25-Sep, 20:40

10:55, February 21 275 0

2017-02-21 10:55:09
Critical Shopper: The Minimalist Bliss of Acne Studios

I walk into the new Acne Studios store all wet, winter rain running down my coat and shoes, and see there are already puddles all over the floor. Little mottled blue rugs by the British designer Max Lamb look like soft pools; I would gladly fall into one. Even when soaked, it’s impossible to stand in an Acne store and not feel as though the design is embracing you, even forgiving you.

Jonny Johansson, the company’s founder and creative director, has said that he sometimes regrets the name Acne, an acronym of Ambition to Create Novel Expression. The brand was first a creative collective, founded in 1997, and has grown into the world’s primary Scandinavian fashion export (not counting H&M, of course). Swedish interiors bring to mind the smoothest possible surfaces: unblemished. Everyday objects — things — are simple, functional and just. In 2013, Lynn Yaeger accurately described the brand in The Wall Street Journal, saying, “Its legions of fans think of it as a brand with integrity, a company that makes principled aesthetic decisions and never resorts to marketing tricks, even though they have hundreds of outlets.”

In the United States, Scandinavian design is aspirational and everywhere. And it’s not just Ikea’s influence. There is something about clean lines, airy interiors, white walls and simple, wooden furniture that, outside of Sweden, where its practicality and function represents the principles of social democracy, feels elitist. Here, minimalism as aesthetic is not at all about having very little. It’s about showcasing that you can carefully choose what not to have. In this exhibition of not much, design can be intoxicating.

But there is more fun to be had at Acne than “just right” jeans and leather jackets (the label’s stalwarts) to place in a room with white walls and a single, sanctimonious fig tree. Like ill-fitting cargo pants. “They’re supposed to look like they don’t fit you,” the saleswoman assures me when I try on an awkward drawstring pair ($650). She’s wearing them, too; they don’t fit her either.

Acne store interiors are grand, and yet completely stark. Anytime I enter one, I wish I was somebody’s sson. The walls in this new store are gold-colored aluminum, the floors are set with tiny black pebbles, flecked with blue lapis and pale coral. In this space, I am a blissful goldfish: I can’t remember if I ever lived outside the glass wall in front of me, and I’m content to do circles here for eternity.

I take in a dusty lilac coat, hung on a brass rail with a scarf of the same color. Wait, no, the scarf is a different color. Is it? I bring the scarf close to my face, my eyelashes pet it. There are flecks of gray just barely woven in. Are there? I consult the tags. The color is Chalky Lilac Mélange ($1,150); the scarf is simply Lilac Mélange. Attention well used.

I try on two trench coats for a cohort of saleswomen: one hunter green, one off-white ($900). They’re made of silky triacetate, which doesn’t wrinkle, keeps its pleats and is easily washable. Life just keeps getting easier! While I’m changing in the dressing room, one saleswoman clocks out from her shift. “Love you guys!” is how she leaves her co-workers. I love you guys, too!

Everything is beautiful and I’m fine. I’m wearing a $480 oversize sweatshirt that’s ice-dyed to look like the Northern Lights over a gay pride parade. Ice dyeing involves sprinkling colorful powder over a bed of ice and letting it melt over a white garment. Just let the ice melt.

On a shelf is a pair of soft leather Moroccan slippers, the backs of which are already folded down, ready to shuffle around the house without a care in the world ($470). A pair of swim trunks are packed in a striped bag hung over a striped sweater. They seem to say: When you exit the hot tub, you will immediately put on a sweater and match, and when you strip off your trunks, a matching bag will contain any wetness.

There is also a new version of Acne’s signature leather jacket, the Axl, as much a hallmark of the store as its denim. This new jacket is the same as the old version, but with no metal hardware on the lapels ($1,550). Yes, it is cleaner.

I want to stay in this effortless place. It’s cool to the touch. The ceiling is just light panels. They adjust depending on the amount of light in the room. Throughout the store, there are pieces with the brand’s sort-of logo: a neutral face. It’s two dots with a flat line for a mouth. It’s not so much a patch as a presence. A peachy sweatshirt with the face costs $420. A pair of painted pony hair shoes with the face cost $650.

I rebundle and head back into the rain. Is my face in a neutral or novel expression?