acne studios gets ready for the apocalypse
Distressed and deconstructed, Jonny Johansson designs for today's dark times.
We’re living in dark times, but if you thought that fashion only existed to brighten the mood then think again. Designers are absorbing the doldrums and putting it into their work. Look no further than Acne Studios’ latest collection, which was distressed, deconstructed and -- if the threadbare seams were anything to go by -- entirely dystopian. Jonny Johansson, Acne’s founder and creative director, seemed to be grappling with the dire state of the world and responding with rustic earthiness. This was a collection that resembled relics of a different time dug up from the earth (perhaps by a future generation, once global warming has taken its toll) and re-pieced together for the catwalk with miniature mushroom-shaped stitching. Fittingly, it was scored by a remix of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.
Johansson also tapped into another broader zeitgeist, albeit sartorial: awkward clothes. You may have noticed that more and more designers are pushing the boundaries of luxury, comfort and tailoring... or, at least what it means for something to be ‘well-tailored’. Here were clothes that were exaggeratedly proportioned -- an extra-long sleeve here, a too-small shoe there -- and it felt like an intentional provocation of what constitutes good design right now. It’s certainly not about perfection and nor is it about looking rich. Instead, it might be a sun-bleached jacquard blazer with sloping, shapeless shoulders, or a crumpled linen shirt seemingly fished out of the bottom of the laundry basket. It could be what appears to be a mud-splattered handbag, or layers of too-big or too-small knitwear ostensibly feasted on by moths.
Yet it was a continuation of fashion’s fascination with dressing all the way down. Marie Antoinette famously dressed as a shepherdess; Yves Saint Laurent designed a peasant-inspired collection in 1976; John Galliano controversially designed a homeless-inspired collection for Dior in 2000. The French call it luxe-pauvre. Zoolander called it dérélicte. In today’s shifting landscape, however, these are just a different kind of clothes that reject the beauty standards and quest for immaculacy that has defined fashion for so long. It’s not about perfection, nor is it about richness. It’s a response to the maddening world we’re living in.
So, gone were the clean lines, pristine biker jackets and structured Scandichic that Acne Studios was build on. Interestingly, the name of the label is an acronym for ‘Ambition to Create Novel Expressions’. The Stockholm-based label has evolved into a rustic fashion proposition for the distant spring/summer 20 season. Perhaps by then, the dystopian mood of the show will feel even more prescient as the world grapples with a widening political landscape and worsening climate crisis. Gird your loins.