He appears out of nowhere, as if a ripple in the continuum. A time traveler sent back from the end of the world.
It's on a crisp February morning in the Berlin neighborhood of Mitte when Errolson Hugh, the designer behind Acronym, materializes across the street. He is a difficult man to miss. Beautiful bald head. Goatee of a conquistador. A slight, almost imperceptible limp to his gait. But dawg…the clothes! The clothes are what really elevate him to the realm of aberrational—all Acronym or Acronym collaborations, presented in monochromatic blackish. There's the big bubble jacket with a fishbowl hood. Moon-boot Nikes. Windproof pants so gusseted and drop-crotched that if you spelunked to the bottom you might find a Horcrux. All clothes are armor, but Errolson's silhouette is literally so, in that it seems to render him impervious to even the harshest elements. Some sort of ninja god-slash-astronaut. Like you could have pushed him out of a spaceship to fix a meteorite puncture.
I flag him down like a tarmac doof. He adjusts course, smiles. Does a little 'sup nod.
“What's up?” he says. “I'm Errolson.”
In the constellation of fashion brands, Acronym is a little out there, a tiny satellite world operating at the edge of its own nebula. Unlike fashion houses in Paris, Milan, or even New York, Acronym forgoes traditional runway shows and doesn't spend a dime on advertising. Its seasonal collections are tiny: typically no more than 15 pieces at a time.
Originally founded as a boutique design agency in 1994 with Michaela Sachenbacher, Acronym got its footing by quietly designing outerwear for other brands before eventually bifurcating to carve out a business with its own label a few years later. The clothes are beautiful, sewn from expensive cutting-edge fabrics with names like SCHOELLER® 3XDRY® DRYSKIN™ and HIGH-DENSITY GABARDINE, and they possess a sort of dark, caustic energy; think Yohji Yamamoto meets Yojimbo meets Metal Gear Solid, all thrown in a NutriBullet. All of it is prohibitively expensive, too. A pair of pants—say, the P23A-S, which are conical in form, somehow both baggy and snug—will run you upwards of $1,500. And yet whenever a new Acronym collection drops online?
Poof. Almost everything sells out instantly, ghosts of garments barely there.
At the center of it all is Errolson Hugh, a cheery, unfailingly polite fellow who just so happens to look like the final boss in a video game. Up close, his mustache is scraggly, curling slightly over his upper lip like a big spoon. He's 47 now. But his pores are nonexistent, which gives him the look of a man 15 years his junior, a truth that's betrayed only when he laughs—which is often—and crinkles appear in the corners of his eyes.
“People often use the word ‘dystopia’ or the phrase ‘cyberpunk’ in relation to us,” Errolson says. “But really, our whole thing is, Acronym is really about agency. It's about enabling somebody to do something they couldn't otherwise. It's inherently optimistic.”
His fans are all over the place. Names like John Mayer and A$AP Rocky and influential science-fiction author William Gibson. Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians? Why, he's a close personal friend from back in the day. (On the topic of his buddy's crazy-rich glow-up: “Such a trip!”) Jason Statham, another covert Acronym fanatic, recently conscripted Errolson & Co. to design flight suits for the new Fast and Furious spin-off with The Rock, Hobbs & Shaw, the particulars of which involve a “Russian oligarch” and “parachuting down into radioactive Chernobyl.” And at least one former U.S. president has dallied in Acronym: Last winter Bill Clinton walked right into the neoliberal streetwear temple Kith in New York City, and 40 minutes later walked right out with a new pair of $750 water-repellent military trousers.
“The thing to remember about Acronym is that they're making products at almost prototype level,” John Mayer tells me in an e-mail. “These aren't mass-produced by any means, and they're artisan-made. There's a spirit inside of them not all that different than that of a costume department for a Marvel movie. It's as cosplay as whatever level you consider the Marvel movie Spider-Man costume to be cosplay.”
He's been called your “favorite designer's favorite designer.” The most known unknown. Someone whose whole deal is peeking over the bleeding edge of what's yet to come and bringing that knowledge back to the present. “People often use the word ‘dystopia’ or the phrase ‘cyberpunk’ in relation to us,” Errolson tells me. His voice is soft and hard to place, with some residual vapors of his native Canadianness. There's a sedative quality to it. Like he could do a mid-career pivot into reading the news for NPR. “I think there's definitely some aspects of that. But really, our whole thing is, Acronym is really about agency. It's about enabling somebody to do something they couldn't otherwise. It's inherently optimistic.”
He pauses, as if he's feeling his way through the conversation.
“And if it's dystopian in some aspects, it's probably because it's kind of a dystopia right now.”
Attempting to explain the appeal of Acronym to someone unfamiliar with the brand is often an exercise in futility, like attempting to explain to a loved one why you decided to join a doomsday cult. I remember first stumbling upon Acronym on the Tumblr You Might Find Yourself several years ago, and there he was, this gnarly Asian dude who could be my first cousin, wearing this cape-like outer layer that interfaced with a separate messenger bag. The post was tagged “tech ninja,” and Errolson still had hair. I soon fell down a rabbit hole that led to a short video scored by rumbling techno. What followed was hallucinatory: The word ACRONYMJUTSU flashed on-screen as a scowling Errolson threw kicks and demonstrated these preposterously architectural clothes that had all sorts of out-there functionality—from invisible magnets on the jacket collar that held your earbuds in place to “gravity pockets” hidden in the forearm sleeves that allowed your phone to teleport into your hand, as if by magic. Legit mind freakage.
That doomy character is a funny contrast to the goofier, easy-to-laugh guy Errolson presents as in person. As he would later explain it, martial arts were the perfect vessel for showcasing how the clothes articulate and move. “In karate you do a kata, that ritualized style of movement,” he explains. They sort of compounded the seriousness of those videos—which functionally served as runway shows—and became an inside joke. That he would end up as the primary model for Acronym made sense from the beginning, especially since all the test units were constructed to fit him. “I was always available,” he says. “And I was cheap.”
“Acronym clothing has been more fun to wear than anything else I've ever worn,” says William Gibson. “I'll sometimes wear something of Errolson's for a long time without realizing why some little detail is exactly the way it is. Then I'll get it. It's like getting a joke, but it's about function.”
I was just a few years out of college and couldn't afford any of it, obviously. But the appropriate neurons had encoded deep in my brain. A few years later, when I was in a better station in life (and wasn't overdrafting from my bank account every week), an opportunity finally arose to purchase an Acronym jacket at a slight discount via a discreet hookup on “Subnet,” an invite-only online back channel of sorts, proffered by Acronym, where one could purchase the clothes for a little less before they were available to the general public. Wisely, I did the irresponsible thing and threw down a credit card for a $1,000-plus Gore-Tex shell. It was gorgeously asymmetrical. And more than my rent at the time.
And reader…the tomfoolery didn't stop there. A few short months later, I bought a messenger bag for around $800. It was the 3A-1, in shimmery black sailing foil, which had multiple entry points into the main compartment and featured a buttery quick-release strap. Using it made me feel like I could rappel down a building to stop a bank robbery.
Did I need this thing? Hell no. It was pure, oozy, drippy excess—and it aged beautifully. I use it every day, and it's the best bag I've ever owned. (On Grailed, the same model recently sold for $2,500.)
Then, a few months later, I bought some shoes.
It's a rare gift, the ability to bring coherence to a wholly imagined world. As the journalist Judith Thurman wrote in The New Yorker in 2005, “Conventional fashion, and particularly its advertising, is a narrative genre—historical romance at one end of the spectrum and science fiction at the other.” She was talking about Comme des Garçons. And while it's clear which side of the spectrum Acronym belongs to, Errolson's real skill is a similar ability to articulate a contained universe, to conjure narrative out of fabric, not unlike a Rei Kawakubo (of Comme) or a Rick Owens. Acronym, then, speaks to a certain kind of clothes wearer. Someone who would rather buy less but buy better. Someone who feels most like himself when he looks a little strange. Or maybe just hates umbrellas.
To dress in full Acronym is to untether yourself from a sense of place and time. It's a wholly realized aesthetic that opts the wearer out of the present reality. A reverse-reverse Man Repeller, to an extent. I e-mailed William Gibson—someone who knows a thing or two about world building and who is the “closest thing to a mentor” Errolson says he has had—to ask if he thought there might be anything to that assessment.
“That's been important to me from the start,” he wrote back. “The stuff's atemporal, or from its own timeline. Planet Acronym.”
He added: “And then there's what happens when you wear it for years and serious wabi-sabi”—the desired aesthetic effects of aging—“sets in. I have an S-J11 jacket like that, Stotz EtaProof cotton, getting seriously threadbare now, but it doesn't look dated at all. It might be an old jacket from the future!”
Inside the Acronym studio, hidden within a mixed-use brutalist apartment structure in Mitte, Errolson is showing me the inner workings of a pair of…pants. The jackets get most of the shine, but the pants are where the good shit really goes down. Surprisingly, there isn't a mood board in sight—no Gundams or Kuniyoshi prints or other presumed references—but there is a big bookshelf (lots of Gibson, James Ellroy, and, uh, Nick Hornby), as well as a board pinned with an assortment of advanced zippers. It's close to midnight, well after work hours. The studio itself is tiny, with space for ten full-time employees, a few of whom started off as interns; since he travels a lot and is always on the move, Errolson recently had to get rid of his desk to make room for the additional personnel. He is so generous with his time and energy, in fact, that just last year he permitted a soft-spoken and relatively green streetwear designer to come through and spend two whole hours in the Acronym archive, pulling out old jackets to study as if they were museum artifacts.
At one point, as Errolson tells it, this designer was like: “ ‘Can I send a team of photographers over? Can we just photograph everything in here so I have it on a disc?’ ”
Errolson politely laughed off this entreaty.
“I was like, ‘Uh…no?’ ”
That talented young designer's name was Kanye West. They talked about collaborating on something—at least before Kanye's hard pivot into MAGA heel—but so far nothing's come to fruition.
To give you an idea of how Acronym approaches making stuff, let's look at something real boring and basic.
Consider the pocket.
How do you go about designing what, when examined through a narrow technical lens, might be the single best pants pocket in the history of humankind? A pocket that could open a wormhole into new forms of stuff-holding?
First you consider what a wearer would keep in there: wallet, keys, phone, maybe a Juul. You cut the pocket larger and deeper than most—say, out of a sturdy Swiss mil-spec material resistant to abrasion. (Given the company's advanced reputation, Acronym's construction methods are pretty old-school: It uses scissors, rather than laser cutters or anything like that, which is mostly a function of how small the production runs are.) And then you consider how those elements might interact inside the pocket. The keys are a problem because they'll scratch your shit up. So to optimize how everything sits in there, you cut the bottom at an angle.
This results in a pocket that, as Errolson explains it, is a “parallelogram versus a rectangle, which means that no matter what you put inside it”—keys, coins, etc.—“it always rolls to the front.” Then, to further index the wearer's essentials, you add a few interior linings, creating a little mezzanine with a phone-specific pocket hidden inside another pocket inside another pocket, a matryoshka doll of divvied stuff. It's augmentative, in a way. Makes you feel like a cyborg.
“In the case of Acronym, I've gotten so used to having a phone pocket now,” says Bryan Lee, a creative director in the Bay Area who has been collecting Acronym since 2003. “Like if I were to buy a plain pair of pants from Uniqlo or something, I still have this mannerism where my hand will go to reach my phone and then it's not there. And I'm like, ‘Oh, my God, where's my phone!?’ ” Lee runs the Instagram account @ACRHIVE (follower count: 52K), which catalogs the fit pics of the converted. Pronunciation-wise, both “Archive” and “ACR Hive” are acceptable—like “Pet's Mart” and “Pet Smart.”
Gibson echoed a similar feeling. “Acronym clothing has been more fun to wear than anything else I've ever worn, for many reasons,” he explained. “But one is that I'll sometimes wear something of Errolson's for a long time without realizing why some little detail is exactly the way it is. Then I'll get it. It's like getting a joke, but it's about function.”
Thinking about how pockets work isn't very sexy—they're just holes! But you can see how unconsciously tweaking wearer behaviors can stoke a subtle form of loyalty. It's like switching from a PC to a Mac and never going back. For Acronym it's the flashier, mind-freaky magic-trick stuff that jars the door, so that when a potential customer finally uses a high-interest-rate credit card to clandestinely procure an asymmetrical jacket that costs more than their rent…voilà! Indoctrination complete. Phenobarbital-vodka cocktails on the house.
As with any good futurist, Errolson's personal politics veer unflinchingly progressive. Thinks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a righteous agitator and gets a little flustery when he forgets to tell a waiter he's good on a straw. He's originally from Canada, but immigrated to Germany in his 20s, eventually settling in Berlin—a multicultural destination with cheap rent, a strong social safety net, and, not coincidentally, a thriving arts scene. (When he first moved to Munich and he'd see another Asian guy on the street, the occasion was such a rarity that they'd do a little 'sup nod.)
Not too long ago, Errolson ran into the artist and dissident Ai Weiwei eating breakfast here in Berlin, and he couldn't help but fanboy out a bit. Especially when Weiwei—who has been living in Germany in self-imposed exile from the Chinese government since 2015—confessed to loving the Nike x Acronym Lunar Force 1, a shoe that Errolson designed. It was a collab in which a giant sideways zipper was stitched into the flesh of the Air Force 1, one of the most revered and undiluted silhouettes in sneaker history. According to Errolson, when that deconstructivist approach leaked to the public, the zipper was divisive to the point of being heretical. Someone might as well have proposed using the Shroud of Turin as a bath mat.
And yet the Frankenshoe was a hit. Weiwei told Errolson he loved them—wore them the whole time during his last documentary—and the two took a selfie for the Gram.
“He was like, ‘You gotta hook me up!’ ” Errolson says excitedly. “I was like, ‘I'll try, I'll try.’ ”
Only, the Lunar Forces had already been out for a while. They were sold out everywhere. There were no more left in Ai Weiwei's preferred colorway and size at the Acronym studio, and Nike couldn't help, either.
So what did you do?
“I, uh, ended up buying him a pair on Grailed.”
Errolson got in touch with “some kid in Tokyo” on the menswear reseller, paying double the retail value for what was, y'know, his own shoe. On some level it is a bit disorienting that the architect of all this techwear stuff was forced to subsume to the economics of the hype machine and hit up one of his fans to fulfill a nice gesture.
“The kid was like, ‘Is this for real? Is this a joke?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Sorry, dude.’ ”
A complicating factor in all of this is that Errolson feels deeply weird about the hype vortex Acronym's been sucked into. Especially after the Nike partnership sent Acronym's profile into the stratosphere, and with something as consequential as irreversible climate doom some 12 years away. “There's definitely sort of like a fundamental skepticism that we face the whole industry with,” he says. “I mean, I love fashion and I love design and I love new things like anyone else, but on some very fundamental level I can't bring myself to actually act like a…”
Another pause, and a recalibration.
“Especially now, with the whole environmental situation. The way the world is right now, it's like, is it really time to just be devoted to aesthetics?
“There are the opportunities now to scale, and part of me is like, yeah, we have to, because efficiency and security and employees, all that stuff. But there's equally a large part of me that's like, does the world really need more stuff?”
For what it's worth, he seems to be genuinely conflicted by all of this. Thinks fast fashion is a pestilence that should be launched into the sun. Travels a ton, bouncing between Tokyo (where his longtime girlfriend—and frequent Acronym model—Melody Yoko Reilly, often works), Paris, and the States, but still feels icky about being the kind of global citizen who contributes to jet-fuel consumption. Loves his team of Acrokids and wants to do right by them, but the prospect of scaling the company in a world that will soon be uninhabitable worries him, and no solution is going to avail itself anytime soon.
He's also a bit flummoxed by some of his more charitable devotees—the ones who procure thousands of dollars' worth of Acronym with every drop: “Acronym is also fundamentally about buying less stuff. Don't get the five disposable, ephemeral [pieces]. Just get the real one and keep it as long as you can until it falls apart.” Individual Acronym staples are oddly iterative; a jacket might at first glance be the same as a previous season's, with one or two new features. A firmware update, essentially.
“When we make something, we're not trying to make it expensive to have some kind of clout or status factor,” says Errolson. “It's a function of the materials that we use and how [the product's] made and the time it takes to design it. It costs what it costs.”
When you start to take a closer look at all of this, you might notice that 90 percent of the Acronym Hivers on Instagram also appear to be Asian guys—Japan, Taiwan, Irvine, Brooklyn (that one's me). I was curious if that was something Errolson paid attention to. We're at a Chinese-fusion restaurant not far from the Acronym studio, nursing lychee highballs that he recommended. He doesn't cook much. And since the place is open late and he's friendly with the owner, he eats here alone a few times a week after work. The interior is intimate and moody. A simulacrum of a Wong Kar-wai set piece. Evidently it's a popular spot for Berliners in the mood for love.
Ten years ago, he might not have paid much attention to the identity of Acronym buyers. But we're a smarter, wiser culture now, more attuned to our proximity to whiteness and the sum of our identities. Re: the Asian thing: “It comes down largely to representation.” In some ways, he says, it's the O.G. streetwear brands from Japan—the BAPEs and WTaps and Neighborhoods—that “kind of let the doors open” for someone like him. The ones that allowed all these kids to carve out an identity beyond their inherent Asianness. In a way, Acronym is just extending the blueprint.
“There was space for them to be themselves inside [Acronym], but it was still this obviously Asian thing—mostly me.”
Errolson was born in Winnipeg and grew up all over Canada. His parents are of Chinese heritage but are third-generation Jamaicans who migrated there by way of Montreal; Mom was geographically restless, and Errolson thinks he inherited some of his wanderlust from her. (To that end, he and his younger brother are “the only two [in the extended family] who don't have the Jamaican accent,” he says, though he wishes he did because he'd be “so much cooler.”)
His dad's name is…Errol. An architect by trade who kept books and magazines around the house when his kids were growing up. Who talked about architects with names like Richard Meier (Dad's favorite) and Arata Isozaki, a Japanese architect with a modernist approach to structure who, I should note, seems to wear a daily uniform that consists of all-black everything. Errolson's parents were workaholic creative types (Mom was an interior designer), and the family home was divided into a living space and a design studio. As Errolson tells it, they were the opposite of Tiger Motherly and encouraged their kids' creative impulses in a variety of mediums. He doesn't not credit them for transmuting their work ethic onto him. “I mean, it's that 10,000-hours thing,” he says. “I don't think that's really enough hours. It's like, I think you can get pretty good with that many hours. But to really be the best at something—if you're into your craft, you don't even notice the time.”
At one point, Errolson mentions one of his favorite books, The Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi, the 17th-century Japanese writer and ronin who, according to myth, dual-wielded swords like a ninja turtle and went undefeated in some 60 duels. It contains the following passage:
"It will seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first. Bows are difficult to draw, halberds are difficult to wield; as you become accustomed to the bow so your pull will become stronger."
Mostly, though, growing up in Canada meant it was Errolson and his brother—two years younger, who now has his own software company in Los Angeles—left fending for themselves. It was an isolating experience: two Chinese-Jamaican kids, blips in the social fabric, growing up outsiders in the Great White North. And Errolson couldn't wait to get out of there. “The walk to school was like ten minutes, roughly, but in that ten minutes you had icicles hanging from you. All that shit. It was a winter wasteland, which I'm sure subconsciously affected…”
Anyway, when he was 10, his parents signed him and his brother up for karate classes, which proved useful, not just for predictable character-building and self-assuredness but literally as a bully deterrent. When I ask Errolson if he had a favorite clothing item as a child, he says it was definitely his karate gi—a fact that his dad had alluded to recently: “He was like, ‘As a kid you could never find pants that fit you the right way. Because you were always trying to kick.’ ”
There was one instance when Errolson (then about 13) and his brother were biking around the neighborhood and some white kids drove by “in their car, throwing stuff at us out the window.” Young Errolson flipped them the bird. The older teens slammed the brakes.
“I was just thinking, I'm gonna get my ass totally kicked now,” Errolson recalls.
So the main guy gets out the driver's seat (and mind you, this kid was older and had his license) and starts cussing them out. The fight math was already unfavorable—five versus two. Then Errolson did something, let's say, unorthodox: He planted his feet into a half-moon, put up his hands, and got into a karate stance. Just sort of stared at the guy. Not even saying anything, Peter Cetera instrumentals presumably wafting through the pine needles.
And the dude just…stopped.
“You use some kung fu bullshit!” Errolson says. “I was too scared. I didn't even say anything. I just stood there, and he cussed us out so much that the lady across the street called the cops. But he never attacked me.”
The guy got back in the car and drove off. The fight was won and not a punch was thrown and the metaphors just write themselves.
Afterward the Hugh boys were mostly left alone. They fought each other a ton—real aggro teenage-boy stuff amplified by martial arts—and left a few holes around the house. They attended Archbishop MacDonald, an academic high school in Edmonton, where Errolson got his first taste of merchandising when he sold “bootleg Chanel tees” to girls, made using his dad's drafting table. Prior to enrolling at nearby Ryerson University in 1989, he mulled majoring in graphic design, architecture, or fashion but ultimately chose the last because he “literally figured there were going to be more girls in fashion,” and that was that.
And wouldn't you know it, that hormonal decision-making process paid off. At Ryerson he met Michaela Sachenbacher, his eventual Acronym co-founder, silent business partner, and, for many years, his girlfriend. She's still the company's CEO. But when they graduated, Errolson finally got the chance to escape Canada, so he followed Michaela back to her hometown of Munich, where they lived with her family.
This was the early '90s, at the height of an economic depression. Unable to find work, Michaela decided to uproot to Kyoto for a year to study Japanese, leaving her Chinese-Jamaican-Canadian-immigrant boyfriend behind in Europe with her family, where he learned the language, thanks to Michaela's grandmother. “She didn't speak any English at all; she just spoke to me for all that time in German,” he says. “And then one day I was watching TV, and I was like, ‘I just understood everything that guy's saying!’ ”
Crucially, while Michaela was abroad, Errolson got his first break as a fashion designer, consulting for a now defunct German streetwear line called Subwear. The gig “paid no money at all.” For a massive 30-piece collection, he got paid roughly $3,000, but the gig had an unpredictable benefit: Subwear functioned as his entry point into the nascent world of technical outerwear. After Michaela returned from Japan, they co-founded Acronym Studio in 1994, just the two of them. And slowly, over time, they started designing snowboard collections for a client list that would grow to include Burton, a titan of the activewear industry, resulting in a partnership that would last 13 years.
Errolson didn't even snowboard. Just never got into it. But one year Errolson and Michaela secretly designed “seven or eight snowboard collections” for different companies that were showcased in the SportScheck catalog (think Sport Chalet but German). Acronym Studio designs took up half the catalog, and no one had any idea.
“I was so broke and so poor that I didn't care,” he says. “I'd do anything. I'd take any job and just crank through it.”
These days, the Acronym consultancy side is ultra-selective about whom it partners with. Right now there are two primary collaborators: Nike (until recently, Acronym designed the All Conditions Gear series, but a new hush-hush collaboration is in the works) and Stone Island (the Italian outerwear brand that similarly obsesses over innovative textiles, for Stone Island Shadow Project).
Designing all those snow collections early on gave Acronym a few competitive advantages. It forged an early relationship with Gore-Tex at a time when other designers were averse to using it. And the Acronym team was sometimes given these ambitious yet bizarre mandates, namely from Greg Dacyshyn, then creative director at Analog (a sub-brand of Burton), who had something of a punk-rock-anarchist streak. “Greg had this thing where he was sort of trying to piss everybody off,” says Errolson. “He's like, ‘Let's do something that everybody's gonna hate!’ ”
“Errolson balances being wildly innovative with being incredibly disciplined. The right things move forward, and the right things stay in place.” —John Mayer
One memorable and non-hateable mandate was for a transformable “full-leather Gore-Tex jacket” with a million pockets. (“I think it actually had 26 pockets,” says Errolson.) It had a passport-wallet thing that Velcroed to the front. It quite literally had lights in the hood, and to top things off, you could transform the jacket into a briefcase, should you need to go from mountain to boardroom.
There was one prompt that Errolson could never quite solve, however: “We had to figure out how to make a jacket that you can light a spliff on while you're on the chairlift in high winds. Like, that was the request. Which I never figured out.”
When Acronym finally launched its first stand-alone product, in 2002, the team was ready for anything. It was the Acronym Kit-1: a jacket-and-messenger-bag combo that came in a foldout box that looked like a DIY Nintendo and included a soundtrack CD and comic-bookish instruction manuals, all yours for $2,000. Only 120 of them were made. The Internet wasn't much of a thing yet, and you had to buy it in stores.
“In most companies, no one cares about design; they just care about sales,” Errolson has said. “And Acronym was our response to that.”
That sort of reverse-engineered, solutions-based approach is still unique within the fashion space. If you look at it a certain way, Acronym is what happens when you focus on pure design. It's a sandbox. The dominoes fell in a way that allowed the brand to operate outside the traditional runway-show fashion cycle, its own satellite planet at the edge of the universe. Out of the primordial goop, some pants and jackets.
“Errolson has something super rare, which is that he balances being wildly innovative with being incredibly disciplined,” says John Mayer. “The right things move forward, and the right things stay in place. That's what keeps a following.”
It isn't often that you're trying to punch a subject you're attempting to interview in the face. And yet here we are, two Asian dudes with a childhood of karate under their respective black belts, ready to rumble in the Acronym Dojo. I had floated the kooky idea in an e-mail to Errolson. And he responded: “Hell yes, let's throw some kicks!”
Okay—it's not really called the Acronym Dojo. On Google Maps you will find it indexed as Chimosa, a yoga studio-slash-holistic wellness center with a focus on empowering women via martial arts that's run by an enthusiastic Taiwanese man named Yichy—himself tall and sinewy, like if Bruce Lee were stretched on a taffy machine. Errolson's been practicing here for the past six years. Each of the various training rooms has an element theme—water, fire, earth, mid-renovation, etc. They brew us loose-leaf tea when we enter.
Also present is their friend Eskindir, a cheery multi-hyphenate martial-arts guy originally from Eritrea whose biography includes the word “stuntman” and who has modeled for Acronym in promotional photos and videos. He rounds out a multicultural gang of Errolson and crew (mostly Acronym employees), and the total effect is something like a Benetton ad made anime.
And the four of us are wearing…Lululemon! Just kidding. We're all decked out in Acronym, courtesy of Errolson, who brought like $4,000 worth of clothes over to test-drive in an enormous unreleased Acronym backpack that would prove valuable should we need to abduct the Liberty Bell. Me, I'm trying out a pair of tactical shorts (model SP28TS-DS), made of a lightweight nylon jersey material, that happen to flare out like samurai pants—presumably to protect my quadriceps from enemy archers on horseback—while Eskindir and Yichy are testing pants made of a moisture-repellent stretchy material that Errolson's excited about. They look like trousers—some version of which will hit Acrnm.com in the future. It's a sort of informal R&D lab, this place, where the stress test is a facsimile of hand-to-hand combat. Hence the punching thing.
Most of the time that we're together, and especially over drinks, there is something else on Errolson's mind. Errolson's girlfriend, Melody, isn't in Berlin right now. But he talks about her fondly—which is to say, a lot. Melody grew up just south of Los Angeles, spent most of her adult life working in Tokyo, and just recently moved back to California. Errolson is considering joining her, and the gravity of that decision, to relocate a major piece of the operation (i.e., Errolson Hugh), seems to be weighing on him.
At least a little bit. He's as global a citizen as they come, someone well versed in uprooting everything on a whim when the situation calls for it.
“The advantage of being home nowhere,” he says, “is you're home everywhere.”
That sense of placelessness, that sort of post-geographic-outsider perspective, that kind of oppositional self-positioning—whether you're a Chinese-Jamaican-Canadian immigrant living in Germany or something else altogether—helped make Acronym what it is on a substructural level. There's grace in the foreign, fortification in doing the new, hard thing. You become accustomed to the bow and your pull becomes stronger.
“People ask me, like, ‘Where's home?’ ” Errolson says. “I'm like, ‘I don't know. Where's my laptop? Where's my jacket?’ ”
Chris Gayomali is the site editor of GQ.
A version of this story originally appeared in the May 2019 issue with the title "Errolson Hugh Sees The Future."
Photographs by Nikita Teryoshin