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Stone Island: the return of the 90s fashion label

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Drake wearing a sweater from the Supreme x Stone Island collaboration Drake wearing a sweater from the Supreme x Stone Island collaboration. Photograph: Drake/Instagram

Every brand revival can be charted back to a moment in history, pop cultural or otherwise. With Italian label Stone Island, which is currently fielding a new wave of interest, that moment arguably came with Drake.

Stone Island X Supreme sweatshirt Drake’s Stone Island X Supreme sweatshirt.

Last Autumn, Stone Island and Supreme collaborated on a line. Marrying the two labels’ USPs, it was hip and functional and a runaway success. The slick, waterproof Raso Gommato Cover Nero jacket, made from cotton satin and polyurethane with a removable liner, was a case in point. Then Drake posted a picture of himself on Instagram in a red sweater from the collaboration next to a shot of Ashley Walters’ character from Top Boy with the caption: “Real bod man #Dushane” and that was that: Instagram exploded, the line sold out and Stone Island was back.

In truth, the return of Stone Island has been happening for a while, certainly among those not old enough to remember it the first time round in the 1990s, post-Madchester, mid-Britpop era. Wavey Garms, an online vintage fashion site and pretty dependable yardstick for all things cool, noticed a spike in demand in the summer. When I first met Andres Branco, the co-founder of Wavey Garms, last summer he cited “Stoney” (as in Stone Island), Supreme and Champion as big sellers, with buyers bidding frantically for bucket hats and zip-up sweaters.

Stone Island x Supreme camo jacket Stone Island x Supreme camo jacket Photograph: press

A uniform for Generation X, Stone Island was founded by Massimo Osti in 1982 as a legitimate sports brand with a technical bent. Outerwear that looked nice, but kept you warm. It evolved from the pitch to the terraces to Oasis and then sort of dipped, or at least existed in less of a trend-led way, returning to the practical staple it once was.

Serious sportswear – from outdoorsy brands such as North Face to Lonsdale and Champion – have been growing with incremental hipness over the past year or so. Add to that the growth of ath-leisure – luxe sportswear, essentially – and more down-to-earth brands such as Stone Island are finding a new audience looking for something that prioritises practicality. High Snobiety’s Maude Churchill thinks this unique combination is its shtick: “An increase of sports-led designs has leaked into mainstream trends and Stone Island has been delivering this since day one.”

As to why it’s happening now, well, the reasons are twofold. It is clearly a golden time for heritage brands although Churchill thinks ‘2014’ is arbitrary: “I think it’s natural for heritage brands to experience a revival because of the cyclical nature of trends, and because these heritage brands have traits that have enabled them to sustain themselves as a brand for so long: quality, craftsmanship.”

But, in reality, heritage brands are proving oddly popular and influential. From newish brands such as Hiut Denim through old-school labels including Poiret, a fundamental part of heritage brands is the way they combine design with craftsmanship. Add that to the way sportswear has evolved from the pitch to pavement and you have yourself a trend by default.

But, aside from the vintage pieces, it is the carefully chosen collaborations that are key to its success. Stone Island has just launched a modular scarf with Shadow Project made from iridescent nylon polyester, quilted in star shapes, which can be attached to jackets. It looks set to become another bestseller. Churchill agrees that collaborations are “certainly a contributing factor”, but she maintains it is the way that Stone Island has remained unmoved and unshaken by normal trends that has led to its new-found status.

“The way to become really good at anything is to keep doing it over and over again, and that’s certainly what Stone Island has done,” she says. “The majority of their garments follow similar utilitarian silhouettes but they really experiment with fabrics, print and production techniques.” All of which suggests that Stoney should be back for good.

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