Stone Island: The Secret Behind Thirty Years of Design
Stone Island’s brand ethos has been set in stone since the 1980s, but the label’s dedication to research means that their collection is always fresh and exciting. With a dedicated global following and a back catalogue of 40,000 unique garments, Stone Island is in a league of its own.
When CEO, Carlo Rivetti, was asked why Stone Island’s brand has remained so strong he said:
“Stone Island has always remained true to itself, without concessions. And so we have been able to rejuvenate our target market of consumers; we reach out both to our historical customers, those who have faithfully stayed with us for thirty years, but also to the younger crowd, to the new generations of today.”
While other brands have branched out to include different styles or expanded into unrelated markets, Stone Island has remained focused, with just the label’s continuing research into fabrics and dyes pushing the brand forward.
Stone Island Culture
Ice Jacket Wool Blend in Thermo-sensitive Fabric
If you look back at the last thirty years, the brand began with jackets made from thick truck tarpaulin and continued to create heat-sensitive fabrics and Kevlar designs. It would be hard to predict what comes next and that’s what makes the brand so exciting to follow.
The strength of the Stone Island, alongside the undeniable style of their clothing, has created a cult following – including celebrities such as Noel Gallagher, Peter Hook and Chris Lowe. The brand has also been associated with football fans – and often football hooliganism – but the label has been quick to dissociate itself from the latter.
Inside Stone Island
As CEO Carlo Rivetti gives fans a video tour around Stone Island HQ, he describes his dyeing facility as a ‘kitchen’. Jackets are ‘cooked’ in 90 – 140 degrees and ‘recipes’ are followed to create every shade of colour.
However, to most people, Stone Island’s dyeing facility looks more like a chemistry lab. With row upon row of bottles, there’s a splash of just about every colour imaginable, and with impressive machinery and weighty files of formulas, the ‘Colour Lab’ is evidently a place for experimentation.
And with so many colours packed into one room, Carlo Rivetti even claims it’s the closest thing to a renaissance painter’s workshop in the 21st century.
Texture and colour are the starting point for every jacket. From there, the designers experiment to create a design that works. Some of their dyeing techniques can cause up to 50% shrinkage, so getting the design right is a complicated process.
Each garment is made from a variety of different fabrics, all of which react to dyeing in a different way – either in how they absorb colour or shrink during the process. Every jacket is like a journey of scientific discovery – and with their archive of 20,000 garments on site, you can walk through the history of their experimentation.
Over Thirty Years of Design
In 1982, Stone Island was launched by Massimo Osti, with their Tela Stella range. The brand’s name came from the pages of Joseph Conrad’s novels – amidst thousands of words, ‘stone’ and ‘island’ were the most commonly occurring, and so the brand was born.
The first collection was the result of research into a thick truck tarpaulin, which was resin-treated to be red on one side and blue on the other.
1983 – 1986
Carlo Rivetti joined Stone Island in 1983, already an enthusiastic fan of the brand. By 1984, the collection had evolved to include jumpers, trousers, t-shirts and shirts.
It was also in 1984 that a second signature Stone Island fabric was introduced, Raso Gommato – a cotton satin of military origin, with polyurethane coating.
1987 – 1988
Through research into heat-sealed PVC, Stone Island developed Glazed Silk Light, which is shiny trilobite nylon coated in PVC. The effect was a thick and glazed look.
1989 – 1991
In 1989, Stone Island launched the ground-breaking Ice Jacket. With the development of a heat-sensitive fabric, Stone Island created a jacket which changed colour with the temperature.
From yellow to blue and from green to white, the Ice Jacket was a truly futuristic concept. Stone Island developed the design further to create patterned jackets which lost their pattern in the cold, becoming icy white with freezing temperatures.
Next, Stone Island developed a highly reflective Japanese fabric, which achieved its luminescent glow through a coating of thousands of micro glass spheres. Inspired by work safety jackets, this collection was extremely eye-catching and was even able to reflect light from very weak sources.
1993 – 1996
This was a time of great change for Stone Island – Massimo Osti left the label and in his place, Englishman, Paul Harvey, joined the team and pushed the research forward.
With an injection of new ideas, the next few years saw a huge number of innovative fabrics entering the Colour Lab. The first was Formula Steel, a nylon canvas bonded to a polyurethane film.
Extensive research also created Oltre, a fine nylon fabric with an ultra-shiny coating.
1997 – 1998
The research continued at a relentless pace, and in 1997, Stone Island designers applied a Reverse Colour Process technique on the Raso Gommato fabric. First printed in black, the fabric then faded using a corrosion technique to be later over-dyed.
Nylana, a thick nylon canvas used to line tanks, also became part of the collection during these years.
1999 – 2001
At the turn of the millennium, the Stone Island design team were incredibly busy. Launching a huge number of new fabrics and designs in just two years, including the Pure Metal Shell Silver and Pure Metal Shell Bronze (as shown above). These parkas were created with either 100% stainless steel or 100% bronze metallic mesh, bonded to fabric.
Stone Island’s designers next moved onto a material which is five times stronger than the same weight in steel: Kevlar. As pictured above, Stone Island found a way to dye this seemingly impossible material through adding a nylon mesh and a polyurethane coating.
Initially designed to be used on aeroplane circuit boards, Stone Island began to use silver spray on their collection of fine polyester jackets, adding a vacuum seal of 100% stainless seal.
The brand also launched their Ventile range, using a military textile which was 100% cotton and developed for British fighter pilot’s overalls in the Second World War.
In 2002, the range continued to expand, with jackets engineered to look flat with a series of folds and seams adding detail.
Another success story from this year was the Light Jacket. Continued research perfected the design – a white jacket with fibre optic mesh inserts that light up with blue light.
The design team also experimented with various layers of meshes, which revealed the internal construction of the jacket.
2003 – 2005
Stone Island perfected their Compact Procedure to create extraordinarily dense materials, which are boiled at 130 degrees and then shrink by up to 50%.
Mussoal Gommata was also launched, developed by laminating ultra-light cotton muslin to a matte polyurethane film.
2006 – 2007
The David TC Fabric was introduced, consisting of polyester, polyamide and Japanese microfiber, which was then dyed under pressure at 130 degrees.
Developing their portfolio of reflective jackets, Stone Island designed the Antiquated Reflective.
Paul Harvey left Stone Island in 2008 and Carlo Rivetti stepped into his shoes as Artistic Director. And in the same year, the brand’s association with Aitor Throup was formed, creating the Stone Island Shadow Collection.
2009 – 2011
Developing on their previous heat-reactive Ice Jacket, Stone Island created a camouflage jacket which loses its pattern in the cold.
The team also developed a new textile: Waxed Ice, which was cotton moleskin containing thermo-sensitive quartz and graphite.
2012 – 2013
For the S/S season in 2012, Stone Island launched the Prismatic Muslin, a light-weight cotton muslin, which was treated with coloured resins before the material was laminated to produce a prism-effect polyurethane film. The material can then be double-dyed to create a wide range of vibrant colours.
Next, Stone Island created the Hydrophobic Treatment, a process which creates a garment that’s highly water-repellent and environmentally friendly.
2012 marked the 30th anniversary of the brand and celebrated with STONEISLAND30, a major exhibition at Stazione Leopolda in Florence. Alongside the exhibition, three symbolic garments were created to reflect the history of Stone Island, including a re-edition of Tela Stella.
Thirty years’ of research and 40,000 garments later, their current A/W collection reflects this rich history of design. Browse the Stone Island A/W range and to see what the brand has to offer this year.
Garment Dyed Crinkle Reps NY
What’s next for the Brand?
With a constant drive towards creating new colours and materials, Stone Island is a brand always able to surprise. When asked what the future holds, Carlo Rivetti said:
“We get inspired by people, architecture and design. At present we’re currently studying some materials used in the car industry. During the Olympics, the outfits the athletes wear are very technical, which is also inspirational. Everything inspires us.”
So, we can expect plenty more ground-breaking designs from Stone Island.