On Icons and Iconography

acne-studios-fw18-pr-7The world is built on opposites, and controversies make the world go around, but the ditch between renewal and originality has grown too wide for me to overlook. While the industries strive for revolutionary techniques and innovative products, they also want history, authenticity and originality. The ditch makes the long contradictory and difficult to satisfy, and I wonder if it too wide for the industries to overcome.  In search for an answer to this, Swedish fashion brand, Acne Studio’s autumn/winter campaign, is worth noticing.acne-studios-fw18-pr-8

The campaign is shot by Sam Abell (icon), and features supermodel Cindy Crawford (icon) wearing the brands first ever jeans from 1996 and 1997 (historic) in the famous Cadillac Ranch, surrounded by the avant-garde architectural work by artist collective Ant Farm (iconic, historic, avant-garde). The campaign is clearly inspired by the two icons’ joint love for America: the Coca-Cola girl bathing in the smooth light from a peach-orange sunset, beautifully captured by one of this time’s greatest nature photographers. Abell is known for his documentative style, which makes the campaign even better: it really is breathtakingly beautiful. The campaign only served as an accessory to the collection, but due to its beautiful outcome it will be exhibited exclusively in Paris from the 29th September till 2nd October.

Acne Studio’s creative director, Johan Johansson, describes the campaign as a piece of iconography, functioning as a comment on the fashion industrie’s obsession with icons. Why is the fashion industry obsessed with icons? Icons are simple and uniform. They are knots of time-trends and worth billions for the period of time that they represent, but if they fail to renew themselves, they will become unmodern in the blink of an eye (or by a quick hit on the ‘un-follow’ button).


The need for renewal is constant and the claim that the fashion and technology industries are the ‘worst’ has become antiquated. We are all marked by this urge and we are all to blame: industry and consumer. When you Google, “why do we renew ourselves?” what came up were hit on hit reasons for why we should renew ourselves, five-step programs and guides on how to engage one’s friends in a joint journey towards revolution. Most of the content was about herbal tea infusions and yoga at four in the morning, but it is the same urge the industry promotes and the same we as consumers gladly pay for. Why do we? What makes ‘new’ better? In history, it was those who were ahead of their time that we remember. They did something new and didn’t just get merit for it by the people of their time, but from people from other times as well. In our society, we put value in to getting not just ahead but beyond one’s period of time. Icons are not just products of trends, they are products of history and this is where the gap grows wide.

There is the need for ‘the ol’ days’ too. We glorify yesterday, we cling to it and deny its less attractive sides. Is the long for yesterday just a lack of appreciation for today? Going through the campaign and collection, they both bring the 20th century and 90’s fashion to my mind. While the campaign is most influenced by America, Cadillacs, Crawford and a desert sunset, the collection is more tuned in on Sweden with its clean cuts and sculptural silhouettes. The mix of two different nations’ takes on 90’s fashion is interesting, because behind the global trends carpet each country’s own fashion heritage is glowing. Cadillacs cruising down Route 66, hair windblown and in love with either life or David Bowie (never both). Though I have never done either of those things, I miss them, and in the light of them today inevitably becomes less attractive. Yesterday is so romantic. It is inaccessible despite our refines technology and that is what makes it attractive to us: the fact that we can’t have it.


Yesterday is out of our hands, but fortunately today is not and sometimes future even seems affectable. Mix all three and you have the best-selling product on the market: icons. Icons are the bricks that both fashion and art industries use in their bridge over the (only growing deeper) ditch between our need for both past and present. They bring yesterday close with their experience with it and with success. They make success seem like a possibility and not an antiquity.

Words by Mathilde Nielsen

For more information, see Acne Studios