SOMA talks to the Persson behind Acne Paper

When he was a small boy growing up in Oslo, Norway, Thomas Persson was always drawing, constantly making things, forever creating. His love of clothing comes from his grandmother who was delighted by her grandson’s interest in fashion. “She is French and, like most French women, it was normal to put oneself together in a certain way every day­—a simple skirt, silk stockings, a blouse, a brooch, matching shoes and handbag. I used to spend hours in her little walk-in closet, imagining it was another world.”

As a child, Persson was always cutting up his grandmother’s fashion magazines and sometimes even her dresses. “She had so many I thought she would never notice. But she always did.” He is still creating, still immersed in fashion, still pushing the boundaries, and people are still noticing.

Persson is the editor-in-chief and creative director of Acne Paper—a magazine that celebrates fashion, design, art and style in a way unprecedented in the world of publishing. Acne Paper was founded in 2005 as the London-based publishing arm of Sweden’s Acne fashion label. It developed a cult status almost immediately and today is highly respected, eagerly anticipated and widely coveted. The bi-annual publication is printed on large-format matte paper, bears no advertising, focuses on non-commercial features and aims to merge the historical with the contemporary, while expressing an intense love for fashion.

“Fashion is as serious and interesting to us as art, literature, history, philosophy and all the other areas that we present,” says Persson. “Nothing lives in isolation, everything belongs together. The magazine wouldn’t be half as good without the fashion. The fashion brings the ‘now’ and the ‘wow’.”

Each issue of Acne Paper focuses on a key theme with the purpose of representing all creative disciplines around it, and in addition to the fashion and art portfolios, it holds extensive interviews, essays and articles that illuminate the given theme from different angles. The latest issue is entitled “Youth”. It features a profile on young violinist and YouTube sensation, Charlie Siem, a profile on an apprentice at a Savile Row tailor, and a remarkable portrait series of young dancers at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Other issues include: The City, The Studio, Eroticism and Spirituality. These themes are juxtaposed with photographers, artists, writers and, of course, fashion itself. Contributors include Vogue Paris’s Carine Roitfeld, Mario Testino and Bruce Weber. Persson is thrilled that the fashion world has embraced Acne Paper, as have readers around the world. He says he remains true, however, to the original vision for the magazine.

What was the original vision for Acne Paper? To create a different kind of magazine that wasn’t already on the market. Something with an all-encompassing attitude towards a variety of aesthetic, artistic and intellectual fields, uniting the historical with the contemporary in a meaningful way. The magazine started as a medium for us to share what we found. It was a platform for us and our contributors, a way to open our minds and to spread our wings.

How close do you think you have remained to the original vision? I think we are getting closer and closer to the original vision with each issue.

What did you say to the skeptics who said there was no room in the market for another magazine? I think there will always be a market for something that is made with a lot of love and care and hard work. But I don’t really care what the skeptics say. And they can bite their tongues now.

Surely having no advertising is very liberating for a magazine. Totally. I’m probably the luckiest editor in the world. As much as I love magazines for the advertising, we are very lucky in not dealing with all that in our editorial thinking. We are free to choose what we feature without getting in trouble with the advertising department. Someone once told me that Acne Paper is not a real magazine because it doesn’t have any advertising and I thought, ‘is it the advertising that makes a magazine real?’ For me it was always the content. Content and integrity.

Do you try to create a heightened visual and intellectual experience by focusing on one theme? I hope so. It becomes a study, a focus, an exploration—a journey. And like most journeys we end up with something different than our preconceived ideas about it. We get smarter from making the magazine and I hope that is what people who read it experience too, that they learn about people and subjects they didn’t know they wanted to learn about.

Where were you born? In a place called Bærum, which is outside of Oslo.

What did you study? I did an MA in fashion journalism at Central Saint Martins in London.

What would you have liked to study? Art, architecture, literature, music, French.

What is a talent you would like to have? I wish I could tap dance.

How do you like living in London? I love London. I feel at home here, more than other cities I have lived in. I find people to be kind and polite. There is a general acceptance for all kinds of people here, all walks of life, which feels very civilized. You are not only allowed to be yourself, it’s expected of you.

Favorite place in the world? My little hideaway on the French Riviera.

What’s your favorite time of day? Well, I would lie if I didn’t say it’s cocktail hour.

What’s your favorite food? My boyfriend’s creative cooking when we have almost nothing left in the fridge.

What do you wish you could be doing more of? Traveling to far and foreign places.

What about your life outside Acne Paper? What life?

How is your grandmother? She still adores fashion. She reads Acne Paper from cover to cover but is always uncomfortable when there is nudity within the pages, as there often is.

What’s the subject of the next issue? The Body.

What will grandma say? She’ll say, “But why couldn’t you have put some clothes on those models?”

Text by Ellen Georgiou
Photography by Olivia Beasley