The History of Stone Island
The Stone Island brand name has many different connotations for many different people; for some, it is inextricably linked with football culture, in particular the casual movement — either in a positive or a negative sense; for others, it has become associated with the grime music scene, and has extended its reach beyond the terraces and onto the streets. But first and foremost, that iconic Compass badge on your sleeve is a symbol of quality, innovation and style — the principles on which the brand as we know it was founded back in 1982.
Stone Island owner Carlo Rivetti is from a family with long ties to the clothing industry. By the 1980s, though, he had grown restless within the world of formalwear, and sought to diversify into something he found more appealing: sportswear. He and his sister established a firm — the creatively-named Sportswear Company — and scoured Italy looking for companies that shared their vision for innovative casual clothing, where they discovered (and promptly acquired) CP Company. Stone Island itself, however, was conceived almost by accident: Massimo Osti — founder and designer for CP Company, and household name for those in the know about technical sportswear — had conceived a new fabric dubbed Tela Stella, a heavyweight, oilskin-like material impregnated with different pigments on either side, and was determined to make something out of it. He couldn’t find a way to make it fit within CP Company’s collection, however, and so decided to craft a small collection of just seven jackets. In keeping with the military and nautical inspiration behind the Tela Stella fabric, he chose a compass as the logo for his new diffusion line: Stone Island was born.
Stone Island and Streetwear: From the Terraces to the Streets
Moving forward from this inauspicious start, Osti pushed ahead with fabric innovation, endlessly researching new textiles and ways to implement them, coming up with often outlandish, off the wall fabrics that no-one else had even thought of: heat-reactive weaves; nylon fabric laminated with hundreds of glass beads to change the colour in different angles; earth-dyed, acid-corroded canvas. This over-the-top approach, along with the masculine, military styling of the brand’s offerings was a large part of ‘Stoney’s’ appeal to the football casual crowd: fans travelling abroad for away and international games were always on the lookout for new and exciting garments to bring home and show off. Stone Island, with the one-off and unique nature of a lot of Osti’s fabrics, fit perfectly into this culture of one-upmanship, and the brand’s popularity was cemented from then on.
Because of this association with the hyper-masculine world of football casuals, the brand’s enduring legacy has been as a symbol of manliness. In more recent years, it has been adopted by inner-city kids in the UK as a status symbol, and in turn became associated with the grime music scene. Buoyed up by high-profile collaborations with streetwear giants Supreme and Nike, the brand’s appeal has diversified beyond connoisseurs and collectors, particularly across the Atlantic. Urban music superstars like Drake, Frank Ocean and Travis Scott have all embraced the ‘Stoney’ look of late, skyrocketing interest in a brand that was previously alien to those not living in Europe, and launching its appeal to a whole new generation of streetwear fans.
Stone Island Fabrics: Continuing Innovation
These days, far from being helmed by a single visionary like Massimo Osti or later designer Paul Harvey, Carlo Rivetti has assembled a team of designers to better embrace its newfound worldwide popularity and the diversity of its fanbase, stating “It [is] necessary to be multicultural in order to be truly contemporary … I felt that in this era it is this possible to face all aspects of a world only with several minds and several visions.”
This ethos has lead to the continuation of the innovation and research that Massimo Osti started all those years ago, and Stone Island holds its reputation for using unusual and technologically-advanced fabrics and finishes. Some recent examples:
- Micro Reps: Stone Island Micro Reps is one of the brand’s staple fabric constructions. A classic nylon, the warp and weft fibres are of different thicknesses, allowing for a much tighter weave than a traditional nylon fabric. This not only provides natural weather resistance, but serves as the ideal base for the brand’s garment dyeing experiments.
- Nylon Metal: We’ve written about this one before: nylon fibres with an irregular structure are woven as grey weft and white, ready to dye warp threads, and undergo an elaborate double-dyeing process to produce a fabric that has an iridescent sheen in different lighting conditions. This can produce a subtle three-dimensional effect, or be used with bright, contrasting colours to provide some pretty wild results.
- Tank Shield: Crafted from matte polyester fabric, the whole jacket is first assembled and then internally laminated with overlapping panels of a weatherproof, breathable membrane, giving superior weather resistance and a near-seamless look.
- Heat Reactive: A highly limited capsule, the Stone Island Heat Reactive jacket from SS19 was a cotton ripstop construction, printed all over with a three-colour fractal camo design in a heat reactive pigment. As the wearer’s body heat warmed the fabric, the pattern became brighter and more prominent, also revealing a large Stone Island logo to the back.
This is just a tiny fraction of the scope of the brand’s vision: the brand’s own historical archive consists of over 7000 pieces, while their research archive is larger still, at over 40,000 items of vintage sportswear and militaria.
Aside from the high-end fabrics and construction, perhaps the most important element of a Stone Island product is the removable badge, normally found on the left side of the garment, with the Marina collection breaking the mould and not featuring the badge at all, instead opting for bold text printing. There are a number of different versions of the badge which denote different aspects of the brand. The standard, most commonly recognised badge is the yellow and green compass rose badge (above left). Despite switching from a green border to a black one, the classic badge has remained unchanged since the brand’s inception, and is a tribute to both the military inspiration of the brand and the sense of adventure and exploration driving Osti’s research.
There are a number of monochromatic badges (above centre) that were originally used for what the brand dubbed Ghost Pieces: with fully tonal designs in a variety of colours, including black, red and white, they were conceived as a kind of modern camouflage, allowing the wearer to blend in while still keeping the unmistakeable Stone Island aesthetic. More recently, the tonal black badge has been used to denote pieces from the Shadow Project diffusion line: combining Stone Island’s technical fabric expertise with directional, futuristic designs from ACRONYM’s Errolson Hugh.
The White Compass badge (above right) is seen on limited edition pieces, often known as ‘Champagne Pieces’ because of the colour of the badge. These jackets often use even more innovative fabrics and construction that can only be created in small quantities, and are often at a higher price point to the normal line, due to the limited nature of their production. Of course, the flipside of this limited aspect is that the pieces become collectors items in years to come, holding their value for a lot longer than others, if not increasing it.
Celebrities Wearing Stone Island
As mentioned above, Stone Island has been spotted on more and more celebrities recently. One of the more high-profile representatives of the brand has been music superstar Drake, who seems to wear the brand almost exclusively these days, even going so far as to have custom pieces made for his Boy Meets World tour. Drizzy is joined in his love for Stoney by fellow Canadian star The Weeknd, who was recently spotted wearing pieces from the Supreme x Stone Island collaboration (for extra streetwear kudos), as well as rap mainstays Kanye West and Travis Scott.
Back over in Blighty, grime artists are often spotted sporting the Compass, including Tinie Tempah and Skepta, while Hollywood hardman Jason Statham is another of the brand’s high profile fans.
Stone Island Headquarters Tour Video
In this unique video, Carlo Rivetti opens the door to the Stone Island empire and allows the public a sneak peek at the research and experimentation that goes on behind the scenes. It offers a fascinating glance into how the brand operates behind closed doors.