Transcendent. Acne Studios SS21

Acne Studios returned to the usual fashion month week schedule, which might be making more sense than showing two months earlier during menswear-couture-resort frenzy – ironically, this period of time is even more hectic than regular Paris Fashion Week, especially in post-lock-down era. The spring-summer 2021 collection coming from Jonny Johansson is one of the best ones in a while. Less over-styling, more focus on the actual clothes. And there was plenty of optimism and vibrance (and occasional magic), too, which we all need now. “It feels like a transition to something more positive. I’m very optimistic about what’s happening. I feel positive. I spent more time with myself and my family, and just in the studio with people. It’s been a less stressful period, although the stress has come from somewhere else. I’ve been quite happy, actually, although I know that sounds weird.” Maybe that explained why Johansson’s show notes referenced “gatherings for a spiritual moonrise”, and the garments quite literally reflected it. Everywhere you looked, there was a shiny, metallic, or iridescent texture. Within the context, it felt a bit like New Age spirituality, an element you could associate with the surfer culture Johansson belongs to. “When the sun is going down, hordes of people are staying on the beach looking at the sundown. It’s like a tribe of people that go towards the light,” he said. The shine mingled with raw materials like crinkled paper, washed linens, and hemp on heels. Styled together, it had a certain density about it. A raggy dress in stained leather and tattered netting drove home the cultish association. A collaboration with the Los Angeles–based artist Ben Quinn, who interprets his personal experiences with the mystical via supernatural imagery, produced various pieces that made the whole affair feel that extra-bit pagan. Invited to experience a repeat of the show after its livestream, guests walked through a series of rooms in the Grand Palais, each reflecting a different time of day and the light that defines it. The looks were selected to match those different occasions. Models were lined up and walking around in circles, eerily staring up at a massive sunlamp as if they were participating in a séance. Who said fashion can’t be therapeutical and slightly transcendent?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Old And New. Acne Studios AW20

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You wouldn’t know it from these photos, but the Acne Studios women’s and men’s collections took place together. Meaning, at the same time, in the same venue, with the same music. But instead of being shown together, they had been consciously uncoupled – separated by a featureless white wall running the length of the runway. Jonny Johansson, the label’s designer, explained that the men’s direction would be “forward” while the women’s direction would look back. More specifically, AI and algorithms contributed to the men’s designs, whereas Old Masters artworks and ornamental fabrics formed the basis of the women’s show. Beautiful jacquards, brocades, and velvets that might have otherwise been used for upholstery, theater curtains, or a mondaine’s corset were transformed into dramatic dress coats, cocoon-shaped tunics, and sumptuous suiting with edges frayed and tasseled to varying degrees of decadent distress. A series of twisted tailored looks, including a leather coat painted with a faded scene of classical nudes, reiterated a certain unhinged, arty attitude that comes so naturally to Acne Studios. A body-contoured dress enhanced with a burnout treatment that traced the acanthus pattern was gorgeous. The womenswear was, summing up, beautiful and really, really covetable. On the other side of the wall, thinks weren’t looking this great. The menswear was created in collaboration with a “generative artist” named Robbie Barrat, who writes algorithms to realize his projects. All Acne archives were filtered through Barrat’s algorithms to enable an AI-authored menswear collection. Definitely, a human hand had its part in the collection. However, the tech-authored designs looked clumsy and… overcomplicated? This time, the old way wins.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – In Search For Excitement. Acne Studios SS20

There are moments when I really think that some brands would do better with look-books instead of fashion shows. Especially Acne Studios‘ menswear. Jonny Johansson‘s spring-summer 2020 collection had lots of Acne classics – like elongated white shirts, cropped pants, so-ugly-it’s-good sneakers – that need no further introduction. For the sake of the show, they were made bit weirder with plastic lapels and cowboy fringes. The most interesting garments were the woven ones in scarlet red (with raw fringing) – they were the most attractive and sparked at least some excitement. But in overall – this show brought very little to the table and drowned in the sea of other menswear shows in Paris that got barely anything to say.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.