Sweden’s Original Cult Brand–and The New Brands Taking Over

Courtesy Acne Studios

How Acne Studios came to define Swedish style. 

For many fashion lovers, Swedish fashion is crystallized best in an Acne Studios store. From the poured-concrete floors to the ever-changing, slightly nostalgic color palette and the intricately cut basics, Acne has a cultish look—and cult status in the fashion world—despite having more than 50 stores around the globe.

The label began somewhat modestly in Stockholm in 1993 as Jonny Johansson’s graphic design, film, production, and advertising firm. But it was the introduction of just 100 perfect pairs of five-pocket raw-denim jeans in 1996 that brought the fashion division of the company to life.

Twenty years later, Johansson remains in place as creative director, the jeans are still among the industry’s best (the cropped Land style is so impossible to find that it’s nearly an urban myth), and from its flagship store on Norrmalmstorg square in downtown Stockholm, the company continues to define what Swedish fashion looks like. And while the inspiration sometimes moves away from Sweden—the new Manhattan sneaker is inspired by ’90s New York streetwear; a new Musubi bag is based on a Japanese obi—the company stays true to its Scandinavian roots.

Yes, it’s a clothing store, but the company remains more than a clothing company: Acne published a biannual magazine called Acne Paper and produces furniture including sofas inspired by designer Carl Malmsten.


Left to right: A look from Totême; menswear label Our Legacy. Courtesy Totême; Isak Berglund Mattsson-Mårn

The Next Acne?

It’s hard to start a label in Stockholm without the inevitable comparison to the original cult brand.

Totême

Launched in 2014, Totême makes women’s wear that combines stark Scandinavian simplicity with an aggressive, sexy edge. The latest collection features clean, feminine silhouettes in a muted palette, inspired by the work of Swedish artists Eric Grate and Eva Lange. 

Our Legacy

The Stockholm-based company, Our Legacy, started in 2005 as a graphic T-shirt line. Soon after, the label released its first full collection as a minimal menswear uniform— including its signature (and best-selling) mohair crew-neck sweaters.