'Where is the gin?' an editor asked yesterday afternoon while looking around the Grand Palais. Where was the gin? Left back in London, it seems, where Acne used to show with handsome waiters serving the drinks. We were in Paris now, playing with the big kids but did that mean fun was left unpacked too?
Last season’s Olivier Saillard and Tilda Swinton performance piece was too extraordinary and thought provoking to not have an impact on designers constantly looking to find what’s new by looking back at what has come before. It’s one of those funny fashion things – the old and new, strong and sensitive, soft and hard. Whether Johansson was directly influenced by it is not clear but alongside artist Katerina Jebb (a longtime influence of Johansson and subsequently Acne) he combed through the Musée Galliera’s historical archive. Saillard is, of course, the director of the museum. Johansson was intrigued by the inner world of the garments – their unseen insides - and Jebb scanned those to create photomontages that were turned into prints for the collection. That alone shows where Acne is moving towards – it must be irritating as hell for Johansson that the label’s origins as purveyors of super cool jeans is still mentioned (sorry Jonny!) but it provides a clear picture of their evolution. Seeking to reconstruct historical garments while providing next season’s wardrobe for their loyal customers, hooked on their leather jackets and Pistol boots? That’s ambitious but Johansson and his collective have enough ideas and ambition to accomplish both or at the very least, try.
What was most striking about this collection was the sheer number of ideas layered upon each other. There are oversized leather jackets and then there are Acne’s, so structured they could probably walk the runway by themselves. In petrol blue and chocolate brown with contrasting velvet collars, they stood away from the body like armour. More successful were their shorter, sleeveless versions, perhaps because they worked better with the body, some with shiny metallic panels and worn over floating long dresses and trousers. The loose tailoring had jackets cut low at the front almost falling off the shoulder and held into place by zips where others had stiff leather peplums giving them form or cut-out patterns that made a white trouser suit look like it was made out paper. The bouclé tops were great, in blue and bright red and pale pink, with a metallic thread running through – I wish we’d seen more of those. The structured clutches were fun – some featuring the label’s Stockholm address, others two dots and a line making a face - and although the chiffon-covered heels were reminiscent of Celine’s fur sandals, you could see too-cool-for-school Acne girls going crazy for them.
It’s an interesting time for the Swedish brand – does it sit alongside Carven and Kenzo or does it want to pursue a more conceptual journey? Some edit, a clearer focus and a heavy dose of gin – that should probably do the trick wherever they’re heading!