TITLE: THE EVOLUTION OF STONE ISLAND
Stone Island. Two words underlined in a Joseph Conrad novel that would change menswear forever.
Massimo Osti’s development of the ‘Tela Stella’ fabric in 1982 led to the need for an entirely new collection. In search of a name, Osti asked his wife Daniella to underline the most striking and evocative words in the works of Joseph Conrad. Osti eventually chose ‘Island’ and ‘Stone’. ‘Island’ due to its evocation of the sea, a dream of freedom and an escape from the daily routine, and ‘Stone’ due to the toughness of his new material. To this day, it is those two elements of the brand that have made it so appealing to generations of youths. The aspiration to escape from the mundane, and the toughness and durability of both fabric and wearer.
Stone Island first gained a cult following amongst a counterculture of youths who would hang out at Milanese sandwich cafes. The ‘Paninari’ as they were known, rejected the traditional Italian long lunch, instead opting for fast food and designer labels. Moncler, Armani, Vans and Versace were all popular, as well as another of Osti’s labels: C.P. Company. Influenced by the Americana which was increasingly appearing on Italian TV sets in the 1980s, their love for the label is encapsulated in its very name. The Paninaro’s of the 1980s sought to break free of traditional Italian culture, and appear tough on the streets of Milan and Rome.
It was the Casual scene of the 1980s that raised Stone Island’s profile to the next level and created a subculture of football fans who chose Osti’s designs over club colours. First brought back to the UK by football fans on European away days, Stone Island formed an integral part of the one-upmanship of supporting a football team. With the label only available on the continent, wearing the badge was a sign of your team’s success. When paired with the Casual scene’s reputation for football hooliganism, Stone Island’s reputation as the label of choice for the streetwise was cemented.
In popular culture, Stone Island can now be seen everywhere from the touchlines of Manchester City to the hooligans of Green Street and Football Factory. Drake’s love of the brand has led its influence to spread to the United States, the very country from which the Paninaro drew inspiration, way back in the 1980s. It remains a focal point around which people can gather and express a solidarity with one another. Whether that be in online forums such as Stone Island Talk UK/EU, or at events such as Mass Appeal and Jacket Required’s recent Massimo Osti Archive show.
Stone Island is an integral part of youth culture, it is in the DNA of every football fan, sneakerhead and hypebeast alike. Over thirty-five years on from its creation it is still innovating and creating garments and fabrics unlike any other. It has changed menswear forever, and thankfully, for the better.