superchat antwerp: mikael schiller

acne has been riding high on the wave of success of swedish fashion. and rightfully so, as it was one of the first swedish brands that made its stylish mark both home and internationally. ever innovative, diversifying and expanding, it recently opened up shop in fashion mecca antwerp. the brand's likeable ceo mikael schiller flew down to raise a glass or two at the opening bash.

we read that before joining acne, you worked as a psychology teacher and tie salesman. how did you proceed from there and end up as managing director at acne? it's very much coincidence. i went to business school and after that i started working at an investment company but got fired in 2001 due to the economic downturn. then i got in contact with the acne creative collective and they asked me if i could write an businessplan acne action jeans [as it was called back then]. i did it together with a friend and when we were done they called me back and said 'you seem to be good at business, do you want to become the ceo of acne?'. h&m had just turned down my application and these were difficult economic times in sweden. obviously, this seemed like a very exciting opportunity, so i jumped on the wagon.

are you ceo of all acne divisions? no, i'm ceo of acne studios. i only work with the fashion, publishing and furniture divisions of the company.

acne is a relatively small creative enterprise. we imagine that in such a business structure tasks and ideas are more often shared and exchanged than in bigger companies. even though you’re the managing director, are you at all involved in the creative process? are your likes and dislikes heard? yes and no. jonny johansson, our reative director, and myself are in a very close dialogue but I wouldn't say that I'm involved in decisions such as next season's colour theme or how we should work with proportions when we design.

we didn’t see the acne furniture release coming...although it sounded somewhat logical when we found out that jonny johansson is actually trained as a furniture designer. how did you perceive that project from a managing director point of view? risky business perhaps? i learned a lot in business school that isn't necessarily useful at acne. for instance, looking at a market, segmenting it and then launching a product with a very thought through business ambition. at acne, the dynamics between art and industry is very important. but, all new product launches are being initiated within the design team. everything starts with the desire to create, the ambition to create great things. the basic idea is that if we make fantastic products, it'll also be possible to sell them.

how would you describe the work environment at acne? ambitious. creative. human.

what do you think of the new acne studio in antwerp? i really like it. antwerp is a great city, not the least when it comes to fashion. it has also been very nice to work with the louis store and its owner marjan eggers*.

speaking of stores, your brand is quite popular in asia, yet it hasn’t any stores there. how come? that's correct. we are currently in discussion with a series of potential partners. however, we're not in a hurry. it feels more important to do it right rather than opening up stores quickly.

what brands other than acne do you really like or admire and perhaps would like to collaborate with? i must say that i mostly wear acne. when i was in antwerp for the shop launch i bought a pair of church's. i like many of the classic brands.

you must be traveling a lot. any favourite cities? paris because it feels so secluded even though it's in the center of europe. and new york because it's so the opposite.

any stores you particularly like? i particularly like the andreas murkudis stores in berlin. i think he has five now, selling everything from fashion to furniture, porcelain and other small objects. andreas is also a good friend.

* marjan eggers is also owner of the acne studio in antwerp.

© acne / mikael schiller looking suave