Sweden’s Most Powerful Fashion Man

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Swedish designer Jonny Johansson and his fanatically popular fashion brand, ACNE, are in the power seats.

When Jonny Johansson and three colleagues started his lifestyle label in Stockholm in 1996, they claimed they would conquer the world after having created 100 pairs of unisex jeans and given them to 100 influential friends. A cult was born.

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Acne Fashion 2015
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Acne Studios 2015

290915-jonny-johansson-acneSoon the brand was supplying a young global fan base with everything from radically elegant casual sportswear to stuffed animals. They even have their pwn biannual magazine. The name, by the way, is an acronym for Ambition to Create Novel Expressions.

Jonny Johansson has put Scandinavian fashion on the world map with his jeans, shoes and basic garments with a bit avant-garde twist. Has been named designer of the year, denim designer of the year and Sweden’s most powerful fashion man. Among others, he has made a collection in cooperation with fashion house Lanvin.

Today it seems like Acne has transformed from a streetwear label to one that is comfortable in the world of ready-to-wear.

Johansson says that the challenge has been to be able to make really interesting designs which are functional but still remain interesting. He started out in a time where Helmut Lang and Prada were making amazing clothes without being too abstract.

Johansson is a hardworking and exceptionally inspiring designer and good at finding the right people to work with. More importantly, perhaps, is the willingness to do something different, something that nobody has done before, often with people who are better than him.

From London Brompton Cross Studio
From London Brompton Cross Studio

He did not have a traditional fashion education, so he had to be learning by trial and error, creating styles that the industry might dub ‘editorial’ (oddly fitting trousers, ungainly proportions and frankly ugly fabrics). The core Acne style is not only ready-to-wear, but easy to wear.

With styles that the industry might dub ‘editorial’ (oddly fitting trousers, ungainly proportions, frankly ugly fabrics), the core Acne style is not only ready-to-wear, but easy to wear. In a way it mimics Scandinavian furniture design with its simplicity and focus on fusing both form and function into clothes that work. You can’t help but think of Ikea, and their championing of interesting design that still does its job incredibly well. Acne’s doing the same for your wardrobe.

Jonny Johansson grew up in Umeå, north in Sweden. He was a good guitarist, played in band and was fired after a concert in Japan. To take revenge, he moved to Stockholm.

His mother wanted him to go to art school because she saw that he was a creative boy, but he wanted to pursue music, which was important in his family, on his father’s side. But in the end it was about creating.

One day Jonny was walking down Drottninggatan, having dyed his hear red, wearing white lederhosen, black t-shirt and rockabilly shoes – and was spotted by a party-fixer who wanted to have him on his list. One party led to another. Johanssen became familiar with every who’s who in advertising, media and fashion, and in 1996 he and three buddies invested 200,000 kroner and established Acne International.

One day the founder of Wallpaper came by the office and hailed the company in the magazine. After that things happened in furious pace. The Fashion department grew to over 20 people and the upcoming star, Ann-Sofie Back, who today runs her own brand, Cheap Monday, was hired to create women’s clothing.

Acne Studios Lookbook The Impression Resort 2015
Acne Studios Lookbook The Impression Resort 2015

In an interview Johanssen said, “The older I get, I realize I have a Swedish inheritance. I never really knew about it, I almost fought against it, and tried to be international… I think we are different; local and global at the same time.”

And he actually never wanted to do something that was Swedish. Acne is global – but it’s been achieved by exporting that local sense of Swedish ease. It has over 650 outlets in 66 countries around the world, and a turnover of over €100m, achieved without advertising, but rather through the cultish pull of the clothing.

Sweden’s Most Powerful Fashion Man , written by Admin