At the back end of 2019, Kim Jones’ Dior debuted their Fall 2020 show in Miami, Florida. Nestled in a giant wave, the runway payed homage to Shawn Stüssy’s infamous punk-inspired scribble, printing the walls in his signature font. The whole show reinvigorated the style and scene the brand derives from - elevating it’s streetwear legacy to the luxury levels of couture fashion.
Bucket hats, air pods cases and psychedelic knitted jumpers, all with Shawn’s ‘Dior’ logo, contributed to a collection rich in the spirit of streetwear and haute couture. Despite being a street, lifestyle label, Stüssy has always had a small infatuation with high end fashion; their ‘double-S’ logo is similar of course to Chanel’s double Cs, and in light of Karl Lagerfield’s death, the brand created a campaign t-shirt and advert to pay homage to the designer and Chanel.
Stüssy really kicked off in the mid-eighties, but Shawn could remember using his logo on the surfboard’s he’d been crafting since the age of 14. Many argue that the label built the foundations for streetwear to flourish, and become the subcultural tycoon it is today. The brand has since caught the imagination of everyone from Shinsuke Takizawa, who owns Japan's infamous label Neighbourhood, to James Jebbia of Supreme, who managed Stüssy's first chapter store in New York. Prior to this, Jebbia had begged for the brand to be sold in his shop ‘Union’, a skater boutique he ran in Manhattan. Shawn was originally sceptical, but after visiting, he agreed that it matched the selective aesthetic of Stüssy.
“I want to be exclusive, I don’t care about huge sales” explained Shawn in an interview with the BBC; this business model has been adopted by all your favourite streetwear labels, manufacturing a collectable culture. Another huge marketing ploy that made Stüssy one of the most desirable brands in the 20th century, was their international tribe. Including British music pioneers in the calibre of Goldie and The Clash's Mick Jones, the group epitomised the interconnectivity of street art and culture from around the world. The tribe's varsity jackets became an unofficial accreditation of originality, and a token of their underground success. In 2012, A$AP Rocky and Stephane Ashpool, the owner of Pigalle, became two newly enlisted members - 40 in total were recognised for their services to art that year.
It hasn't always been plain sailing for Stüssy. In 1995, Mossimo's growing prominence in California's fashion scene casted a shadow over the desirability of Shawn's label. With a similar logo, but a willingness to be stocked anywhere and everywhere, people started to mistaken the brands for each other. Shawn Stüssy eventually stepped down from his own label in 1996, as he became increasingly frustrated and uninspired by America's diluted clothing market.
Whether official or unofficial, Stüssy have a long history of collaboration with other brands. Surprisingly, their first was a rework of a G-Shock watch in 1997; shoe-wise, the nike air huarache was the label's original venture into the world of 'sneakers'. 'Stu-ey Vuitton' was a pinnacle moment in Stüssy's history. It is likely a garment from the collection has creeped onto your Depop feed over the years, but the uncorroborated collaboration got the brand into legal issues. They were eventually sued by the French fashion house, which is ironic now that Virgil Abloh is their head designer, and inextricably linked to the streetwear foundations Shawn established all those years ago.
After the chaos of Shawn Stüssy's exit, the Sinatra family were quick to appoint a new head designer. Nick Bower, who was formerly at London's legendary Central St. Martins school of arts, was the replacement - he had previously been working for Valentino. In this time, the label expanded beyond the "pants and shirts... and jackets and hats" Shawn modestly told the BBC the brand made, whilst releasing coveted t-shirt collections with the likes of Supreme and Bape too.
Arguably Stüssy have had a revival over the last 5 years, despite being the godfathers of streetwear. Since they celebrated their 35th anniversary, 2020 will mark the labels 40th, they've acquired a regular space in Rei Kawakubo's Dover Street Market spaces around the world - New York in particular. Both DSM and Stüssy regularly collaborate on capsule collections. Chapter stores opening in London and Milan accentuate that the label is one of international prestige; their market is said to be more lucrative and profitable outside of America.
Stüssy isn't exclusively a skater brand, nor is it intrinsic to hiphop, punk or reggae - its appreciation for scenes that are often undervalued by major labels and designers has helped it stay relevant for 4 decades. Parties with Bone Soda and Boileroom have exemplified the brand's willingness to cross-pollinate with innovators outside of the U.S, and help out communities with the same DIY essence Shawn embodied in the 80s. With the likes of Jordan Vickors, Ryan Willms and Dexter Navy all helping with the styling, photography and advertisement, respectively, it seems impossible to suggest that Stüssy won't maintain its stature in the world of fashion and streetwear. What other brand can nod to designs from Comme Des Garçons, and riddle their garments with reggae lyricism?