Stone Island Shadow Project, the experimental diffusion label spearheaded by ACRONYM®’s Errolson Hugh, has been an integral member of our brand portfolio for many seasons now. We’ve enjoyed introducing veteran Stone Island enthusiasts to the lesser-known Shadow Project over the years and now, we’re delighted to complete the story with the addition of the mainline collection to our AW21 showcase.
If you’re familiar with the ethos and vision of the Shadow Project, then you already have a pretty solid idea of what drives the mainline Stone Island collection, since the former essentially exists as a consequence of the latter. The core principles of functionality, fabrication, technical innovation and garment finishing have been at the very heart of the label since its inception almost 40 years ago.
These ideals were founded upon brand founder Massimo Osti’s fascination with all things utilitarian, a fascination that was primarily explored through the lens of his first label C.P. Company. C.P. Company was mostly concerned with producing garments that were functional but elegant - off-duty weekend alternatives to your weekday tailoring, if not quite as relaxed as modern-day streetwear. But Osti also harboured a love for worn, distressed looks and one day came up with the idea of repurposing the canvas tarps from military trucks into jackets. Not completely satisfied with the outcome, however, Osti decided to then wash the fabric, which produced a very unique and very powerful result. So powerful in fact, that he and creative director Carlo Rivetti proposed to create an entirely new brand based solely on the surprising success of this experiment; a brand that would later be known as Stone Island…
Since then, technical innovation and experimental fabric design have been the driving forces behind every subsequent collection. One of the most famous examples of such being the thermo-sensitive fabric found in Stone Island’s iconic ICE range of jackets, a fabric that would literally change in appearance based on the surrounding temperature. No idea is too bold for Carlo Rivetti, who has also utilised the likes of Kevlar, stainless steel and bronze films and glow in the dark fabrics in his designs. Garment dyeing is another integral ingredient of Stone Island’s creative process, so much so that they built their own dedicated colour laboratory to research and apply new colour techniques.
What’s immediately noticeable about Stone Island as a label and how it differentiates itself from the competition is the encompassing feeling that it’s more akin to a perpetual passion project than a soulless business machine that prioritises profits above all else. In fact in many ways, some may argue that Stone Island isn’t really a ‘brand’ at all. At least not in the traditional sense. Carlo Rivetti once famously remarked that “he never wanted Stone Island to be a fashion brand”. Coming from a clothing manufacturing background himself, he had always been disillusioned with the dispensible nature of the fashion industry, how labels seemed to just come and go with the seasons. He saw Stone Island as his opportunity to build something with discernible staying power. The team’s dedication to ensuring that the core message remains the same, despite whatever changes may be necessary to keep the brand relevant and fresh, is what has attracted so many loyal fans and cemented Stone Island’s legendary cult status.
If Stone Island must be referred to as a ‘designer label’, it may still be difficult to actually categorise its primary aesthetic. As we previously alluded to, it’s not strictly speaking ‘fashion’ as it’s never staged fashion shows or been associated with the haughtiness that surrounds such events. Nor can it be comfortably be classed as streetwear, offering something markedly different from the overly relaxed hoodies and chunky sneakers that define this particular fashion subgenre. Depending on your personal perspective, Stone Island lies either somewhere between or outside the circles of contemporary fashion and streetwear, utilising its tried and tested resources to actually influence culture creation, rather than looking to pre-established cultural references for inspiration. If you need proof of Stone Island’s significant cultural contribution, look no further than the iconic compass logo itself, a nod to the removable insignia on military uniforms that flooded Massimo Osti’s beloved flea markets in Italy in the 70s - an immediately recognisable identifier to even those with no interest in fashion whatsoever.
Today, the cultural outreach of the brand can be felt all across the globe. From the casualisation of everyday menswear style in Europe, to the ‘terrace culture’ of working-class football fanatics in the UK to the shores of the United States, where Stone Island fanaticism has infiltrated the hip-hop community in recent times. The story of Stone Island is rooted in history and tradition, ideals that have formed the backbone of its success, both commercially and in terms of its global reputation. It’s living proof that above all else, a successful brand needs to have a story to tell and, most crucially, an undying passion for telling it.