No one could make a fashion statement like Stephen Sprouse, whose graffiti prints in Day-Glo spandex and Velcro were the uniform of the 1980s club scene, worn by rockers like Debbie Harry and Axl Rose. Combining mod and punk influences with contemporary street style, Sprouse's clothes were simultaneously current and nostalgic, body-conscious and comfortable.
Unisex T-Shirt and Drawstring Pants
Stephen Sprouse, New York
Gift of Paul Magee
At 18, Sprouse had dropped out of the Rhode Island School of Design and gone to work for Halston. His 1983 debut collection was scribbled with graffiti in his own distinctive handwriting. He began showing graffiti prints at the same time spray paint was becoming accepted as an art form. Andy Warhol bought his clothes and later became his mentor, allowing Sprouse to use his camouflage screen prints in his work. Sprouse also collaborated with graffiti artist Keith Haring.
Though they may have been inspired by the street, custom fabrics and hand finishing made Sprouse's clothes expensive, and he struggled to stay in business. In 2001, Marc Jacobs invited Sprouse to produce a collection of graffiti-adorned Louis Vuitton totes, which sold out before it hit the shelves. At the next New York Fashion Week, the tents in Bryant Park were covered in Sprouse graffiti designed to be viewed through 3-D glasses. The following year, Sprouse became one of the first fashion designers to collaborate with Target. But his groundbreaking career was cut short in 2004, when he died of lung cancer at the age of 50.