Stüssy: The independent streetwear label's popularity and success
Shawn Stüssy began creating surfboards in California, 1980, that combined gestural shapes in a playful graphic style. He referenced and drew inspiration from reggae, punk and new wave music. Each board marked with his now-iconic signature with a broad-tipped black marker. The graffiti-style on the signature Stüssy brand logo was a homage to his creative uncle, the abstract painter Jan Frederick Stüssy.
Stüssy's apparel business began in 1984 when Shawn Stüssy went into partnership with accountant Frank Sinatra Jr. (no relation to the singer). The label's first product was white painter's caps. White painter caps were a popular youth trend but Stüssy reinterpreted them with his unique colour palette and graphics. Two of it's most successful designs were his reinterpretations on the high-end Chanel branding. One of these Stüssy’s designs, still in use today, are a pair of linked S’s It's a play on the famous interlocking C’s of the Chanel logo. Another Channel referenced graphic is the “Stüssy No. 4,” a riff on Chanel’s signature No. 5 perfume.
From its humble surf roots, Stussy had grown rapidly and by 1990, it had generated $17 million in annual turnover.
Shawn Stüssy is a designer known for his love for traveling and working with fellow creatives with similar tastes in culture and music. The “International Stüssy Tribe” was coined for his circle of like-minded DJs, club kids, and talented creatives such as Hiroshi Fujiwara, Michael Kopelman, and Luca Benini.
In the early 90s, the business's popularity and revue were suffering under the number of mainstream brands adopting a similar urban style to Stüssy, such as Mossimo, which had a hand-drawn brand logo similar to the Stüssy logo. Shawn Stüssy left the company in its worst-performing year in 1996.
Regaining its success
After Shawn Stüssy left Frank Sinatra Jr. took the reins of the company. He employed a new creative team which included: head designer Nick Bower, a Central Saint Martins graduate whose first job was at Valentino; and creative director Paul Mittleman. The company regained its success and name in streetwear by drawing from Stüssy's rich visual history and archives.
Over the last decade, Stüssy has kept the brand relevant and exciting by working with fashion designers and brands such as Dior; stocking in prestigious retailers such as Dover St Market; and collaborations with Rip City Skates, and London design studio La Boca.