BERLIN — Acne Jeans' first store outside of Scandinavia is something of a vanishing act.
The new 950-square-foot shop is the result of a collaboration with Berlin's most conceptual retailer, Andreas Murkudis, whose namesake store was Acne's first German customer.
The design comes courtesy of Gonzalez Haase, Murkudis' architect of choice for three of his other stores located on Munzstrasse 21 and 23. Haase designed a monumental cabinet that incorporates shelves, display areas and hanging racks to house the Acne range of products. Haase didn't limit his design efforts to the store's interior. While the men's and women's collections are clearly visible through the store's large windows during the day, at night, screens come down to hide the merchandise.
"There's not one piece of clothing to be seen at night," said Murkudis.
The screens also function as a multimedia projection surface, now running a compilation of Acne looks from the company's recently launched, large-format magazine, Acne Paper.
Sales of the Swedish cult brand have soared during the past two years, increasing from 1.4 million euros, or $1.6 million, in 2003 to 14 million euros, or about $17.4 million, this year.
Acne Jeans opened its first Acne Studio store in Stockholm in 2003, followed by a second store in Copenhagen in 2004. A third bowed in August in the Copenhagen department store Illum. The company sells in 375 doors in 25 countries, including Barneys New York and Jeffrey's in New York, Colette in Paris, Selfridges and Browns Focus in London and IT in Hong Kong.
"The store concept is not built on retail only," said Acne founder and creative director Jonny Johansson. "We want to be lust driven. We want to invite people into where we are at certain points in our lives….We want to create a sense of history, for as a young brand with no history, we have to create it ourselves."
While other stores are in the works, neither Johansson nor chief executive officer Mikael Schiller would reveal their next target market.
"It's not that we necessarily want to go to Paris or London before Amsterdam, for example," Schiller said. "It's more about getting to know and finding the right people. It's why we're here in Berlin. We'd met Andreas, and then he called later and said, 'Hey, there's a free space.'"The Berlin shop is a 50-50 venture between Murkudis and Acne, and Murkudis said he expected the store to "easily generate 500,000 euros," or about $590,000, in first-year sales.
Acne Jeans got its start in 1997, when the Acne creative collective designed 100 pairs of raw denim jeans for friends, family and clients. The collective was founded a year earlier, bringing together consultants from various fields.
"We saw music, film, fashion and design as one thing, and we didn't want boundaries in between. That's why we founded Acne in the first place," said Johansson. "We always knew we wanted to work with fashion in some way, and wanted to make something interesting out of something generic. Jeans have been the center of every subculture, youth-rebel movement. That's why they're so interesting."
Acne takes a new angle on denim every season, Johansson said.
"This season, the most important new silhouette is high waisted and not so tight, even though we're still selling tight fits really well," he said.
Jeans will remain Acne's core, but in its home market and key retail accounts, interest is growing for its nondenim segment.
"Colette, for example, has been buying jeans for a long time, but then they bought the tulip dress in mohair wool for spring, which is a very business, very fashion look," Johansson added.
A showroom in Paris is on the drawing board for next year, as is an Acne Jeans showroom in New York.
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