When Errolson Hugh and Michaela Sachenbacher founded Acronym Studio in Germany in 1994, it was far from the techwear kingpin it is recognized as today. The company was originally intended to be a boutique design agency, offering its consulting services to various brands in the activewear agency. Eventually, Acronym Studio’s client list grew to the point where it simultaneously designed multiple collections for several different companies. Acronym’s biggest client was Burton, a snowboarding brand, along with its sub-label Analog. Between designing for the two brands, Hugh would come to learn how to make garments that were as technical and functional as they were statements of rebellion.
Acronym officially launched as a brand in 2002 with its first item: the Acronym Kit-1, or as it’s known in Acronym’s coded language, KIT-001. KIT-001 included a jacket (known as the J1A, messenger bag, a soundtrack CD and a comic/instruction manual. Only 120 were made and sold at boutiques like Colette in Paris. The KIT-001 made Acronym’s message to the world clear: practical design first, sales second. The KIT-001 was lauded by figures in the sportswear and streetwear industries as Acronym established its footing.
Acronym is unique in many ways, operating completely outside of the fashion calendar. The brand releases small collections of products almost at-random, forgoing runway shows and traditional advertising. In order to create the highly technical garments, Acronym utilizes fabrics like Schoeller 3xDry dryskin and high-density gabardine, which are very expensive. This means most Acronym jackets and pants retail at high pricetags. Acronym’s thoughtful pocket and storage designs alone explain why fans are ready at a moment's notice to spend large amounts on its items. While pocket design is simply an afterthought for most brands, Acronym carefully considers how it could make all the small details more functional. As opposed to flat rectangles found on most garments, Acronym opts for pockets in the shape of a parallelogram so that—no matter what is in the pocket—it rolls forward, making items easier to access. It’s because of this attention to the details that nearly every Acronym item sells out almost instantly.
Since its inception, Acronym has had its loyal fan base grow steadily, but major spikes in interest have come following the brand’s high profile collaborations. In 2014, Hugh was chosen to resurrect Nike’s dormant All Conditions Gear (aka ACG) line as Nikelab ACG. While ACG was previously known for hiking sneakerboot mashups and colorful clothing in the early ’90s, Hugh’s vision for ACG was to create functional, technical gear for city life. Applying Acronym design sensibilities at a more consumer-facing pricepoint, Hugh’s version of Nike ACG quickly became popular as a “more affordable Acronym.” The collaboration enjoyed a short run before coming to a close in 2018. Even still Hugh and Acronym have continued to collaborate with Nike, injecting technical design to some of Nike’s classic silhouettes, including the Lunarforce 1, Presto Mid and Vapormax. Acronym also has an ongoing collaboration with Stone Island called Stone Island Shadow Project. Shadow Project brings the best of both brands together to create conceptual techwear items neither would normally produce on its own.
Despite demand growing by the year, Acronym has stayed the course, keeping offerings limited and focusing on quality and functionality. Technical garments are increasing in popularity and Acronym imitators are spawning rapidly, but none will ever match the consistency, quality and precision of Hugh’s one-of-a-kind label.