The First Time

The First Time


>> There’s been a lot of “agenda” bandwagoning in fashion shows and campaigns in recent years.  Statements flying at you from all angles posturing either as heartfelt pro-diversity missives or social media garnering acts of political correctness.  We like Chinese women!  Let’s feature them exclusively in photographs.  We like black women now!  Let’s put them in a campaign or on magazine covers!  Old people are cool!  Let’s dress them up in bat shit crazy outfits!  We support transgendered people!  On to the billboard they go!  In fashion, when moments move so quickly, it can often feel like brands and designers are moving in waves to latch on to a cultural zeitgeist so much so it becomes difficult to tell who is genuinely getting behind these elusive ideals of “diversity” and what is just pure tokenism and box-ticking.


In one well-articulated swoop of a campaign though,Jonny Johansson from Acne has honed into a distilled message that unites those aforementioned issues of diversity – be whoever you are and wear whatever you like in however way you want it.  Acne’s latest A/W 15-6 campaign, photographed by Viviane Sassen, features Johansson’s eleven year old son Frasse wearing the womenswear collection with aplomb.  Oversized shades?  Yes please.  Nose rings?  Why not?  Oversized and awkward fits in stiffened wools?  Hell yes.  People might tut at the idea of an 11 year old boy in a high end fashion campaign but what Johansson has so adeptly communicated is that hard-to-articulate feeling of falling hard for fashion for the first time and experimenting with your style without societal constraints.  That’s a feeling that isn’t necessarily connected or affected by race, gender, sexuality or social standing and is one that is curiously ignored in fashion.  We label those first fumblings with fashion as “faux pas” and “mistakes” but actually for me it was a time when I really played with style without any agenda except to have fun.  We miss the point when political statements overshadow the essence of what clothes are actually about – expressing your individuality and your feelings, not as a shoeboxed representative of a minority, but as your own person.



Leave a comment
  1. Carine

    2015-09-02 at 10:50 AM

    It was great reading this post and the Acne campaign is absolutely gorgeous!

  2. Sophia

    2015-09-02 at 12:29 PM

    I love what you’re saying here. Fashion is always trying to be politically correct by latching on to the “hottest” race, sexuality, etc, but they often miss out on the ideas and feelings. Kudos to Acne!

  3. sasa

    2015-09-02 at 12:52 PM

    Acne Studio is the best! Love !

    Shall We Sasa

  4. DinoBonacic

    2015-09-02 at 10:59 PM

    But can we take the point of ‘experimenting with fashion for the first time’ away from the fact that he is wearing FITTED clothes, which is giving an image an adult woman should fit in the same sizes as a 11-YO boy?

    It’s very difficult to stay away from critiquing the fact that Acne is using an underaged privileged white boy to sell clothes to 30-something women. Is that realistic or is it just creating a story around?!

    • susie

      2015-09-03 at 8:36 AM

      That’s precisely my point. Why do we see images for their socio-cultural agenda as opposed to the more intangible idea of feeling? I didn’t look at that image and immediately see “White. Tick. Boy. Tick. Underaged. Tick. Ergo this image is bad.” I saw a boy experimenting with fashion and that boy could have easily been anyone else. How can every fashion image be entirely inclusive to everyone in the world? How can it address every issue and misgiving that is endemic in wider society? It just can’t. And how do you properly probe an image maker’s intentions – was it their intention to exclude, include? And is it their onus to do so? Why do we as consumers feel the need to physically relate to people in campaign images? Can’t we use our intelligence to deduce a more abstract feeling from an image, rather than just simply take it on surface level? I don’t disagree with the gist of what you’re saying but I think we need to ask more questions about the way fashion images are constructed and what are the true intentions behind them. Bandwagoning to me is just as bad as explicitly excluding people through fashion imagery.

    • DinoBonacic

      2015-09-04 at 1:43 PM

      I do completely agree on the bandwagoning part, but saying ‘Why do we as consumers feel the need to physically relate to people in campaign images? Can’t we use our intelligence to deduce a more abstract feeling from an image, rather than just simply take it on surface level?’ is kind of similar to what huge corporations like McDonalds say about their products – ‘It’s your responsibility to utilise the product responsibly’. And this campaign is a product of a brand that is Acne Studios.

      It’s easy to address one problem (which I presume in this Acne campaign was gender fluidity in fashion and the relativeness of gender in dress, but it’s important to stay aware of other problems. If the boy was dressed in these clothes and they seemed oversized, like he dressed himself in his mother’s clothes, I wouldn’t mind it – it would still give the impression of a boy dressing in women’s clothes, but will eliminate a message of fit and body issues.

      I know I’m just giving examples of how ‘one artist should have done his art’ which is completely ridiculous, but I think it’s important to create these kind of discussions, and analyse messages that photographs tell (I didn’t do Semiotics for nothing) in order to improve the problems that DO exist.

      Yes, campaigns are fantasies, but fantasies shown to millions of people which should hold a level of responsibility…

  5. Ellie Ramsay

    2015-09-03 at 7:46 AM

    Acne has some very statement pieces, and I love the stitching on the back of those coats!x

  6. Feni C

    2015-09-04 at 4:51 AM

    Awesome read, it’s a really great point you wrote there


  7. Alok kumar

    2015-09-04 at 6:14 AM

    Its coming winter style fashion, this agenda towards to latest fashion designing technique and how to Implement this fashion.

  8. Jasmine

    2015-09-05 at 2:11 PM

    I really appreciate what [I think] you’re trying to say here — that the fashion world is more-than-often insincere, n is transparent in its use of minoritised, hyper-visible ppl to cultivate an image of political/social consciousness while also using their hyper-visibility n inherent deviance as selling points

    but I think you might have just missed the mark here — black women, trans ppl don’t just exist as fashion “moments” n I feel that even if it wasn’t yr intention this is what you have reduced them (us) to

    the point is that we should be featured — what is missing is the sincerity, the understanding from the fashion community in communicating our perspectives n stories as opposed to using us as representatives of “deviant” n sensational narratives

    to be frank, there is no way at all that a privileged white 11 y/o boy speaks to any of the aforementioned issues — it simply isn’t true n it’s disingenuous to say so. I think it absolutely does express what you mentioned later on — one’s first foray into fashion, discovering it, discovering oneself — but there is no further statement being made here n it’s almost insulting to say so

    “That’s a feeling that isn’t necessarily connected or affected by race, gender, sexuality or social standing and is one that is curiously ignored in fashion.” it absolutely is connected/affected! every individual person’s experience is affected by these factors n it follows that their interaction w fashion is too — to posit that a little white boy is somehow more representative of the universality feeling than say, a trans person is just untrue n unfair

    • susie

      2015-09-05 at 4:13 PM

      My point was that for all of fashion’s attempts to bandwagon onto inclusivity, few come off as truly genuine and heartfelt and is that therefore more harmful than being explictly exclusive. And that’s my point in reference to your second para – I hate the way that campaigns respond as though people who are trans, black etc are “moments” to be latched on to.

      At the very least the Acne campaign isn’t attempting to politicise or even be particularly politically correct (Johansson said as much in the press statement). In that sense, there’s an honesty there that I find lacking in other campaigns. I never said that it was trying to address issues of inclusivity and only that it did however express that “first time” feeling in fashion and maybe initial joy of finding fashion that perhaps is ignored elsewhere.

      Obviously every image is down to subjective interpretation. As Dino Bonacic pointed out, he was appalled by the image’s use of a young boy to sell clothes to 30-something year old women of all ethnicities. I personally don’t feel that way and found the feeling of discovery of fashion more apparent and pertinent. That in turn does make me question our collective pressures on fashion campaign/imagery (and media at large) to be politically correct and inclusive.

      I’m all for images that are truly diverse in nature and have role models of all race, backgrounds, size and sexuality but only if I feel that the brand and creative team behind it are truly onboard with the message and communicate their intentions not just as a “moment” but as a permanent precedent. This to me would be progress but thus far nobody has really done that. Therefore what I was trying to say with this Acne campaign (and yes, I personally love it as a creative image as well…) is that they have approached their campaign without that sort of “sensationalist” we’re-down-with-the-minorities sort of sentiment and instead have gone at it from a more abstract non-politicised angle. That isn’t necessarily “progress” either but at the very least is different and feels “true”. That’s my personal interpretation of it.

  9. Garima Baveja

    2015-09-09 at 8:38 AM

    love it acan studio’s things thankyou for it

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    2015-10-12 at 8:58 AM

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    2015-12-28 at 7:24 AM

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