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 a lot by fakes and a bad reputation because of who was wearing it.” Year 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, it now 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 to 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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