The Swedish creative collective ACNE had its first start in 1996 when the founders, Jonny Johansson and Tomas Skoging, distributed 100 pairs of jeans to their friends, family, and clients. This resulted in ACNE’s first orders from boutiques who were interested in stocking the straight-legged raw denim with bright red stitching. So what originally started as a marketing idea for a creative collective ended up becoming the inspiration for an entire fashion label. ACNE is commonly mentioned as an acronym for Ambition to Create Novel Expression but the founder jokes it was originally, “Associated Computer Nerd Enterprises.” There is an important distinction as the Acne Studios became a separate entity from ACNE brand in 2006. Nearly 20 years after it started, Acne Studios is seen as a well-known contemporary label and is sold in 485 shops, in 40 different countries, and turning over more than $120 million annually.
Acne Studios is inherently linked to the heritage of the Swedish founders. Johansson has repeatedly reinforced that Acne is a “Swedish Brand. The Social Democrats have ruled this country for many years…Its about group work here.” That dictates their design style where group collaboration of individuals from different disciplines is encouraged. Johansson came from a clothing design background however several of the first ACNE employees were graphic designers. Johansson has said on working as a creative collective, “it excited me to experience the ideas that other people put out, I wanted to be constantly amazed”.
Acne has an internal tagline of, ‘Discover how far you can go’ and is meant to get people to go further. This refers to Acne as a creative collective to try to engage people to utilize their creative potential. Self-expression has also been an important concept for Acne and Johansson has stated, “The way I dressed was a big part of how I expressed myself”. Coming from a music background he saw fashion and music as, “a similar kind of thing. You sell an illusion, or a feeling, or an idea.” In terms of being innovative Acne, Johansson decidedly forwent handcrafted garments in favor of, “pouring ideas on people and giving them inspiration.” This system of selling ideas to people garnered Acne some criticism in recent years with Acne selling scarves that read 'Gender equality' and crewnecks with slogans such as 'Gender equality', 'Woman power', 'Radical feminist', and 'Please call me girl'.
Jeans are what kicked off Acne Studios and what Acne is still known for today. Jeans were decided to be the, “product with the most energy.” Johansson stated, “I felt that jeans were the perfect canvas. For me, they were the starting point of fashion as we know it today. The movement that occurred in the 1950s, which separated youth culture from how people dressed traditionally is still relevant today. We wanted to choose something from that period and make it work for the present day.”
To date Acne’s most popular denim cuts are Ace (skinny fit, mid-rise) and Max (slim fit, low rise). They are brand signatures so they appear as staples each season along with several other cuts in varying treatments. Note they have denim meant to fade with washing as well as “stay” denim for non-fade denim.
Acne's creative team sees shoes as, “the most important accessory to change a look totally.” Their staples include the minimalist sneaker, Adrian (in black/white and low/high variations) and triple lo. Beyond those typical offerings they have done sandals, slippers, espadrilles, traditional derbies, clunky thick sole derbies, boots, and several others.
Acne is commonly referred to as ‘contemporary’ and ‘progressive’ and linked to Scandinavian minimalism. Acne’s styling runs the gamut from a ‘minimalist uniform’ all the way up to their more colorful and gender-fluid offerings. Johansson often enjoys playing with proportions as he thinks, “proportion is always more interesting than decoration.” In playing with proportion Acne has done everything from oversized jackets and sweaters and cropped tops to drop crotch shorts and high-waist trousers, and everything in between.
Thematically each season can be seen as somewhat a bit of conceptual antics as the inspiration for each season jumps widely. Along with this bit of inspiration bunny hopping (‘inspiration du jour’ according to one review) the boundary pushing waxes and wanes, with some season’s collections seen as more traditional than others. With the change in each season’s inspiration the color palette for each collection does change. Acne maintains their standard grey-scale offerings season-to-season (white, greys, black) as well as introducing seasonal choice colours and prints.
Even pricing, to a certain extent, is linked back to Acne’s Swedish heritage. Johansson has said, “Our basic idea was that we wanted to have the same margin on everything, so that if you were attracted to a more expensive fabric for instance, the garment would also be more expensive. I would never price a t-shirt at 200 euros just because it’s made by Acne.” Acne’s pricing runs roughly $100 for basic tees, $220 for denim, $250 for shirts and sweatshirts, all to the way up to $600 for jackets, $1000 for coats, and upwards of $1500 for leather jackets (note prices in USD and are only meant as rough approximations).
Many common retailers carry Acne however I will list some notable ones in no particular order:
End Clothing - http://www.endclothing.com/us/brands/acne
Totokaelo - https://man.totokaelo.com/acne
Tres-bien - http://tres-bien.com/acne-studios/
Acne Studios - http://www.acnestudios.com/
Acne Paper - http://www.acnepaper.com/
Collections - http://www.vogue.com/?s=acne+studios
High Snobiety Interview - http://www.highsnobiety.com/2015/03/25/jonny-johansson-tomas-skoging-acne-interview/
The Wall Street Journal on Acne Studios - http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324678604578340402927911328