I had just about forgotten that Acne was an acryonym for the title of this post. Acne doesn't need a gutsy motto though. Never mind novel expression. It has long shed away its denim label roots to achieve something more with its clothing lines in addition to its media arms of production and advertising agencies and publication. The last two main seasons in particular – S/S 12 and A/W 12-3 – have collectively surprised me with just how ambitious Acne under Jonny Johansson has become. Writing about Acne, one of most Polyvore-d, Tumblr-ed, streetstyle-snapped and personal blogger-love-devoted brands about might seem like a snore fest. However, I just can't get over how many gears Acne has shifted, to the point where you're questioning whether you're liking what you're seeing? That's a definite mark of provocative design.
Take the currently available S/S 12 collection. The show was held in a new venue for Acne with a dramatic mirrored set. All the better to exaggerate those deliberately awkward volumes, best seen in the wide-legged trousers, the super A-line skirts and the trailing assymetric capes. The source of inspiration may have been easy-breezy Marrakech but there were no Talitha Getty cliches knocking about here. Instead, Johansson played with colours derived from the city and ramped up the tension with the appearance of star-motifed cropped moto jackets and biker trousers. Add some purposely clunky giant-tasselled loafers and shoes and you have yourself an assembly of ingredients that shouldn't work together but somehow does. It's hardly the proposition of easy-to-wear, go-to pieces that Acne has previously traded upon. I did initially think that half these pieces wouldn't make it to the shop floor but lo and behold, S/S 12's showpieces are slowly making their way into Acne stores and online.
This show of ambition continued on for A/W 12-3, an even more challenging collection in some respects. Spring/summer's widened volumes become even more disorted as the top half of the body becomes engulfed in giant curved sleeves in a cropped peach jacket, lump n' bulge sweaters and stiffened shoe leather armour-esque jackets. Cropped wide corset belts constrain the body to emphasise the widened top halfs. These waist-cinching girdles were sometimes worked into low-slung trousers that reminded me of when I pull my tights really high up underneath a pair of trousers in the winter. Johansson distorted the body further with techno camoflage, topographic powermesh panelling and snappers and rivets that created unexpected gathers in the garments. Once again, it's a hard sell on Acne's part – bulbous shapes, lumpy sweaters, two-in-one girdled trousers, front-split stiff leather skirts are bold to say the least. This newfound severity in Johansson's designs are exactly what's making Acne interesting at the moment – that they can occupy that much-worn, well-sold space as similarly-priced labels such as Carven, Alexander Wang etc but still propose clothes that make you scratch your head. I appreciate a bit of head scratching, especially in this current climate, when brands are all about sales-driven box-ticking. Weird that it's come from Acne of all places. Then again, I should have remembered what the name stood for.