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August 29 2014

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16 posts tagged "Acne Studios"

Acne Studio’s Jonny Johansson on Getting Out of the Denim Box, the Globalization of Style, and Innovation Versus Appearance

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acne-01The denim business today is nearly as fast-paced as ready-to-wear. Boyfriends have been replaced by mom jeans. Printed denim? So 2012. And flares go in and out almost too often for even die-hard jeans lovers to keep track. Acne Studios is a label that survives and thrives not by rushing in to grab its share of the trend pie, but by staying true to the simple principle that it launched with back in 1997. The Swedish brand’s denim philosophy is best summed up by founder Jonny Johansson: “I’m not into fancy stuff.” For Johansson, cool anonymity is a virtue, and over time it’s that very quality that has become Acne denim’s signature. Johansson called in from his vacation in the Stockholm archipelago to talk about the company’s origins, the competition, and where Acne is headed.

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Acne Studios’ entrance into the denim market has been told often enough that the story has made it onto the brand’s Wikipedia page. Can you tell it again?
Acne was built on the Warholian Factory idea. I thought it would be so cool to be a film director and a fashion designer and maybe a musician. We had these big round-table discussions: How do we enter the fashion thing? What the discussion came down to basically was that five-pocket jeans are the Coca-Cola of fashion. It was never about doing some new denim approach. That was never the idea. We had success with the first 100 pairs we gave to fans and friends and photographers we knew, and forced them to wear. It was a very good start but also a very shocking start. Everything happened really fast. We wanted to be a fashion brand, not just a denim brand, but we got placed in the denim box. It was a bit of a struggle to try to make people interested in the other stuff we wanted to do. We were scared to be this one-product project where you’re hip for a certain moment because you have a new name.

In hindsight, how do you account for the quick success of Acne’s jeans?
Today if you enter the fashion denim space, it’s a race that’s much more complex. It’s much more layered, it’s much more about the finishing, about the weaving. At the time [Acne got into the business], it was just about your approach to fashion. It was about your attitude. Today, it’s a super-big, complex industry where the race is much, much tighter. Your approach might be a good idea, but a good idea is not enough.

Talk about the “idea” behind Acne jeans.
I’m very focused about the word generic. It’s not really about the silhouette [for me]. You could say, “You should have a pair of ’70s-cut, flared jeans today because the ’70s [are trending].” Yes, that may be so, but I think it’s more about the fabric and how to circle around it. I don’t like what you call the stereotypes of fashion, which would be the flare, the super-skinny. I like a five-pocket [style], and I’m not too much into fancy stuff. And I don’t like vintage. It has to be very straightforward for both men and women; I’m very [into the idea of] unisex.

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But silhouette is so important to girls. I have a pair of high-waisted, straight-legged Acne jeans from eight years ago that I adored, but I can’t wear them now. The fit isn’t quite right.
For women it’s about finding something that will make you feel confident. It’s about the body. That’s what I find quite interesting with women and denim—it’s about trying to present yourself in a good way. It’s about pocket sizes and things like that. I think for women it is about being contemporary, but more so it’s about being flattering. Women are not so conforming about what to wear, so I like women’s fashion more for that respect.

Back to the fabric. Where do you source yours?
I’m not too much into the whole selvedge Japanese denim phenomenon. I do like Japanese fabrics, but when it comes to heritage, re-creating a complete heritage never interested me. That has never been the core for me. We work with a factory, which we’ve worked with for many, many years. They do a plain denim that I really like, it’s a twill denim. Another reason I love denim, it’s also very sustainable, it’s not a garment that you throw away every season. I envy sometimes friends who have one pair that they’ve had for a long time. I’ve always been into that.

Do you remember your first pair of jeans?
I try to forget the first ones my mother forced me into in the ’70s, but, yeah, I do remember the first pair I decided to have. It was a pair of Levi’s 501s, a straightforward American import. I was 12, maybe 11. Everything else that was available [in Sweden] were copies of Levi’s. It was Levi’s or nothing, for me at least. Our parents were quite heavily influenced by American pop culture, and they channeled it down to us. When I discovered my own aesthetic in terms of design, I remember changing the 501s. I’ve done everything, from changing silhouettes to dyeing. But I still wanted 501s to play with.

Where do you stand on washing or not washing your jeans?
Oh, I wash. My mother told me to take a shower every day.

When you look around, are there brands you think are doing interesting things in the denim sphere?
I always like A.P.C. They’ve carved out this timeless zone. They’re never really in and they’re never really out, which I kind of like. And they sort of sprung up in the same period as we did. Not maybe in everything, but regarding the jeans, they’re the brand I like.

As a Levi’s fan from your earliest days, when you look at Levi’s now, what do you think?
Confused. It makes me confused. I’m sorry, that’s the first word that comes to my mind. I think it’s about scale. It’s really a super-big machine that supplies everyone everything. That’s difficult always.

Acne itself is now a global business. Are jeans tastes the same in New York versus Stockholm versus Tokyo?
No, I think it’s going more opposite, I think it’s becoming more unified. I think it’s maybe the World Wide Web. [laughs] It’s becoming so unified it’s almost scary. [I compare it with] when you go out in Stockholm, [where] everyone looks the same. If one thing is right, everyone is on it, and if it’s not right, no one’s doing it anymore.

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Is Acne’s denim design team separate from its ready-to-wear team?
It’s always been a big challenge to make it one. The cycles in denim are not six months or four months or one month, or whatever it is [in ready-to-wear] now. Denim kind of has its own life. But our developer for denim is always in every meeting about what we’re doing, how we’re progressing, about the look or whatever it is. He’s in the mix. That’s very important.

How big a part of the brand is denim, and is it important to align the personality of the jeans and the ready-to-wear?
Denim is 25 percent of our business, a figure that’s been quite stable for the last five, seven years. It’s never in, it’s never out, that’s the beauty of it. But the five-pocket jean is a classic thing, which is why it’s so difficult for a fashion show. Because you want to stay in the realistic field, but you still want to try to do something [on the runway]. So you don’t see much denim at Acne shows.

Acne stores are popping up everywhere now—on Paris’ Left Bank, in downtown L.A. Where to next?
We’re opening in Hong Kong in September, a very small, little cute store. Our New York store is due for a rethink. We’d like more space, or else we’ll have to split men’s and women’s.

What do you see as the future of denim? How important are technological innovations, in terms of stretch, say, to the Acne brand?
We had success at the start because I developed a denim fabric with a supplier that had stretch. So I’m interested, but I’ve become more and more about the visual, less about the technical. I’m not smart enough. I’m so much about appearance and first impression. I think the technical aspects are very difficult. I’d rather like to be the Hermès of jeans than the North Face.

Maximum Utility: Workwear-Inspired Gear on the Fall Runways

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Tommy HilfigerThe long and bitter winter we’ve endured has brought out the inner survivalist in we editors at Style.com. And based on the influx of updated utilitarian gear we noticed on the Fall ’14 runways, the extreme conditions got designers thinking more practically, too. Alexander Wang made references to hunting, mountain climbing, and other outdoor sports with his new collection, which featured functional pockets of all sorts. His Brooklyn Navy Yard show was a parade of cargo pants, suede workwear jackets, canteen bags, and efficient shifts featuring individual compartments for Moleskine notebooks, smartphones, lipsticks, and lighters—everything his downtown customer needs to pound the pavement in style. Olivier Rousteing, meanwhile, transported us to a different kind of jungle (one stalked by Amazonian supermodels, no less) with his glam safari-inspired wares at Balmain. Surplus details also turned up at Rag & Bone, Isabel Marant, Acne Studios, and 3.1 Phillip Lim. Elsewhere, Tommy Hilfiger put his own all-American spin on the industrial trend by whipping up a series of raw denim pieces and “Marlboro Man” coats that suggested, as he told Style.com, the “real heartland America.”

These fashion-forward riffs on blue-collar uniforms will appeal to girls who’ve been rocking Carhartt jackets lately. At the very least, the spacious pockets will give us reason to forgo a purse. We’ll be ready to drop everything and run when the zombie apocalypse (or the next Polar Vortex) strikes.

Here, a slideshow of Fall’s utilitarian highlights.

Marina’s Must-Haves: Liberty x Acne Studios’ Printed Leather Jacket

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Acne x Liberty

After a long and freezing winter, I’m happy that I can finally put my heavy coats in storage and start wearing lighter jackets. To kick off my spring cleaning, I’m planning on swapping out my winter clothes for my spring wares this weekend. While searching for a new topper to add to my warm(er)-weather wardrobe, I fell in love with Liberty x Acne Studios’ printed leather topper. The mix of archival paisley and floral prints is a perfect match for white denim trousers or blue jeans. Now I just need to get my hands on one.

Liberty x Acne Studios leather jacket, $3,600, Buy it now

Photo: Courtesy of Acne Studios 

Take It From Emma Watson, Dresses Over Pants Look Fresh Again

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3.1-phillip-limEmma Watson set the Internet abuzz on Sunday night when she turned up at the Golden Globes in a backless red apron dress with cropped black cigarette pants from Raf Simons’ most recent Dior Haute Couture collection. Lovers and haters alike took to Twitter to comment. The Bling Ring actress, for her part, said, “It felt original. It felt a bit different.” We couldn’t agree more. In our book, Watson’s age-appropriate outfit raised the sartorial bar for awards season attire. In any case, it sure beat another predictable gown.

Coincidentally or not, the dress-over-pants look had a particularly strong showing at the recent Pre-Fall collections. Slips were paired with cropped trousers at both 3.1 Phillip Lim and Elizabeth and James. And we noticed similar takes on layering at Acne Studios and J Brand, only their pants were closer to leggings, cut from a scuba-like satin and leather, respectively.

Here, a slideshow of our favorite dress-over-pants looks.

Anti-Freeze: Pre-Fall’s Polarwear

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Acne Studios“Polar Vortex” was the phrase on everyone’s blistered lips this week during a bitter cold spell that sent most of the U.S. into a deep freeze. As we learned firsthand while trudging to and from appointments on the city’s icy sidewalks, even the most thermodynamic winter coat (plus a hat and gloves) wasn’t enough for bone-chilling temperatures like these. Did designers divine this subzero weather? The new Pre-Fall collections offer plenty of fresh ideas for bundling up in style. Blanket dressing, in particular, has emerged as one of the season’s most welcome trends. Labels including Acne Studios, Chloé, Vionnet, and Chanel featured soft wraps made for swaddling. For the finale at his Burberry Prorsum menswear show in London yesterday, Christopher Bailey draped heritage plaid blankets over each model’s left shoulder. Geraldo da Conceicao at Sonia Rykiel, meanwhile, struck a similar cozy note with piled-on sweaters draped around the neck like stoles.

Here, a slideshow of winter-worthy blankets and wraps.