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Style Profile: Ollie Evans & Stone Island

Style Profile: Ollie Evans & Stone Island

A self-confessed Stone Island fanatic and now a dealer of the brand’s vintage pieces, Ollie Evans has an enviable archive of Stone Island's most iconic gear. In a previous life, he was a music videographer and director – until he discovered the compass patch. Evans is the closest we’ve come to a Massimo Osti disciple. This is a man who has a 1982 Telastella and 1990s Ice jacket in his collection. We met him at his studio to check out the archive and pick his brains about the history of the brand.

Stone Island, or “Stoney” as it’s sometimes referred to, started life in Italy in 1982, with C.P. Company designer Massimo Osti at the helm. A prolific designer and keen innovator, Osti’s enduring legacy means the brand has accumulated a cult following over its 35-year history. Combining instantly recognisable design with technical innovation, it’s the signature of the brand that fascinates Evans. “It’s just the design language of it. I think Massimo Osti was coming into design from the avenue of graphic design . . . rather than the fashion or the trend or the style way. It has bold design elements, and he brought technology and innovation to garments, and I think that’s what appeals to me so much about his design language, that he was basing a lot of his stuff on military apparel and comic books and graphics and technology rather than your traditional avenues of fashion. It’s a very boys brand because of that, and I think that’s why it’s had such an enduring appeal for over 30 years. There’s reflective jackets, jackets that change colour, jackets that feel paper thin, its all of those things that appeal to the school boy in people.”

Ollie found himself compelled to buy his own Stone Island jacket whilst working in the music industry. “It came to a point in my life when I needed to get one.” We can sympathise. “And then having my own one it was just instantly, you get the buzz and the fix of it. I invested some money from a job I’d just done into buying a load more Stone Island jackets and then retailing some and keeping ones for myself, and then this constant flow of jackets was coming into the house, to the point where I started turning down video jobs in order to buy and sell Stone Island jackets.” His extensive collection means you can trace the evolution of this storied brand year on year, the changing design details and fabric innovations of each garment shedding some light on why it’s become so iconic.

I think that’s what appeals to me so much about his design language, that he was basing a lot of his stuff on military apparel and comic books and graphics and technology rather than your traditional avenues of fashion. It’s a very boys brand because of that.

In terms of cultural significance, Stone Island's should not to be underestimated. In some ways, it’s one of the brand’s biggest draws. “I think the first subculture to start wearing it and adopting it was the Paninaro in Italy. It was a youth culture that began in Milan and spread across the country . . . They were hanging out in sandwich bars, Bar Panino in Milan was where it started. It was the early ‘80s so they were influenced by that ‘50s American rock’n’roll idea of cool, but they were combining that sort of rolled up jeans and t-shirts look with new Italian-European sportswear brands – Stone Island, Moncler, Best Company, they were all kind of big brands on that scene. The Paninaro were going to football matches, and lots of British guys who were following their teams around Europe would see those guys and see the brand and started bringing it back to the UK. It became a signifier of casual culture in the UK.” Brought back by British casuals to the terraces after their trips aboard, at a time when Stone Island was only available on the continent, it became a signifier not only of your devotion but also of your status.

 

These diehard football fans had a tendency to hooliganism, and the flashy designer brands from Europe offered them an anonymity that their team’s shirts didn’t. Stoney became associated with the violence, contributing to a decline in its popularity. “Its (popularity) ebbs and flows. There’s a quote in 24 Hour Party People about Tony Wilson saying that everything has like an up cycle and a down cycle, and something that’s been going around for 35 years has its ups and downs. I think there’s definitely a period in the early to mid ‘90s when it first came over to the UK and it was new and massive. Then it got tarnished by a lot by fakes and a bad reputation because of who was wearing it.” Years later, the brand has shaken off the violent connotations, with everyone from fashion industry insiders to rappers now sporting it. Where once it caused division, now it unites.

“When the casuals were wearing it in the late ‘80s, that’s when acid house came along, and it sort of dissolved a lot of the violence that was going on in the (football) terraces, ‘cuz they all got into ecstasy and the rave scene.” Explains Evans. “What rave did to the UK was bring in and unite a lot of different people that wouldn’t have necessarily partied and shared platforms together, and jungle brought in a new black audience to the rave scene, so the people that were involved in these events were mixing. So young kids, urban kids, young kids from the countryside, would see these labels and it became a common language . . . It’s like a trickle-down effect. It’s gone from Italy to casual culture to rave culture to grime to then streetwear and now it’s in fashion and luxury again. There’s so much evolution and change there and it’s a constant progression.” As a brand, Stone Island is one of the unique few that has wielded the power to bring people from disparate backgrounds together. It’s even doing it now. “It’s huge in America, partly because of the Supreme collaboration. It’s brilliant that it’s crossed over from one country into another and that skate culture has adopted it, that’s great.”

Alongside the progression, Stone Island has stayed true to their roots, and that’s in part why they’ve had such longevity. “I think the branding is just so strong, that compass patch that they’ve had right from the beginning – it’s like a gang and you want to be part of it.” The signature of the brand has been unwavering and perhaps more influential than many people realise. There have been suggestions from industry critics that Osti’s designs influenced the likes of Martin Margiela, and that the oversized silhouettes designed by Osti (Ollie shows me a size small jacket from the ‘80s and it is huge) have influenced Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia. “I went to art college and I’m fortunate enough to know people on the design teams of the biggest brands in the world, and I sell to a lot of other brands that are researching, and you can guarantee that every major fashion house in the world has a piece of Massimo Osti Stone Island in their archive.” Two books have been published on the subject, and Osti’s personal collection was recently exhibited in the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. Stone Island’s success is predicated upon the fact that they never bow to trends, and have stayed true to an aesthetic that is defined by a few guiding principles – research, experimentation, function and use. Follow the compass.

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STONE ISLAND SS17