Video by Mr Pierre Debusschere | Styling by Mr Tony Cook
Words by Mr Benjamin Seidler
Stockholm-based brand Acne's name is an acronym for its ethos: "Ambition to Create Novel Expressions". Its designer, Mr Jonny Johansson, 41, has certainly fulfilled that manifesto in the 15 years since he co-founded the label. Not only does Acne incorporate a fresh approach to casual dressing with its immaculately cut jeans and fuss-free men's, women's and children's lines, but the brand has explored the concept of the fashion magazine with its biannual Acne Paper. Speaking from his 16th-century office in a former bank in Stockholm's Old Town, Mr Johansson tells us what the Acne lifestyle is all about.
How would you describe the Acne style?
It's something from your father, mixed with something from your friend, mixed with something very personal and new.
Why were jeans a good starting point for your brand?
For me, the most contemporary, most generic and most important fashion garment that comes up everywhere is the five-pocket jean. We never said we would be a "denim brand", but it seemed like a good place to start as a good pair of jeans is a great canvas for something interesting. Our jeans have a very clean approach, we concentrate a lot on fit, and we introduced stretch for men. When we did that, stretch wasn't very popular and people thought, "Jeans have to be 100 years old." I thought the modern way of approaching jeans is more about what can be modernised in terms of fit and fabric.
You set up a brand without formal fashion training. How did you overcome the fear of the unknown, and do you think that has helped you?
I'm from a musical family, so I thought I'd be a musician. But I'm all about self-expression, and to have one foot in another world such as the fashion industry allows me to be a bit different and create something new in both fields. There's always a balance for me between fashion and music, and it actually allows me to relax in both. So when one discipline gets tough, I can always look to the other.
Describe your average day and how you dress for it.
I'm really a morning person as it's when I feel most creative. I wake up between 7am and 8am and get on one of my bicycles. I bike for 20 minutes to a coffee shop, which is like going to a psychologist for me because the guy behind the counter has become one of my best friends. I talk to him and try to sort some things out, and then I cycle five minutes further to work, where I have meetings with all the different design teams throughout the day. I like the routine; I always dress similarly for it. Today I'm wearing black Acne jeans, a vintage polka-dot scarf, running shoes and a plain blue Acne shirt. I like to have a bit of stretch in my jeans as it's good for biking.
What would be the soundtrack to this winter's Acne collection?
It has to be something retro, like disco, which clashes with something ultra-modern. We played ABBA in our last presentation because I love them and they have been a very important musical influence for me. It may not be fashionable, but it's a great catalogue of songs.
Where does most of your inspiration for Acne come from?
I'm like many designers in that I like to look at old magazines. But as my creative voice matures, I like to look at my family, my friends and myself. I like to look at things that are really close to me. Not everything we produce is something I'd wear myself - some things are more for my friends or colleagues. It's not all about me.
What do you think is particularly Swedish about your design sensibility?
I think it's functional, minimal, raw and pure. It's also a bit naughty.
What man from the past or present would you most like to dress?
We often reference Yves Klein and Jean Cocteau. They had a masculine approach to fashion with traditional tailoring, but would use paper string as a belt, and that was softer and really cool.