— The Fashionista

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Daily archive Sep 27, 2011

Acne presented its spring collection on a long runway against a huge mirror backdrop that reflected back the audience’s view of itself. It turned the already cavernous show space’s four graffiti-tagged floors (or was it five? or six? After a while climbing, you gave up counting) above London’s New Oxford Street into a venue bigger than it really was. A neat trick, given that Acne has magnified its ambitions for itself, mirroring the story that many in the fashion world has aspired to tell in the last two decades—that is, doing much more than that you originally became known, or even if you’re lucky, renowned, for. Acne, a Swedish denim company that coasted to the top with its skinny-fit jeans when Stockholm became the epicenter of the five-pocket world five or so years ago, spawned a million imitators. Yet its creative director, Jonny Johansson, has long nursed a dream for the company to be more than a purveyor of cool denim, wanting it to be taken seriously as a name that can show what it can do on the runway: to be the little jeans label that could. So the Acne crew headed to London, and here they all are, a few seasons on, in a vast silver-mirrored room, showing that Acne can indeed do what Johansson always hoped it could, and rather brilliantly at that.

Johansson has for some time now been playing with the idea of super-inflated volume, just as Raf Simons was starting to articulate the same thought at Jil Sander. If Simons went off down the classic-couture route, to startlingly chic effect, Johansson stayed within the tropes of street style, blowing up sweatshirts, biker leathers, track pants, and men’s shirts. Often they worked, and sometimes they didn’t, but here, for spring 2012, it all coalesced beautifully: partly because of his great color palette (gleaming white and indigo played off pink, rust, orange, and purple); partly because Johansson has learned to deflate the look and scale back the proportions of some of his designs; and partly because jeans of the faded-blue stonewashed or white cotton drill varieties played such a key role in the show. For instance, Johansson sculpted raw denim into an A-line skirt worn with a gleaming black, blue, and silver leather biker jacket, or as a bustle-back coat over a nude dress with star cutouts, while the white drill was worked into wide crop pants traced with seams, or as a flared skirt worn under a billowing black cotton dress and a slick/sick 1970s-green sleeveless jacket.

Yet for all the proportion play, Johansson did that seemingly simple but often fiendishly elusive thing to achieve, especially thus far this season: give cool girls around the globe something new and fun to wear every day. From Acne next spring, that could mean a techno couture parka over a cocktail dress, or a leather skirt as buckled and zippered as any Perfecto, or loafers and flat ankle-strap sandals swishing with oversize tassels, which caused a little sigh of desire from more than one woman sitting near me every time they appeared.

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