort of vacation. And they proposed we do the collaboration. I was like, yeah, I love your stuff too, let’s do something. It was a process of sending sketches back and forth until we felt happy with the result. We didn’t meet that much until after we were done.
It’s quite unique to have worked with a pair of editors/art directors on a clothing offer.
Yes, but it’s something quite natural for me. I’ve always worked with stylists and we’re all part of the same fashion world aren’t we?
This leads us on to Acne Paper. Was that also a case of meeting somebody with an idea of a collaboration and then going for it?
Yeah, in a way. I had worked with Mattias a lot and got to know Thomas through him (they’re boyfriends). He was a writer with an interesting view on fashion, I’d sit down with him to ask him how he viewed fashion, really to pick his brain. I quickly decided I had to do a magazine together with him. In the beginning I was involved quite a bit with Acne Paper. These days we tend to swap ideas but I’m not that involved in the actual production.
It seems to me like the magazine hasn’t only been influenced by the label, but vice versa. Would you agree?
Yes, definitely. But Acne Paper works as a way of showcasing the inspirations behind the collections as well as showing the world the Acne mood board – capturing all those things we talk about six months before launch.
Now, finally, we must discuss your most recent collaboration with Lanvin. How did that come about?
Again, it was friends who work at Lanvin that suggested the collaboration. First they went to Alber. We have an office there and are over there quite a bit, and that’s how we came in contact with him. I feel amazed by the opportunity. Alber is a guy I find very inspirational and he has also taught me a lot about the design process of a properly educated designer.
What was the process like practically?
It was very simple really. We sat down at a table and started swapping ideas. We tried to create a marriage between our way of working with denim and Alber’s way of designing. It all came about out of a mutual respect for each other. Alber was very in love with the denim fabric and wanted to bring it into his world in a novel way.
Interesting. So if you try to look at the future of Acne, what do you think it holds?
I would like to find more and different ways of creativity and self-expression, because I feel that fashion has to change in some way. I don’t really know how, something different has to happen now.
You’ll branch out into more unexplored directions?
Yes, I would like to find yet more ways of expressing myself. You do six collections a year as a designer, and it is very important to do other things as well. I haven’t figured that out yet though. Maybe we’ll do a collection of Acne flavored crisps…
- POP 066/ Wednesday, 5 August 2009
- POP 018/ Thursday, 18 June 2009
- POP 935 Weekend 9-10 June 2012
- POP 015/ Monday, 15 June 2009
- POP 011/ Friday, 5 June 2009
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