If you didn't know that ACNE stands for "Ambition to Create Novel Expressions," than you also proabably weren't aware that the Swedish label is a multi-disciplinary company consisting of much more than impeccably cut jeans in amazing fabrics. With films, furniture design, architecture and their own world-class publication, it's lifestyle branding that we can actually get behind.
Opened yesterday in New York City, their first U.S. store is one of the more attractive and comfortable retail spaces I've entered. Dozens of bright potted tulips and succelents greet new arrivals and 139 hand-blown glass bulbs line the right wall. Clothing, shoes and accessories are strategically placed about on stacked books, ACNE-designed clothing racks, cabinets that double as doors, trebled tables and glass display cases. Unlike other retail spaces that give off the unshakable sense of countless hours of focus groups, it's not overdone but rather has the feel of more of an unfinished space. In fact, as we discovered, part of the goal was to recreate an artist's studio.
We caught a few minutes with ACNE's creative director Jonny Johansson and the in-house Head of Architecture Andreas Fornell to talk about the new space and the ACNE lifestyle.
As the in-house Architect of the brand, what sorts of projects do you take on?
AF: There are two of us. We design shops and studios such as this, but we also design all our showrooms, offices and booths for fashion fairs. A lot of thought goes into every aspect of the spaces we inhabit, including the lamps, lighting, color and way we present items and products.
What was the concept for this space?
AF: The idea was to create an artist studio of sorts. Most of our other stores are monochrome in color. For example, in Paris we opened a version consisting of mostly solid, unpainted wood, but here we wanted to do something a bit different. I wanted to make the space pop a bit more, so we used some more bright pastels and lights. I also like the glass knobs we use in this store. I worked with Ingere Rädman, a 63-year-old who hand blows each one. In other stores we use one or even ten, but never 139 like we've done here. Everything in the store including the lights, tables, cabinets and racks were designed by us, made in Sweden and then shipped here.
So did ACNE start out as a clothing brand and grow in these other directions?
JJ: We actually started as consultants for film and advertising. However, since the beginning we set out to start a unique but fantastic company. The idea was to explore things that were fashionable and fashion does not pertain to just clothing. Fashion can be a piece of furniture or what's surrounding and inspiring you, in my opinion. So we built this brand to work on things that interests us—any facet of what we think is fashionable. We also wanted to approach design more holistically, hitting all fronts rather than concentrating on being known for one thing. Since then we've been able to get involved with photography, film, architecture and design as a lifestyle in general. So, to answer your question, in the beginning it was through consulting we were able to start out own projects.
I recently started reading ACNE paper. It's such a great publication and I am always so impressed with the content. How did that start out?
JJ: It's the research process and lust for the creative process that is most interesting to us, but when you do that you experience a lot of things that aren't shown in the product necessarily. We wanted to somehow showcase what was inspiring us and what we were talking about in the office, so we created ACNE Paper to show people the back story of our inspiration.
So why New York now?
JJ: It's very simple. We met Humberto from Opening Ceremony, felt a mutual connection and it seemed like a good time. Opening Ceremony and us, we have a common view on fashion; not that it's unconventional, just the way we look upon it. Humberto has been a pleasure to work with, as always. They are staffing and running the store but I don't talk of that stuff, I'm not involved with the business part.
JJ: We have shops in Berlin, Paris, Stockholm (of course), Copenhagen, Oslo and now New York. We also look forward to opening a shop in London. More importantly, I feel that we have a good foundation for showing and doing more things. More exploration. That's the challenge I have; to make this experience more than a clothing store. This is very important to us because if we don't do this then we are not the brand we promised. We've been around 10 years now, but it's just the beginning. There are a lot of new challenges and opportunities that will be fun to explore.
Images via Refinery29