Master Class: Stone Island
Master Class: Stone Island
- Words Mayan Rajendran
- Date June 8, 2016
The defining quality of any brand lies within the distinct characteristics of its ethos. Whether in the cut, finish, fabrics, feel, or even logo, there are certain touch points that allow a brand to resonate with it's customer; a clear indication of process, importance, stature and perception. It is quite rare however, to come across one that envelopes all of these traits and, on top of it all, applies a discernible signature. Enter Stone Island.
The Trademark Compass
The iconic Stone Island badge nestled carefully on the left arm sleeve is a simple compass comprised of black, hunter green and sunflower yellow. By far the brand’s most visible indicator, the badge carries more weight than simply providing visibility for the Italian brand. Although its initial symbolization referenced a love for the sea and aim for innovation, it has become an indicator and gateway for those who have a keen interest and appreciation for the sportswear, commitment, palette and particular style of the brand.
Apart from the recent sightings on popular icons like Travi$ Scott, Drake, and The Weeknd, and the super-collab with Supreme, Stone Island has been quite humble in its presence. Most loyalists and customers have grown fond of the brand through the story told by each garment, one that is clearly reiterated on the inner tag. Known for their unique fabric technology, intricate design details, rarity, and accessibility, or lack there of, with higher-than-average price points for sportswear, Stone Island has positioned itself into a tight space that is revered by many and accessed by few. It's history, craftsmanship, quality, and story, however, is respected by all.
Carlo Rivetti and C.P. Company
Stone Island initially came as a vague and hazy vision to CEO and Creative Director Carlo Rivetti. The jovial, articulate, and inquisitive Rivetti took a heavy-handed approach in bringing Stone Island to fruition in 1982, but there were many events that lead him to build the foundation of innovation that supports the brand to this day.
Rivetti initially began his career in production after his father Silvio and uncle Pinot’s fondness for research lead them to develop a fashion sector within their family-owned production facility. Facilitating production for Armani and Valentino taught Rivetti much about the production process and he was soon was exposed to another Italian design firm, C.P. Company, known for its innovative designs and functional attributes. This lead Rivetti to work under Massimo Osti, C.P. Company’s designer and art director, and together they stumbled upon the early pieces that would make Stone Island.
Osti was a design obsessive, collecting more than 20,000 pieces of military and industrial garb, all with the mindset to innovate functional clothing into wearable fashion and engineer tailored garments from fabrics that were normally used in the field. It was one fabric in particular, Tella Stella, that served as the catalyst that birthed Stone Island. Combining bi-color cotton tarpaulin cloth, the fabric was finished using an “on garment” dying process. Tella Stella had a different colored warp and weft that was used in a capsule of seven jackets, but the striking reference to military style did not fit within what C.P. Company was making, leading directly to the creation of a subdivision called Stone Island Marina (Marina eventually being dropped from the name a few years later, only to resurface later on as a Stone Island subdivision that took influence from naval and water technology).
From it’s inception, Stone Island struggled a bit by going over the head of consumers, it’s technical processes being almost too ahead of its time. Rivetti eventually pivoted to more accessible items like sweaters and trousers, all the while continuing to “always look forward to the future” by pairing these silhouettes with unique fabrics like steel-coated nylon.
From Italy to the U.K.
It wasn’t long before Stone Island began to gain serious footing within the Italian market, but it was still somewhat unknown in what has now become it's most popular market: the United Kingdom. In 1989, the brand released the Ice Jacket, with a thermo-sensible coating that caused the jacket to change color along with the temperature. This piece was key in the brand's migration to the UK. London’s Browns was the first stockist to carry Stone Island and was quite happy with the prohibitive price point and exclusivity. Shortly thereafter, Stone Island became the gold standard attire at football stadiums thanks to it's technical construction and functionality for the country's cold and damp climate. As it has always been with objects of desire, the high price and limited accessibility skyrocketed the brands allure. Famously, on a visit to Sweden for the European Cup, English fans discovered the largest offering of Stone Islands at outlet store Genius and in true hooligan fashion, looted it. Soon, nearly the entire subculture was brandishing the compass badge.
Stone Island was now known as “firm" or "terrace wear," both terms directly referencing football groups and the area in which they would gather to watch matches. Massimo Osti's departure to begin his own brand, Left Hand by Massimo Osti, paved the way for British designer Paul Harvey to become Stone Island’s head designer, with Rivetti stumbling upon Harvey and his designs while attending the Munich Trade Fair in 1994. Harvey’s familiarity with both design and Italian culture came about after graduating from Central Saint Martens and relocating to Italy after marrying. His integration of functionality and design were aligned with what Rivetti had been seeking and led to 24 collections for Stone Island. After his twelfth year, Harvey left Stone Island in pursuit of a more humanitarian goal. Today, Stone Island is lead by multiple designers who specialize within one category, but cohesively bring together a synchronized element to each season.
Stone Island Shadow Project
Of said categories, the sub-collection that arguably stands up to the mainline the most is Stone Island Shadow Project, led by Acronym designer Errolson Hugh. The brand takes the innovative technology of Stone Island and ups the ante with even higher technical fabrics and innovative designs, adding a hint of darkness and dexterity to an incredibly clean finished product, emphasized by a completely blacked-out badge. SISP looks even further into the future, presenting garments in darker color palettes with hidden compartments for additional usage. There are specific guidelines that Hugh follows with each collection, all of which are comprised into the acronym PARSEQ, no pun intended, which stands for the modular manner in which each garment is designed alongside the main Stone Island collection:
• Proof – The outer shell layers of clothing such as substantial coats or jackets that are highly resistant to the elements.
• Augment – Pieces of clothing such as jackets and vests that can be worn as an outer layer or as a liner to other jackets.
• Resist – These items are lightweight jackets, all water and wind resistant as well as being breathable, though not to the extreme level of Proof.
• Skin – This is the layer designed to be in contact with the wearer’s skin and its primary function is comfort.
• Equip – The peripheral items such as bags and accessories.
With the recent release of the Stone Island Fall/Winter 2016 lookbook, we’re able to decipher all of the elements in which Stone Island carries through each collection. Aside from the now famed collaborations with Supreme, the brand has begun to see a increase in fandom as its demographic is beginning to see clarity in what Stone Island truly stands for. Customers range from football fanatics who have loved the brand for its rebellious representation, to older, more affluent gentlemen who respect and appreciate technical sportswear. All in all, both parties find themselves on one team, not shy to stop one another on the street, point to their badge, and part ways with a nod of approval.