RobsRack feature in the Financial Times

RobsRack feature in the Financial Times

Featuring in the Financial Times “How To Spend It” this week, was me, regarding Stone Island’s collaboration with Dior. With so many new eyes on the brand, the article delved into Stone Island’s extensive history and its cultural evolution over time. This was a huge moment for me, having admired the brand for nearly a decade, purchasing my first piece when I was in school, a 1999 wool sweater I found on Depop for £40!

This FT interview had me thinking. While some of my knowledge was able to be relayed within the final print, the truth of journalism is that editors can often be strict with words. Thus, I thought I’d take a journey and recap Stone Island as a brand more closely, detailing some of my favourite collabs, the brand’s image-changing moments and what we might expect to see in the future.

The 2014 Supreme partnership is on all of our minds, a now longstanding friendship between two unlikely brands. This release saw the start of something huge, changing Stone Island’s image forever. The capsule contained a modified version of a highly sought after jacket from the Italian brand’s A/W 1988 collection, a pilot jacket with a detachable visor, similar to that seen on C.P. Company pieces. This was truly the start of the push into the mainstream, especially across the pond.

The capsule saw the likes of Drake wearing Stone Island pieces, specifically the yearly collaboration with Supreme, a partnership that truly changed the brand’s old school, Italian image. Each year both brands have delved into the archives to bring us something that appeals to the masses, focusing mainly on reimagining vintage Stone Island pieces and fusing them together with Supreme’s legendary streetwear persona.

A lesser known collaboration from 20 years ago is the La Sportiva collection. Interestingly, having a dive into rock climbing forums online revealed some people’s views on the shoes at the time. “£183 - that's three new cars and a night's beer in Liverpool!”. The price was high for these quirky, almost barefoot like shoes. The established Italian brand La Sportiva started making shoes pre-World War 2, but are still a mainstay in today’s fashion with the rise of gorpcore. Working with Stone Island to finish their look, the result was a low or high top, anatomical lace, suede "trainer” shoe coming in various colours many Stone Island fans would be familiar with in the 2000s. A paper at the time said "The manufacturers wished to emulate the comfort of climbing shoes in a trainer". I own the catalogue for this year’s release, which I have attached a scan copy of. 

The items in this collection are conventionally ugly shoes to wear, however there is a charm to their function and I wouldn’t be against a future release, maybe with their TX4 Evo silhouette.

Lastly, for now is the Stone Island x Adidas Samba Five-Two 3 shoe from 2009. (The resurrection of the Samba every 5 odd years needs to be studied). These shoes are unreal, which might be an unpopular opinion, but to many Stone Island fans the link up with Adidas and the glorious, historical material used has many of us still longing for a pair (which aren’t in a battered state). The finished article was a Raso Gommato trainer, a rubberised military cotton satin mix which has undergone treatment using Stone Island’s unique dyeing process, also utilising a corrosion like look, one we would see years later with the Hand Dyed Corrosion range.

The silhouette was a perfect base for this mix up, the three stripes we know and love were untouched in this fine Italian design, retaining the traditional Adidas Football shoe look. At a time when Stone Island was very much known for its “football hooligan-ism” (more on that another time), these two brands going at something together was monumental. However, on the downside, the laces were replaced with an asymmetrical zip which was top of your list to replace when buying these back in the day. The material being one that degrades massively over time lets these down somewhat, something that fans of the brand would have known from their Raso Gommato jackets peeling, even back in the 80s! Hence, nowadays these are a rare find, especially in good condition and fetch  hundreds of pounds online. It’s continuing to look like I’ll never own a pair as they go up and up each year…

What could we see down the line?

The possible entries on the list of Stone Island and their collaborations is endless, the expansion of the brand over the last decade is enormous, yet I would guess Massimo Osti and his family couldn’t have guessed in their wildest dreams that the brand would work with Dior on a release with a jacket retailing at $30,000. 

That being said, I wouldn’t be against seeing some great work come about with a few of my favourite brands. Two of these brands, Armani and C.P. Company worked with each other a few years back which could rule out something with its old sister company due to different ownership. Despite this, I will 100% be parting with my cash for something straight out the Armani archives, a fellow Italian super brand. Armani is my second most sold brand online, it’s something I also collect but a brand I’m not as familiar with, especially its history unlike Stone Island.

My other bucket list brands are Universal Works or Oliver Spencer. I can’t stop buying Oliver Spencer online, it’s too good to miss out on at a fraction of the retail price. Their new bits, using economical materials and processes could lend well to Stone Island and their unique dyeing and ageing techniques. I would be super interested to see a smart-casual outfit with a colourful twist on it, something like a muted version of the 2007 Stone Island David TC Sublimation Print on a short, smart Buffalo jacket would be fun!

Whilst writing I’ve remembered a few other releases with some interesting brands that I’ll have to cover in another one!

Image credits to HighsNobiety, Oliver Spencer and Stone Island

Robert Gale

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