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Acne Studios Relaunches Acne Paper Magazine

After a seven-year hiatus, the Swedish label is re-launching its print magazine with founding editor Thomas Persson and a greater focus on politics.
Acne Studios is relaunching its Acne Paper magazine. Courtesy.
Acne Studios is relaunching its Acne Paper magazine. Courtesy.

Is print media dead? Not if you ask Acne Studios.

After a seven-year hiatus, the Swedish label is relaunching its beloved print magazine, Acne Paper, with its original founding editor, Thomas Persson, once again at the helm. Acne Studios founder Jonny Johansson originally launched the publication in 2005; between then and 2014, it explored the intersection of fashion, art, culture and literature through 15 thematic bi-annual issues. The magazine ceased publication not due to financial reasons, said Acne chief executive Mattias Magnusson, but because its creators didn’t want the format to become repetitive. Now, it’s rebooting itself with a new look and fresh perspective that is more global and politically charged.

“Since inception [Acne’s] always been about multidisciplinary creativity and about cross-pollinating different creative disciplines and seeing where you end up. This is the ultimate product for us to do that,” he said, adding, “sometimes I think you kind of need to take a break from the things you love to realise how much you love them.”

Acne Studios is relaunching Acne Paper magazine with cover art by artist Yousef Sabry. Courtesy.

Over the years, many brands have used magazines as a marketing tool intended to boost brand awareness and build deeper relationships with consumers. These experiments, however, have seen varying degrees of success. Acne was one of the few that managed to make it work.

With the Acne Paper, the Swedish brand created a standalone, albeit niche, publication that people coveted, drawing readers into the Acne brand universe without actually trying to sell them anything. While Acne Studios published the magazine, it was produced independently by a small team that isn’t part of the brand’s full-time staff. This approach helped to create a publication that was a credible magazine in its own right, rather than one that was seen as an Acne brand catalogue, said Magnusson.

“It had a very independent sense of editorial direction,” said Jeremy Leslie, a former magazine art director and founder of magCulture, a London-based editorial consultancy firm that also runs a magazine shop and produces events. “The content wasn’t about Acne, the content was just a great magazine ... The magazine sort of brought to the brand a whole load of cool.”

Years after it was last published, there is still an appetite for Acne’s publication. In June, the brand released a commemorative compilation of highlights from the magazine’s archive, the Acne Paper Book, priced at €95 ($110). Within two days, the print run of 4,500 copies sold out, forcing the brand to reprint more copies to meet demand. Archives copies of the first Acne Paper iteration are selling today on the second-hand market for more than €100, according to the brand.

To be sure, a project like this doesn’t come cheap. Acne Studios has invested substantially in the new issue, which, according to a source close to the magazine, cost around €500,000 to produce. Magnusson, however, believes it’s an investment worth making, even if the return is more difficult to quantify than more traditional forms of marketing.

“Sometimes doing things you really love is an underrated business strategy,” Magnusson said. “If you do something you truly love, chances are someone else will also love it. And that’s a pretty good foundation to start from.”

The rebooted publication is a hybrid between a magazine and coffee table book. At over 500 pages, it’s fatter, yet more compact in size than its predecessors. Its physical design is supposed to lend itself to being a collectable item, said Magnusson, with a removable dust jacket that folds out into a large print by emerging artist Yousef Sabry.

A spread from the "Age of Aquarius" issue of the Acne Paper. Courtesy.

The publication’s content has also become more global and political. Thirty-five journalists, writers, photographers, stylists and artists were enlisted to contribute. The first issue, titled “Age of Aquarius,” includes essays from theatre critic Hilton Als and physicist Fritjof Capra, while spreads profile individuals like Brazilian activist and author Djamila Ribeiro, and Bangladeshi environmentalist architect Marina Tabassum.

“It is a different world today than it was in 2005 and this magazine now also reflects that,” said Magnusson. “You can’t create an interesting magazine today, without touching upon the topics that are most relevant to people.”

The relaunch comes at a time when the online space is more and more saturated, making it harder than ever for luxury brands to engage consumers and build relationships. From that perspective, reverting to a more “antiquated medium” like print is a way for brands to stand out, said Bernstein analyst Luca Solca.

“At the end of the day, one of the most important acid tests of communication is that you get noticed. It seems that some of the brands — recently Bottega Veneta for example — have tried something different than jumping on the social media bandwagon,” he said.

Founded in 1996, Acne Studios is known for its upscale ready-to-wear and distinct brand of Scandinavian cool, with a network of over 45 stores globally. In December 2018, China-focused investment firm IDG Capital and Hong Kong-based I.T Group both took a minority stake in the company, with Johansson and chairman Mikael Schiller remaining majority shareholders in the business. Prior to the pandemic, brand revenue sat at €260 million. The company is forecasting sales of €300 million this financial year, ending September 2022.

For the relaunch of Acne Paper, the company is increasing the magazine’s print run to 7,000 copies, up from 4,000 under the magazine’s first iteration. Priced at €40, the title will be sold in Acne Studios stores and select magazine retailers globally.

“In this day and age where everything is pretty much commercialised in one way or another, it’s actually a great liberty and privilege for us to be able to do this product and not have a solid thought through a business case, but actually just do a product that we really, really love,” said Magnusson.

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