stephen sprouse 1953-2004
stephen sprouse was a pioneering artist and fashion designer, responsible for bringing a “centric” pop sensibility to luxury fashion. Sprouse’s unique vision of both retro and futuristic, a meeting of influences high and low, came to define the look of New York City in the 1980s and continues to inspire designers today.
sprouse was born in ohio and grew up in columbus, indiana. Her family recognized her interest in fashion from a very young age and supported her artistic talents; his father, who was in the air force, would take him to new york city in the summers to meet with fashion designers and see the current collections. When he was 12, his father showed his portfolio to a friend at the Art Institute of Chicago, which led him to meet normal fashion designer Norell and later Bill Blass (a fellow Indian), who hired to sprouse as a summer intern when he was 14 years old.
in 1971, at age 18, sprouse enrolled in the rhode island school of design, but left after just 3 months to seek an offer to work at the halston studio as a draftsman and draper. Halston and Sprouse developed a close working and personal relationship, though Sprouse eventually began to challenge some of the conventions of the designer and his clothing. sprouse loved working with the likes of jackie onassis, barbara streisand and diana vreeland, but he was drawn to the edgy, artsy inner-city culture that emerged in the mid-1970s. one day in the studio, sprouse He lamented an upcoming parade of “old ladies’ dresses” for Halston and pressured him to make the hems shorter. In the enthusiastic atmosphere of the studio, Halston relented and Sprouse began cutting up the dresses, with Halston yelling “get away, get away!” The Skimp was introduced by Halston in November 1974, to praise from fashion trendsetters.
sprouse left halston in 1975 and moved to the bowery, where he lived upstairs from blondie’s debbie harry and became involved in the downtown punk and arts scene. she photographed rock bands, created large screen prints and photocopied posters of musical figures, as well as designed clothing. She received her first wave of attention in 1978 for designing the dress that Debbie Harry wears in the music video for “Heart of Glass,” which featured a photocopy of television static. In the time between leaving Halston and introducing his first collection in 1983, Sprouse was working primarily as a visual artist and had become a fixture in the downtown milieu that included Jean Michel-Basquiat, Keith Haring, rock bands in the mudd club (the hub’s answer to uptown’s glamorous studio 54), and andy warhol, whom they idolize.
Sprouse received further attention after he competed in a contest for young designers in 1983 sponsored by the Polaroid Corporation, which led to orders for products from Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendel. He debuted his first collection on May 1, 1984 at The Ritz East Town Club, where 2,500 people (including Warhol) attended. the collection, and its presentation, was radical. Models with dark eyes and choppy haircuts paraded down the runway to blaring punk music and strobe lights, and the star of the show was Sprouse’s muse, transgender model Teri Toye. Featuring daytime garments, some oversized and boxy, others a direct reference to 1960s mod style, scrawled with Sprouse’s own handwritten graffiti, the collection was executed with an incredibly high level of couture materials and tailoring. . After the show, Warhol traded two portraits for the entire collection, and Sprouse became New York City’s most in-demand designer. Sprouse melded the worlds of art, fashion and punk, with a deep understanding of history and an eye for the future, all while challenging notions of status and luxury with a rebellious and irreverent attitude.
The years that followed this bombastic entry were difficult to sprout; He received numerous endorsements and sponsorships and was critically acclaimed, but financial success belied the innovative designer, mainly due to his insistence on high-quality, expensive materials, producing many of the prints by hand himself, and corporate entities that didn’t they always knew the best way to represent their work. In 1987, he opened an ambitious, high-profile, three-story store in New York City, followed by a smaller one in Los Angeles. He also wholesaled to department stores and worked in Warhol’s former Union Square factory. That same year, Warhol died and was buried in a Stephen Sprouse suit. Despite the good reception his designs had, the economic recession caused by the stock market crash in 1987 and the difficulties of production and pricing caused the failure of this store in 1989. after this setback, sprouse focused on clothing from stage costumes to the likes of mick jagger, duran duran and david bowie and re-creating large screen prints of iconic figures like iggy pop, warhol and pattyhearst.
the 1990s brought a similar seesaw of success and setback; He presented the fateful Cyberpunk capsule collection at Bergdorf Goodman in 1992, but the clothes sold poorly. He was a Consulting Curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and, with permission to use Warhol prints, created a Warhol Tribute Collection in 1997. As the millennium approached, Sprouse remained highly regarded in the fashion industry. with his vintage pieces fetching impressive prices, but he struggled to achieve mainstream success. in 1999 he presented a printed collection with nasa images taken on mars by pathfinder; Sprouse was always on the cutting edge, a fashion “insider”, but ultimately his ambitious creative principles kept him on the fringes of the industry.
2000 brought a lucrative collaboration with louis vuitton: sprouse was hired by marc jacobs, a friend and great admirer of his work, to help design a collection. The result was his most enduring and recognizable designs, the Louis Vuitton Graffiti Logo Bags. Ultimately, however, Sprouse was put off by the corporate demands of the environment. The last collaboration he did was with Target in 2002. Sprouse passed away from lung cancer in 2004, and many of his closest friends didn’t know he was sick. At the time of his death, he was painting portraits and working on a mural for NASA. In the years since his death, designers such as Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and Patricia Fields, among many others, have referenced Sprouse’s enormous influence and paid homage to his distinctive and bold vision. His previous designs continue to be coveted and are in the collections of prestigious museums, while Louis Vuitton has relaunched his designs to critical acclaim.