By Mairi Beautyman
Photographs by Annabel Elston
Published April 2016
Sophie Hicks’s spare ACNE boutique in Seoul, South Korea, is the opposite of pop.
The Gangnam district of Seoul was single-handedly catapulted into the world’s consciousness by the horse-trot dance moves and universally catchy beat of Psy’s self-deprecating video for “Gangnam Style.” Four years later, this poke at the lavish lifestyle of the toniest district in the South Korean capital holds tight to its position as the most popular YouTube video of all time. Satire or no, style there certainly is in this luxury retail wonderland, home to boutiques for Chanel, Christian Dior, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and more.
A glimpse of signage beckons shoppers down a side street near the river to find still another label, “The sensation of solitude is extremely rare this city of over 10 million” Sweden’s ACNE Studios. (That’s an acronym in English: Ambition to Create Novel Expressions.) ACNE creative director Jonny Johansson brought in Sophie Hicks Architects from London to design the freestanding building after admiring the firm’s worldwide Chloé boutiques, paneled in raw plywood. To set off ACNE’s bold, multicolored clothing for both women and men, statement pieces that Sophie Hicks calls “very punchy and, at the same time, forward-thinking,” she envisioned a two-story structure resembling a ghostly light box with “very little outward expression.”
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