Acne Paper by Thomas Persson

A fashion magazine claiming the role of a messenger of contemporary culture, the Acne Paper magazine amounts to an elitist aesthetic feast.

A good elitist fashion magazine should be beautifully wrapped, inconveniently huge in size, and hard to get your hands on.

Sold out in most bookstores as well as on the Acne Studios website, I finally found a Paris-based indie print shop that still had some in stock. 

Acne Paper, 2021

Acne Paper is an aesthetic culture magazine featuring fashion photography, stories on curious places and artful people, interviews and essays. Published every six months, like its still-published forebearer Purple Magazine (Purple was founded in 1992 while the first Acne Paper was published in 2005), Acne Paper published until 2014 celebrated the people close to its founders.

Such magazines always seem to circle around a family of well-off socialites, enjoying the attention of their cozy networks; a few artists of real merit are occasionally invited to the party, to lay some cultural fairy dust on the rest of the magazine’s contributors. The magazine, opening with an essay about the various issues’ launch parties in Paris, New York, and London + a show-off of Acne Studios’ offices in Stockholms, gives way to a parade of vanities disguised as a keen interest in culture.

Its elitism aside, the Acne Paper book published in 2021 featured the best-of from the previously published fifteen issues. The utmost value of this coffee-table book is its aesthetics (the visual pleasure is both enhanced and shadowed by the book’s uncomfortable weight and size on one’s lap). Some fascinated places and artists introduced over a series of interviews and essays included:

+ The sculptures by Lisa Fossangrives-Penn
+ The villa E. 1027 designed by Eileen Grey
+ Interview with art curator Hands Ulrich Obrist
+ The story about Marchesa Casati, a socialite who turned herself into a piece of art
+ Interview with Nikolay Tsiskaridze, a dancer in Bolshoi
+ Interview with the French actress Isabelle Huppert

The rest of the features in the book, selected and reprinted from all the magazine’s fifteen previous issues, amounted to fashion photography (maybe ahead of its time, but now so common in the Instagram age), interviews with fashion designers and photographers, and essays on lavish parties (there were at least four pieces talking about socialite parties).

This is not to say that its compilers have not done aa great work. Acne Paper looks gorgeous, sliding the magazine out of its moss-green sleeve feels smooth with slight vacuum pressure, just like unboxing an Apple product feels. The selection of people featured across the fifteen issues amounts to a multifarious representation of the contemporary Western (mostly visual) culture. It’s just that stylized photography by people you don’t know is not too interesting to look at. And people rarely say something interesting in the interviews, unless they’re world-renowned writers or philosophers. After leafing through the magazine, I felt rather emptier than nourished with new ideas and memorable aesthetics.

Magazines like Acne Paper belong to the genre of aesthetic fashion magazines, some of which include an added layer of cultural commentary. As such magazines go, I much prefer the Purple magazine and its editor-in-chief Olivier Zahm’s sincere interest in culture, arts, and literature + his keen eye for intellectual contributors. The next issue of the magazine, still in print and kicking, should be published very soon.