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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Q&A: Jonny Johansson

Not long ago Acne was a relatively unknown skinny jeans company from Sweden. Now with 16 stores internationally, phenomenal collaborations with Lanvin and jeweler Michael Zobel, and an exceptional collection for fall '09, it's ballooned into the brand that everyone is obsessed with. We caught up with founder Jonny Johansson as he vacationed with his family in Stockholm. By Kay Barron

The last year has been great for Acne. The recession has been good to you!
The recession has been good in the sense that it means I can focus on what I really like and almost "clean up" what I do. When I was in London a year ago I met an American guy who was recently bankrupt. He didn’t have any money so I took him for a drink and bought him some food. He was a vintage collector and a writer, but he is a musician, too, and he told me that even though his business is on its knees, he has never felt so creative. I think that’s inspiring. For me fashion had become too narrow. Everything had to be so fucking luxurious, and the whole creative and expressive part disappeared.

There is something intrinsically Swedish about Acne that I can’t put my finger on. Can you explain?
I am Swedish! I think that our clothing is functional and related to architecture. It is graphic, but I wouldn’t say it's minimal, which people often say it is. Maybe it's a lack of growing up with couture and extravagance. We had this plan from the start that everyone is on this journey and we know that we’re not perfect and next season we might be more or less interesting. We accept things as imperfect, we almost treasure it. I don’t think people take us too seriously.

Really, even now?
It's only clothing, you know. If you try to keep up with all the amazing and creative people you'll lose your personality, your focus and your ability to find something a little bit personal.

So there's no master plan?
Our plan is to work with people we like and admire. Acne is built on other people. I feel the spirit of everyone I work with. Now we are designing furniture, and for me it's so much fun! Few people have the luxury of trying out different disciplines. If I worked for a big house, it wouldn’t be appropriate to try out different things as there would be a heritage to respect.

Or maybe you get bored easily.
It might be a bit of that.

How do you see the company growing? You mentioned perfume earlier. Will we see that soon?
I am really interested in it, but I think those kinds of brand extensions feel very commercial, so we’re not doing perfume for now. We have lots of other projects lined up that I’m really excited about, but we are taking things slowly. I don’t want Acne to be super mega and absolutely everywhere. In the end, people will find you.

I think Acne has changed the price people expect to pay for quality.
If we’ve done that then I am very proud, especially if they are buying pieces that they are going to wear for a long time.

Do people shop differently from country to country?
In some places. New York is made up of different societies—Chelsea, Brooklyn, the Village, etc—and I don’t think we have reached all of those groups yet. But everywhere we are, we are attracting a really diverse community. That means that we are doing something right.

When is London getting its Acne store?
We’d really like to do that, but we need to find a location. A while ago we were thinking about Mount Street [in Mayfair]. But now when I go there, there doesn’t seem to be anyone walking around. Everyone is in Scott’s restaurant. That’s the only place on the street that's always busy!

You were in bands for a number of years. Do you still play guitar?
Yes, of course. Music is meditation for me. If I’m tired or really excited about something I’ll go to my cellar and play music for hours and hours.

What are you listening to at the moment?
I’m sorry, I have been listening to Metallica. I just really like their latest album. I bought a drum set and that is why I’m listening to them, to practice.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Definitely. I wish I had known more when I started. It sounds sad, but I still wish I had had a fashion education. Of course, there is strength in not coming from a fashion background, but at the same time I am missing some skills.

It’s never too late to go back to school, Jonny!
Haha! That’s just what my mother said.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Paris Men's Week: Lanvin

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Was it only last January that Lucas Ossendrijver and Alber Elbaz presented the fall 2009 collection for Lanvin in an old school courtyard: a marvel of flowing, pleated pants, billowy silk shirts, romantic neck scarves and cinched waist coats? That collection was a first response to the financial crisis and it was deemed appropriately somber. It was also very romantic.

This time Lanvin showed in the rococo gilt Salle Wagram, looking decidedly dance-hall louche, lit in lurid red with techno blasting at 11:00 am. Gone was any trace of somber romance as models emerged like a gang of toughs in skinny, sleeveless jackets and stovepipe pants with narrow, turned-up cuffs, hair in almost punk spikes topped with visor scarves in tie silk. These new Lanvin guys meant business and one suspects it was of the shakedown variety. There were knee pants with knee coats, confirming menswear's move to a more boyish silhouette, and still more louche details like black shirts with a sliver of white handkerchief peeking out from the breast pocket. Patterned T-shirts were studded with sequins and leather blousons showed up with matching leather shorts. The new coat was aggressively cinched and worn bloused for an hourglass shape, and there was a wider trouser which was very high waisted, marked with a narrow belt and offset with ample hips in a sort of Fred Astaire dance shape. The pants were paired with 50's patterned shirts with short sleeves rolled as high as they will go.

The end result looked like a lean, mean fighting machine, ready to seduce a younger, more body-conscious customer for Lanvin and not afraid of being pretty ferocious in the process.

—Rebecca Voight

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Freak Show

Lions and tigers...er, patterns and colors and armor, oh my! Illustrations by Kuanth

dress Christopher Kane
dress Chanel, hat John Galliano, shoes (orange) Lanvin, shoes (yellow) Pierre Hardy, boots Bruno Frisoni

dress & shoes Alexander McQueen, hat Dior
dress & shoes Balmain, tights Jean Paul Gaultier

dress Basso & Brooke
dress Gareth Pugh

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Paris Fashion Week: Lanvin

As soon as the black curtain was pulled back last night at Lanvin's fall show, revealing another 20,000 sq ft of warehouse space, all eyes were focused on the feather-topped model walking through the incredible red-rose arch. With that, the hard concrete space was transformed into the most elegant space in Paris. Such was the power of Alber Elbaz's collection.

Dominated by black, with flashes of red, every piece had an element that appealed to the romantic, the elegant, the hard and the cool in all of us. This wasn’t just a classic Lanvin collection, this was the classic Lanvin collection. In a time when those who can afford it want subtle luxury that isn't flashy (ahem, Balmain), Lanvin delivered—and for those who want to invest in one exquisite piece of clothing.

Alber never underestimates the strength of a shoulder (not a statement shoulder, but one with seams been turned inside-out to create a soft point), the power of a well-cut skirt, a curved heel or a considered neckline. Fur and knit stoles embraced the shoulders of belted jackets, bias-cut dresses or trouser suits. A floor-length black velvet dress had half the audience planning black-tie events, just for an occasion to wear it to, while the other half couldn’t see it properly through their tears. Yes, tears. This show was a true fashion moment and exactly what Paris needed after three days of showy fanfares, blinding crystals and perilous shoes. Lanvin is the kind of glamour that will transcend the season and definitely transcend this damn recession, too.


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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hooked: Lanvin Strassée

Who says conspicuous consumption is over? To top off a vibrant spring collection of sumptuous color, effervescent shapes and shocking animal prints (who ever thought we'd see lavender leopard from Lanvin?), Alber Elbaz has come out these oversized sunglasses, brazenly encrusted with large, colored crystals. Called Strassée, they're a little bit Dame Edna, a little bit Betty Rubble and all rock-hard glamour. True, at $1500 a pop, you might need your own stimulus package to make them a reality, but at least you can feel assured they're not the handiwork of some madcap bedazzler. Each of two colors comes in a limited edition of only 250, exclusively at ILORI.

—Franklin Melendez

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Out of the Bleu

It goes to show how appearances can be deceiving, especially under blue lights. At Lanvin's Blue Soirée at the Hotel de Crillon last night, I was certain I saw Inès de la Fressange in a tight jean jacket and denim short shorts. She looked statuesque—almost larger than life—with that stunning boyishness about her and the thick, wavy brown bob, her trademark. And those legs! De la Fressange was Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel muse when she was in her late 20s; now, at 50, she's the ambassadress of Roger Vivier shoes—and the recent recipient of France's Légion d'Honneur for being spectacular on all fronts. It's couture time in Paris, but it dawned on me that I'd recently read an interview with de la Fressange, who said the only thing she's given up at 50 is short shorts. Ah yes, the eye had played tricks on me. The Ines look-alike was really a boy. In fact, the party to celebate Lanvin's new denim collection with Acne Jeans was full of leggy young men in very short shorts—denim, of course. Alber Elbaz was in his usual bow tie and artfully rumpled suit. "I like to look at people in jeans on the street," he said of his reason to put the Lanvin label in denim, "and I love the people at Acne. Working with them reminds you that there are still nice people in this business." Johnny Johansson, Acne's creative director and founder, concurred: "We did this in a very short time and we don't even have a contract. Who needs lawyers?" Sounds like true love. Liv Tyler—on a couture-viewing trip to celebrate her birthday (she's 31) with her sister Chelsea Tallarico, Eva Mendes and French actress Roxanne Mesquida—spent the evening posing with balloons and the men in blue. Ah, Paris…

—Rebecca Voight

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Loving Lanvin

For a detailed view, click on this Lanvin tribute that photographer Caroll Taveras made for us by hand using only paper—no photoshop in sight. Thanks, Caroll!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

The third and last part of Haidee Findlay-Levin's tips for fall...

It wasn't just the army of beautiful lips and bowl cuts that made our hearts leap at Yves Saint Laurent; it was the sharp, powerful, 80s-reminiscent tailoring, too. But here's what separates this season’s YSL and Louis Vuitton from Claude Montana and Gianfranco Ferré: the circular cutting and the curves in the jackets and skirts. In fact, some of the tulip and pod shapes we have seen at Vuitton and elsewhere this season are more Sebilla and Romeo Gigli—also from the 80s. I also noticed a variety of peplum jackets for fall. If the jacket was fitted, for the most part it had a sharp shoulder and a nipped or peplum waist, not only at Vuitton, but also at Yohji Yamamoto (left), where the peplum jutted out over long full skirts complete with a donut-rolled waist for an even fuller hip effect.

The shoulder was the focus last season. Now it's the sleeve, such as those at Costume National that wrapped around the shoulder blade and formed a pod in the back, or those at Kenzo that draped into a cocoon shape or an origami-like envelope. We also saw sleeves originating from the neckline, as well as sleeves that separate at the back of the jacket, falling into a detached cape back, as at Véronique Branquinho and Junya Watanabe. At Lanvin, attention was paid to a single mutton sleeve—a remnant of the 80s!

Some designers chose to embellish areas of essentially monochromatic fabrics with jet beading, feathers, ribbon, fine pleating, ruffles and pasmanterie. But there was nothing superfluous at Prada (left), where the most startling form of decoration was the heavy tablecloth lace constructed into minimal and austere silhouettes, and made further monastic by the under-layering of high-collared shirts.

The strength in Dries Van Noten this season came not only from the mix of dramatic prints, but that these potentially romantic dresses were offset by a simple high collar. Givenchy showed extremely high-collared pleated blouses, made less romantic by their coupling with leather trousers and military jackets. I loved it best at Yves Saint Laurent, where paper-thin turtlenecks were shown under tunic dresses, but extended well beyond into fingerless gloves. One known to take proportion to its ultimate extreme, Martin Margiela raised the collar so high above the shoulders as to become a cowl that almost completely obscured girls' faces.

Indulge in vast and unapologetic explosions of costume jewelry for fall. What we saw were statement pieces that were more sculptural than sweet or sentimental. Balenciaga contrasted latex and severe cuts with diamanté-encrusted collars, while the collars and cuffs at Yves Saint Laurent (left) consisted of Pace Rabanne-like chain mail with enormous crystal studs. At Louis Vuitton, the soft pastel palette was punctuated with heavy metal chokers and huge brooches. Lanvin ran with the trend and showed enormous Deco-geometric, mirror-glass pendants and wrist cuffs. This new form of armor added a needed toughness to clean silhouettes. The combination of heavy jewelry with extreme shoes could mean your chiropractor will be your new best friend.

There weren’t a lot of overtly sporty references this season, so it's safe to say you can burn your velour Juicy Couture tracksuits—and please do, if you haven't already. But there was a prevalence of scuba references. Miu Miu shook off its naughty baby-doll reputation and showed a series of dark satin scuba suits complete with Esther Williams-like swim caps. Or sometimes the scuba suit morphed into a tunic dress with bright-colored cycling shorts and sports tops peeking through laser-cut, abstract versions of lace. The addition of sequins made for a wet look that worked perfectly with the scuba references Balenciaga introduced so magnificently last season. Even Rick Owens discarded his more familiar draping and embraced open zippers that circled the legs like a scuba suit that was being slowly peeled off. Upcoming Olympics aside, the news that Hussein Chalayan is the newly appointed creative director at Puma may signal a sportier trend for him next season, as well as all those he influences.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Part two of stylist Haidee Findlay-Levin's tips for fall...

Okay, I know I said earlier that color is back for fall. And it is, but so is black. Stop your groaning—the black dress never looked better. It was skillfully laser-cut at Balenciaga (left), skimmed the body at Sophia Kokosalaki and draped to the floor at Junya Watanabe. It was in divine Spanish lace at Givenchy and heavy tablecloth lace at Prada. The opening dress at Alexander McQueen, made from layers and layers of soft tulle, was reminiscent of a black crow, though it was hardly the only exquisitely gothic dress in the collection. The mohair-lace dress stretched over layers of tulle, like one of Degas’ ballerinas in silhouette, was especially to-die-for. But perhaps the most exquisite black dresses walked Lanvin's runway; my two favorites were a wet-look wrap dress and a one-shouldered silk satin shift with a heavy fur cuff on its one side.

Brace yourself for black eyes this fall. And I'm not talking gobs of Amy Winehouse eyeliner, no matter how well she sang at the Fendi store launch party during Paris Fashion Week. I'm talking kohl eyes, the classic kind found at Givenchy, as well as the perfect cat eyes at Balenciaga. (When replicating, please don’t get carried away like one recent fashion show attendee who not only completely painted his face white—yes, he's male—but dons a Shirley Temple wig.) Blackened eyes do require a nude or beige mouth, like the kind found at Rick Owens, but if you have to have a layer on your lips, go all the way with ink-black glossy lips like those at Yves Saint Laurent.

If goth isn’t your thing, choose from the endless permutations of gray seen on the runways: slate, charcoal, heather, lilac and mauve. Junya Watanabe (left) committed fully to a collection of no-color to illustrate his deft cutting and draping, taking it so far as to completely wrap the girls' heads and faces in sheer gray fabric with mini-boxes piled high on their heads, to sculptural effect.

With the severity of cut this season, and the attention paid to minimalism and the back, the only hair to wear is a ponytail. Not the high, Blonde Ambition version, but a simple ponytail worn on the side and secured at the nape of the neck. Miu Miu even showed the ponytail peeking out of neoprene swim caps. The only other acceptable version would be a small knot or chignon, also worn low and tight. So no more Barbie hair or updos. And please no more big Oscar hair—ever!

This has been one of the most creative seasons for pants in ages, with designers really experimenting with fullness. The best baggy pants came from Louis Vuitton, especially when slightly drop-waisted and pleated. Those in shiny black leather with a slightly pegged leg were absolutely stunning, reminiscent of that Grace Jones/Thierry Mugler/Claude Montana era. My other favorites were over at Yves Saint Laurent, shown slightly cropped and higher in the waist. Haider Ackermann pushed his baggy pants high above the knee, like puffy shorts worn over leather leggings. There were Houri trousers in velvet devoré, as well as printed chiffon versions, at John Galliano, and narrow gray flannel pant-skirts at Junya Watanabe, which ended in an extremely low crotch. Meanwhile, at both Givenchy and Alexander McQueen, pants were skinny, black and high-wasted and mostly in leather or brocade. Maison Martin Margiela went super-sexy and offered leather pants complete with zippers snaking up the back of the leg like seamed stockings. And how can we ignore his other offering, the asymmetric one-legged bodysuit in a multitude of prints?

I know it seems passé to talk skirt lengths in this day and age, but here it is: skirt lengths will definitely drop. I'm not talking red-carpet gowns here, but floor-grazing, skinny column dresses at Sophia Kokosalaki, which save their intricate detail for the collar. There was also the black dress that opened her show, seemingly suspended by a single diagonal strap and falling well below the knee. Dries Van Noten, too, showed high-necked column dresses that ended mid-calf, just short of ankle socks and heavy strappy sandals. At Louis Vuitton there were some knee-length bell skirts, but it was all about ballerina-length dirndls that stood away from the hips, while at Lanvin (left) the length was kept just above the knee with sexy and tight hobble skirts made up of bands of horizontal ribbon.

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