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August 23 2014

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53 posts tagged "Acne"

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 Boyfriends have been replaced by mom jeans.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.

Neoprene Dreams Come to Life

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If you were feeling inspired by today’s “Neoprene Dreams” feature, here are a few pieces to satisfy your immediate desires. Go ahead and try for your own Kathy Ireland and Elle Macpherson beach babe moment. It won’t be easy, but at least Lisa Marie Fernandez’s neoprene suits will help get you close.

1. Lisa Marie Fernandez The Farrah neoprene swimsuit, $395, available at net-a-porter.com
2. Acne Studios grid flower skirt, $846, available at mytheresa.com
3. Marc by Marc Jacobs royal python neoprene zip case, $62, available at couture.zappos.com
4. Stella McCartney polka-dot embossed neoprene top, $642, available at matchesfashion.com
5. Alexander Wang Karen cutout pump, $625, available at alexanderwang.com

Photo: Courtesy Photos

Editor Obsessions: Acne Studios’ Garret Coat

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acneEvery day, Style.com’s editors reveal their current obsessions—and where to buy them. Check out today’s pick, below.

When you live in New York, the secret to finding the perfect winter coat is to shop for one ridiculously early in the season—like now—before anyone else starts to even think about wearing something that covers three-quarters of your body in warm and luxurious 100 percent virgin wool. If you wait until it’s actually cold out to buy one, you’ll be too late, and you certainly won’t find anything as good as the Garret coat from Acne Studios. Full-lined, sharply cut, minimal details, reasonably priced—it’s going to look as good hanging in my closet for the next few months as it will when I finally get to wear it.

Acne Studios Garret coat, $700, Buy it now

At LN-CC, Spring Has Sprung

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LN-CC is more than an impossibly cool Dalston concept store offering everything from Lanvin and Rick Owens to vintage books and records—it’s a creative family. Most of the people who have worked with the shop since it opened in 2010 are still on board—a fact that’s clearly visible in the boutique’s Spring ’14 campaign, which debuts exclusively here. Lensed by Rory van Millingen in Italy’s Carrara marble quarries, the shoot stars Gigi Jeon, who poses in LN-CC’s Spring merch. “It’s kind of the LN-CC philosophy,” explained John Skelton, the store’s founder and creative director. “Some of the buyers and stylists have been working with us since they were teenagers. Rory was just starting out when he first shot for us, and now he’s becoming a bit of a name in London. And Gigi is our house model. We found her working at a Marc Jacobs store and thought she looked amazing. But she’s so busy now, she even walked in Louis Vuitton!” he said proudly. There’s also a new member joining the LN-CC clan this season: model Max E. “This is literally his first job,” said Skelton. “He’s from Düsseldorf, and he looks unbelievable. I really think he’s going to be the next big face.”

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When asked why he chose to shoot at the quarry, Skelton told us that he loved the sci-fi, futuristic effect the backdrop offered. However, getting there was no easy task. “I don’t know how high up we were, but it was above the clouds. It was quite difficult getting all the product and makeup up there. But it was worth it.” We’d have to agree. Featuring wares from Paco Rabanne, Rick Owens, Yang Li, Acne Studios, Lanvin, and more, the shoot perfectly embodies the mix-and-match LN-CC look.

LN-CC’s Spring buys are available now on its website, as the store is currently closed for renovations—the first step in a change-in-gears for LN-CC. After having fallen on hard times this past winter, the store has recently signed a deal with Italian company The Level Group, with the aim of amping up efficiency and profits. “It’s a good marriage. They’ve come in to increase the productivity of the business side, and we get to keep going with the creative side.” As for the London-based outpost’s renovations, we’ve been told that there’s quite a lot in the pipeline for the updated space, which will open in September. “It’s been a major development for us. It’s all up from here.”

Photo: Rory van Millingen 

Federico Marchetti Adds Art to Yoox’s Oeuvre

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Federico MarchettiThe impressive second-quarter results posted recently by the Yoox Group, Italy’s e-commerce giant, was further proof that the future of high fashion lies online. But can CEO Federico Marchetti (left) work the same magic with fine art? It has been on his mind since he launched Yoox fourteen years ago. “I’ve always had the notion of the one-stop shop, with a mixture of modern and vintage, clothes and furniture,” he says. “The art component is the one that closes the circle.”

Marchetti tested the waters last October with Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, and the first-ever edition by Italy’s top Pop artist Francesco Vezzoli. “He did it to help earthquake relief in Emilia-Romagna, where I’m from,” explains Marchetti. “We did an edition of 399 priced at 399 euros, dollars, or pounds.” Yoox is now providing corporate sponsorship for Vezzoli’s Trinity, a series of three exhibitions in three cities, the first in Rome now until November 24, the second opening at New York’s MoMA PS1 in the fall, and the third at the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A. in early winter.

But any multimillion-dollar business can cough up sponsorship dollars. It was Padiglione Crepaccio (below), the much humbler Yoox initiative during the opening days of the Venice Biennale, which cast a more interesting light on Marchetti’s intentions in the art world. Curator Caroline Corbetta assembled work by ten Venetian artists under 30—the sort of creative types who are usually overlooked when the Biennale’s grand caravan rolls into town every two years—and exhibited the result in the house where three of them live. (A very nice piece of old Venice it was, too, calculated to make starving artists everywhere else in the world utterly puce with envy.) The twist was that the exhibition preview was online. “Like Saatchi, but in reverse,” says Marchetti. “Everyone else got to see it online before the art-world elite got there.” Which didn’t stop heavy hitters like Vezzoli, Diesel’s Renzo Rosso, and cherished art-world provocateur Maurizio Cattelan (a patron saint to young Italian artists) from showing up in person at the opening.

Padiglione Crepaccio at Yoox.comWith his Acne jeans and his Lobb shoes, Marchetti is almost correct when he describes himself as the Yoox customer. And he was setting a good example by shopping for art at Padiglione Crepaccio. (In keeping with the initiative, it was only possible to buy the pieces on the iPads provided, even if you were standing right in front of the art and the artist). Right now, Marchetti is picturing art on Yoox as “something like a TV talent show, 99 percent talent, 1 percent the special X factor.” But going forward, he imagines people picking up “a pair of jeans and a painting” when they visit the site. “It’s part of the plan to make yoox.com a playful lifestyle,” he adds. “But playful in a serious way. It’s not the Amazon approach. We’re serious about collaboration.” Serious enough, in fact, to partner with the legendary photo agency Magnum—its first venture into e-commerce—and Hirst’s publishing company, Other Criteria.

But when Marchetti insists, “Surprise is the beauty of Yoox,” I flip back to the young artists in Venice, in particular a painter called Thomas Braida. With talent like his in the equation, people are going to be picking up way more than one painting with their pair of jeans.

Photos: David Needleman (Federico Marchetti); Courtesy of Yoox