Rue Saint-Honoré is one of Paris’ most storied addresses, best known for its trail of upscale boutiques – the definitive names of French fashion lined up for shoppers seeking the utmost in luxury. In some ways, Acne Studios – founded by Jonny Johansson in Stockholm – seems incongruous to the neighbourhood, where tomorrow (23 June 2022) the brand will open a 1st arrondissement store after a comprehensive renovation. After all, the Swedish label was built with a distinctly independent approach, beginning with just 100 pairs of jeans, created for friends and family, back in 1996. In the years since, despite expanding around the world, the label has retained this countercultural spirit. 

Inside Acne Studios Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris

Acne Studios store rue St-Honoré Paris

It is why the store’s design – created in a collaboration between Johansson and Barcelona-based firm Arquitectura-G – began not in Paris, but the Rålis skate park in Stockholm’s Marieberg district. Johansson had found himself there waiting for a friend, fascinated by the design of the park, which is built under a vast concrete bridge in order to stop rainwater pooling in the various bowls and ramps. 

‘I find it a poetic spot [and] it reminds me a little of Paris because there are so many bridges in the city,’ says Johansson. ‘I wanted the store to feel like you were sitting under a bridge. I like the idea of a secret society, a subculture, existing under the arches, and I thought it was a good way to think of Acne Studios as a brand on a big fashion street.’

Acne Studios store rue St-Honoré Paris

As such, Arquitectura-G looked towards Saint Maximin stone – the golden-coloured limestone definitive of traditional Parisian architecture – to achieve a similarly monolithic effect. Sourced from a quarry just outside of Paris, the stone extends from both interior to exterior, and across the walls, floor and columns (the brand says the effect is one of ‘infrastructure’, and a nod to the buildings in the city made from Saint Maximin, including the Louvre, Place de la Concorde and several of the city’s bridges).

‘The store originally had two floors that weren’t connected at all,’ say the Arquitectura-G team over email. ‘We planned a cut-out on the intermediate slab so the whole store works as a continuous space, with a double-height area. The columns are now two floors high – the space is nothing but the area under, or next to, this stone structure.’ On the corner site, large floor-to-ceiling windows keep a connection to the street, something which was important to the architects. ‘[It] takes the soul of the city and brings it inside the store,’ as they describe, as well as giving light ‘top billing’ in the airy space. 

Acne Studios store rue St-Honoré Paris

Such nods to neighbourhood are part of Acne Studios’ intention when creating new stores, an attempt to make its outposts encapsulate the brand’s design language while retaining a local flourish. ‘I think the idea is to reflect the location or space where we actually are, where we are acting, and reflect on that in what we do,’ says Johansson. ‘Then it’s also about asking, where is the brand now? It’s a reference to where we are at the moment, a time capsule for what we are doing.’ 

‘Soft blobs’ (as Arquitectura-G describe) by longtime Acne Studios collaborator and furniture designer Max Lamb will intersect and contrast with the sharp lines of the stone space, while Benoit Lalloz will once again provide lighting – this time, wave-like constructions that reflect the architects’ sweeping bespoke staircase, which extends up towards the second level. ‘It channels both the classic elegance of Paris and the countercultural currents that infuse Acne Studios,’ say the brand of the design. 

Acne Studios store rue St-Honoré Paris, exterior

Johansson says he wants to reproduce the feeling of entering the Helmut Lang store on the street when he was a teenager (the outpost closed in 2006).

‘There were wooden eagles, which he had carved himself, and a Jenny Holzer installation in the store, too,’ says Johannsson. ‘It was so impressive, I was just really inspired to go inside.’ No doubt for a new generation, Acne Studios Rue-Saint Honoré will have a similar effect. §