PARIS, France — There was a time when Acne took fashion itself as inspiration for the label — the culture of fashion, the history, the great creatives. Back then, before the label repositioned itself, the Swedish company was a denim brand aiming to tap the world of contemporary luxury and could still claim outsider status. Now that Acne Studios is showing in Hôtel Potocki, a neoclassical hôtel particulier, and aims to be seen as a modern luxury brand, fashion as a phenomenon just doesn't cut it as inspiration anymore.
It’s been obvious during recent seasons that the brand, while doing reasonably brisk business (Acne Studios currently generates around €125 million euros in revenue a year), has also had to think about what they want to say, now that they've grown up. So, we’ve had a take on navy; we’ve had a play on classic luxury labels; we’ve had surfing and we’ve had musings on archived garments. When a designer jumps around like this you start to wonder who he is and what he, himself, stands for.
Jonny Johansson decided to answer that question for Spring/Summer 2016. Not that he would put it this way, but this was the underlying result of a clearly personal collection centred on music. Divided into three segments, sketching Johansson’s own musical evolution (“I started with postpunk, then got more into electronic music, then discovered country music when I was doing an interior design project in New York in the late 1990s.”) the collection featured sound-wave prints, masculine jackets with crushed velvet lining borrowed from guitar cases, and distressed knit cobweb dresses. The guitar applications on the clothes, complete with strings, were all of actual models from his personal collection.
“I’ve been afraid to take on music before,” Johansson said backstage after the show. One of the reasons for this was that he ended up in fashion almost by chance — growing up he always thought he’d be a musician — and with this collection he wanted to celebrate the musicians he admires, the ones who don’t turn themselves into brands and have their own agendas.
To be yourself is a basic tenet of fashion, and we rarely talk about how difficult this is, pretending instead it is a simple exercise of self-expression. It’s more realistic to say that being yourself takes determination, a capacity for genuine introspection and a certain stubbornness. With this collection, Jonny Johansson moved away from the impression that he and the brand are nervously playing at being a fashion house. There was a new air of confidence in the offering and, as we all know, there’s nothing sexier than that.