Could you give a little bit of backstory on your interest in this particular kind of fashion and what exactly led you to Acronym?I must have realized early on that military clothing, the combat stuff, wasn’t designed with customers in mind but for functionality. In spite of that, though, certain surplus items had a way of becoming iconic casualwear for civilians. That’s where we got khakis. And the MA-1 bomber jacket, which for a while was skinheads-only—now even high-end designers need to include a take on it, not to mention Nike or H&M. Utterly ubiquitous pattern, had to be a great design to begin with.
When Arc’teryx was looking at launching the line that became Veilance, someone there invited me over, mentioned that they had a genius design consultant coming from Berlin. When I googled him, Errolson Hugh, I discovered Acronym and immediately bought a jacket on eBay from a seller in Italy. Blew me away. As did Errolson, of course, when he got to Vancouver.
Is there a relationship between your vocation as a writer and your interest in clothes?There’s an aspect of writing fiction that’s always felt architectural to me. I once had the good fortune to see Errolson record an idea he’d happened to have for a pocket. Very blueprint-like. Pulled out a gridded notebook and quickly drew it, in detail, then continued our chat. His father’s an architect, mother’s an interior designer. Comes by it naturally. My father was a construction firm’s liaison with engineers. Not that that necessarily explains it!
Do people frequently stop you on the street and ask about what you’re wearing?No! I immediately assumed I was doing it wrong. “It” being whatever it is that keeps me interested in what I’m wearing.—Noah Johnson
“When I was young, I was very partial to ribbons,” Smith says.
A priceless gift from Robert Mapplethorpe has pride of place among a lifetime of cherished objects.
If you’ve read Patti Smith’s memoirs M Train and Just Kids, you’ll know she’s not so much a consumer as a steward of personal effects, honoring as talismans the histories of, say, notebooks and pairs of boots. “I’ve been like that since I was a child,” she says. “I cherish the objects that serve me.” Some are as simple as a spoon, others more unique, like the tambourine Robert Mapplethorpe made for her 21st birthday, stretching a goatskin decorated with her sign, Capricorn, over the frame of a drum. “Robert was very good with his hands,” she explains. “With this gift, he showed an understanding of who I was.” She keeps it on the wall in her New York City home but sometimes takes it down, just to hold it. “Memories and meaning” connect her with her possessions, she says, but just as important is the aesthetic—that smudgy, Romantic, slightly goth look that Smith and Mapplethorpe have always stood for. “A lot of it is feel,” she says of her style, which has inspired brands like Ann Demeulemeester and Saint Laurent. In the ’70s, her tactile style “drove everybody crazy” when she wore a lavender Bay City Rollers shirt for months straight. “It was just the way it was shaped,” she says. “Very boxy, soft. I didn’t care what it said. I didn’t even know who they were.” That sensory philosophy unites her objects like pearls on a string. “Some of them are quite humble. Some are spectacular.”—R.T.
A version of this story originally appears in the September 2020 issue with the title “Prized Possessions”.
Photographs of Pierce Brosnan by Keely Shaye Brosnan; All others: courtesy of the subject.