Go, Jonny, Go!

Acne Jeans creative director Jonny Johansson discusses denim's place in the universe.

Before cross-media synergies was the buzz phrase du jour, Acne Jeans creative director Jonny Johansson set out a mandate in 1996—as one of the founders of Acne—to build a company that would produce a mélange of creative endeavors and capitalize on them all.

Outside of its home country of Sweden, Acne Jeans may be best known for its skinny, selvage denim and scenester fashion collections, but Acne, the parent company, is a prolific creative services entity with diversified interests, from fashion to film production to graphic design to advertising.

“Whatever it is that we produce at Acne, we try to bring something unique to the customer, something that is Acne in essence,” Johansson says from a pre-season vacation in Thailand late last year. “Working as a creative collective helps us do this, because, instead of being a one-man band, we are able to benefit from each other’s experience and differing backgrounds.”

The overlapping, Johansson adds, only buoys Acne’s ability to tap into street undercurrents that are primed to become trends.

“To avoid the fashion collections becoming entropic, we feel that it is important to keep our horizons as broad as possible,” Johansson says. “Through working with other media such as publishing, architecture, furniture or whatever it may be, the clothing produced becomes one part of a sort of Acne universe.”

That universe includes Acne Films, which, since 1997, has produced a series of commercials in collaboration with some of the world’s top advertising agencies. An offshoot, Acne Fiction, has begun to embark on TV development and recently produced a 30-minute comedy sketch show that made its debut on Swedish television to strong reviews.

“Our commercial background has given us a different angle to traditional film companies and has worked in our favor,” Johansson says. “It means we are not limited to the traditional ways of working that exist within the film industry.”

Both TV and feature-length projects are set to film this year, including an independent road movie that is based on a true story.

While Johansson may like to think of Acne as a universe, ideas usually emerge from a much smaller space: the coffee machine.

“The mere physical presence of our Acne siblings under the same roof is inspiring in itself. Being surrounded by so many creative people, it is impossible not to be influenced by each other,” Johansson says. “We constantly discover new things through each other, and every morning by the coffee machine is kind of like an informal brainstorming session.”