Swedish clothing giant Acne Studios has opened its first west coast US store in downtown Los Angeles, at the corner of 9th and Broadway, just across the street from the Ace Hotel. Joining a growing trend of retail/lifestyle/coffee collabos, Acne has partnered with Stockholm-based coffee shop microchain Il Caffè to bring their own take on the café-meets-retail concept in their sleek new space in the historic Eastern Columbia Building.
When I visited on a sunny Monday morning, Il Caffè managing partner Michael Backlinder was chatting away in Swedish with a number of fair-haired customers who stopped in for drinks. “I wouldn’t say there’s a big Swedish community in LA, but we definitely get a lot of Swedish customers who recognize us from Stockholm,” Backlinder told me.
Founded in 2002, the small three-shop chain formed its relationship with Acne Studios when Acne founder and creative director Jonny Johansson–who is frequently quoted in interviews calling Il Caffè the best coffee company in Stockholm–became a regular at the Kungsholmen location and developed a close friendship with owner Magnus Jökulsson. In Sweden, Il Caffè serves coffee from Italian roasting company Palombini Espresso. While definitely a few shades darker than new-school Scandinavian roasts, Il Caffè has a certain “cool factor” surrounding it, and is beloved by many Stockholmers.
For their LA location, Il Caffè went with coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. “With this location we decided to go local and follow the coffee culture trends here in the US,” Backlinder said. Stumptown had just opened their Downtown LA café and roastery when Il Caffè was signing their lease, and Backlinder became acquainted with Stumptown’s Matt Lounsbury and Evan Dohrmann. The timing was right, and the partnership neatly fell into place.
The filter coffee at Il Caffè is brewed on a Fetco, with French press cups available brewed-to-order, mirroring Stumptown's recent menu switch-over at their own cafes. Espresso drinks are made on a La Marzocco Linea PB, with long drinks served in navy blue Arabia of Finland ceramic mugs and short drinks in the familiar glossy brown Espresso Parts cups used by Stumptown. The food menu consists of tasty sandwiches and pastries from Arts District bakery The Bread Lounge, and a selection of Swedish black liquorice are available for fifty cents apiece.
The spacious café, designed in collaboration with the Stockholm-based firm Bozarthfornell Architects, has slated black ceilings, concrete floors, a floor-to-ceiling mirror in the back and slate-gray walls throughout. “We took inspiration from our three existing cafés in Stockholm, using the same furniture and keeping the same kind of layout with a high bar,” Backlinder explained. “The space feels more European than Scandinavian, I think.” The black and chrome tables and chairs are from Sweden’s Johanson Design, and the grey terrazzo floors behind the bar echo the pink terrazzo floors in the attached Acne retail space.
“The partnership is fantastic,” said Backlinder. “Acne Studios has become a destination for westside shoppers, so the customers come for Acne then end up hanging out at the café too. The stores complete each other.”
The service at Il Caffè is excellent, and despite the glossy look and intimidatingly expensive merchandise, the shop assistants at Acne are also quite friendly and helpful. With Aesop, Tanner Goods and Ace Hotel for neighbors and a number of excellent art galleries nearby, the corner of 9th and Broadway is a fine place for coffee shops and clothing boutiques alike. “And who knows when, but a second café location wouldn't be out of the question,” Backlinder said. “LA is such a big town…”