Acne Studios opens house in Japan

by Danielle Demetriou

Special To The Japan Times

They are two cities separated by more than 8,000 km. But despite the geographical distance, a little piece of Stockholm arrived last week in Tokyo — in the form of Asia’s first Acne store.

The cult Swedish brand, famous for its high-quality jeans and edgy designs, unveiled its shiny new flagship in a two-story building set on a quiet lane in the Aoyama district of the capital.

Inspired by the concept of a modern Swedish house, Acne Studios Aoyama aims to bring the spirit of its homeland into the new space, with men and women’s ready-to-wear, denim and accessories spanning three floors.

A subtle collage of materials and textures form a modern backdrop to the shop — with floors of interlocked wood and expanses of sky-blue granite, alongside perforated metal screens, concrete walls and a pastel interior palette of blues, grays and Acne’s signature pale pink.

“If we were to design a modern Stockholm house, this would be it,” says Jonny Johansson, cofounder of Acne. “The word ‘collage’ is very important. For Acne Studios Aoyama, we juxtaposed textures and materials including pop (color) dyed wood, stone and new-age stones, such as blue granite, hoping to emulate the Swedish summer light.”

Among the ubiquitous denim and ready-to-wear designs, a silk scarf with vintage postcard-style motifs has also been unveiled to mark the opening of the Aoyama store, designed in collaboration with English illustrator Benjamin Seidler.

The rise of Acne (Ambition to Create Novel Expression) is the stuff of fashion legends. It was in 1996 that Johansson founded the studio with three others, before making 100 pairs of unisex jeans in simple cut denim with signature red stitching, that they handed out to friends and family.

The first batch was an instant hit. Since then, legions of global Acne fans have been seduced by its simple, subversive designs, and Acne Studios has expanded massively, with several dozen stores today, mostly concentrated in Scandinavia and Europe, plus one in the United States and three in Australia.

And now its Asian expansion is clearly under way. Japan has long been the leading market for Acne in Asia and it was the obvious choice for the brand in terms of its first standalone store in the region.

The attraction to Japan, however, is not simply commercial: an appreciation of the similarities between the two cultures in terms of temperament and aesthetic is perhaps the main creative driving force.

“There are affinities between the two,” says Johansson. “When it comes to architecture, in both places it is very functionalistic. Japan also uses a lot of wood and stone and has a pure, natural palette. And there is this sense of calmness, spiritual calmness, despite everything being so busy.

“We feel very welcome here in Japan, We do not feel like an outsider here.”

The new Aoyama store, launched in collaboration with select store Tomorrowland, marks just the beginning of Acne’s Asian expansion. In addition to more outlets in Tokyo, other spots earmarked for standalone stores range from Osaka to Seoul. Not that these stores will look alike.

“Every Acne store is unique,” Johansson says. “We like to adapt to the local situation, to the building, the surrounding. This shop (in Tokyo) is unique in terms of having this idea of creating a house within a house.

“The floor is unique, the mix of materials and the colors. We always try to bring something Swedish; here we did it with the sky-blue granite that reminds us of Swedish daylight.”

If things go according to plan, it seems that a little piece of Swedish sunlight is likely to become an increasingly common presence on Asia’s fashion scene in coming years.

Acne Studios Aoyama, 5-3-20 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku. www.acnestudios.com.