Acne’s Got the Snowdon Blues

Published May 11, 2012

 

ABOVE: DAVID BOWIE BY LORD SNOWDON.

Yves Saint Laurent wore a blue sweatshirt, Margaret Thatcher stuck to her blue jacket, Manolo Blahnik strikes a Diaghilev pose in sky-blue PJ’s and bare feet, and David Bowie, aged 31, deploys his blonde cool in a billowing blue shirt back in 1978. Snowdon Blue, Acne’s limited edition book and exhibition is a selection of 60 portraits taken by Lord Snowdon, a.k.a. Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones. Snowdon fans including photographers Paolo Roversi, Ellen von Unwerth, Deborah Turbeville, and Dominique Isserman, art director Marc Ascoli, and Hermès’ Stephane Wargnier gathered last night at Acne Studios in Paris’s  upper Marais, where the show is on its second leg through May 19th, before traveling to Sweden. Snowdon, 82, has been a celebrated photographer since his first days out of Cambridge in the early 1950s, when he quickly became known for his portraits, royal and otherwise, and fashion series. The pictures, tacked on the wall with pins—as the photographer likes to do in his studio—make a case for Snowdon’s idea of the blue shirt as “a democratic uniform.”  Thomas Persson, editor-in-chief of Acne Paper, the Swedish fashion brand’s stylish culture ‘zine, has been working with Snowdon since 2007, but the idea for the book came from a meeting with the photographer’s youngest daughter Frances von Hofmannsthal. “We’d been planning to get together for a long time, and then I received an e-mail from her  to tell me that she had been put in charge of his archive. Snowdon loves blue, and he has always kept several blue shirts in his studio which he asks sitters to wear.  Frances thought this would make a great book.”

“You don’t have a green shirt, white is too bright, black too funereal, and I like blue,” said Snowdon.  And they all agreed: Jeremy Irons; Lady Diana Spencer hugging Prince Charles; Hubert de Givenchy, who posed with his miniature poodle on a pedastal; Jacques Henri Lartigue, curled up on a Chesterfield in Devon in 1984; Agatha Christie, and Britt Ekland, all icy blue. Second-guessing the desires of those who page through this book, Acne’s Jonny Johansson scrutinized the pics and faithfully reproduced eight of Snowdon’s iconic blue shirts, including the white piped pajama top, for an Acne limited-edition run.

The Snowdon tome is the first book for Acne, and Persson promises more to come and exhibitions as well. Currently he is at work on Acne Paper 14, dedicated to New York City, which will debut in October. Asked what he likes to do best in New York, Persson didn’t have to think hard: dinner at Eric Bowman and Peter Schlessinger’s, because “they always have a surprise guest for me, from Isabella Rossellini to Francisco Costa.”