Acne on Paper

Thomas Persson on editing Acne Paper

ACNE (an acronym for Ambition to Create Novel Expression) began as a humble endeavour in Stockholm in 1996 when Jonny Johansson, Acne Studio’s co-founder, produced 100 pairs of jeans for friends and family. Those raw denim prototypes were the beginning of something powerful. Almost two decades later the company has grown into a household name, though usually in the kinds of households where people have, or aspire to have, Eames chairs. Moreover, Acne Studios can boast 20 stores in eight countries and a critically lauded biannual magazine, Acne Paper.

Johansson launched the magazine in 2005 with an aim to connect the historical to the contemporary. The large-format magazines include essays, fashion editorials, poetry, interviews and art, and feature an impressive range of luminaries from virtually every creative field you can think of.

Ever the rebels, Acne Paper has a delicious way of covering its culture. Each issue presents a theme (past issues have centered around “The Body,” “Youth,” and “The Artist’s Studio,” while the most recent is called “The Actress”) which is then explored through the arts, from fashion to cinema. With fifteen issues and counting, their contributors are preeminent thinkers and creators: literary megastar Salman Rushdie, dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, fashion photographer Paolo Roversi, philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, and queer art superstar Terence Koh are all among the luminaries who’ve contributed to the paper.

Acne Paper’s editor-in-chief Thomas Persson, the erudite Swede who’s been at the helm of the magazine since the very beginning, took some time to speak with us about the not-so-little magazine that could – and does.

You’ve themed issues around escapism, eroticism, spirituality, and legendary parties. How do you determine what your theme will be?

It's a different story each time. Sometimes the theme is inspired directly by what is going on in the design studio of Acne, sometimes it’s an elaboration of a feature we did in a previous issue, sometimes it can even be a reaction to the previous issue itself – something contradictory – but above all, it’s a curiosity about a specific subject that we feel so passionately interested in we want to spend a considerable amount of time exploring it. What links all the themes are their timeless quality, meaning that the subject is as relevant today as it was several hundred years ago. This allows us to roam through history and look at the theme from many different perspectives.

David Lynch and Noam Chomsky have contributed. How easy are these icons to get?

We are lucky in the sense that most people we approach are happy to contribute. If it takes a great deal of convincing, then it doesn't feel right and we let the story go.

Who is the most memorable person you’ve worked with and why?

There are so many, it's hard to choose one. If I have to, then I would perhaps say the Swedish master photographer Georg Oddner, as he was the first person I interviewed for the magazine. His body of work spans war, fashion, portraiture, reportage, still life - all genres executed with a great sense of poetry. He was a very dear and talented man who in many ways set the tone for what was to become the signature style of the magazine.

Of the 15 covers, Daniel Jackson has shot more than any other photographer. What is it about his vision as a photographer that works so well for the paper (besides the obvious, which is that he's brilliant)?

I think it was a moment when Daniel and Mattias, our fashion director, and I were on a creative roll together. To make pictures is sometimes like being in a band and we had a great collaboration that lasted for several years. It was just a moment when we all had something great to contribute to each other’s work. It's all about good communication and hitting a creative nerve I suppose. It just clicked.

What is your editorial mandate?

To do your own thing, and to do it well.

What are your editorial meetings like?

We rarely have any. It's an ongoing dialogue.

How do you keep yourself up-to-date in matters of art and culture?

I don't do anything specific to be up-to-date. It's more about having specific tastes and feeling a great sense of inspiration when something of interest comes along, and then finding a way to channel this inspiration.

Of the many magazines that have gone out of print in the last few decades, are there any you truly miss?

I miss the interior magazine Nest. That was a brilliant editorial vision; completely unique and totally eye-opening and inspiring.

How have you seen the magazine change or evolve since its inception?

It's becoming bigger and more people are interested in it. But the actual making of it remains more or less the same.

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