502 Bad Gateway editor, Seth Footring pens an ode to Massimo Osti alongside an exclusive editorial shot in collaboration with 82archive.
Maybe you work in the creative industries or maybe you’re just a product nerd, but either way I’m sure you’ll understand this feeling. The feeling when you see a particularly good product, marketing campaign, or even a new magazine that’s pushing the envelope on design and execution and delivering something truly innovative that we didn’t realise we’d been missing all along. You look at it and think ‘for fuck saaaake’ as you marvel at the execution and concept and lowkey wishing you’d had the idea first. You pick apart the thought process of the designer, trying to unravel the inner workings of their mind to capture an idea of what genius looks like laid out in front of you like a map.
Stone Island and CP Company are two of the best examples of brands consistently delivering this type of product. The level of thought and the dedication to concept for each and every product is layered and detailed, designed with form and function at the forefront of each thought. It’s never a throwaway choice of this or that fabric. The zips, the pockets, and other trims and notions all belong absolutely where they’ve been placed. Nothing is by accident. The closer you look, the more interesting each garment becomes. Then you come to the hallowed Stoney badge, an insignia which is undoubtedly one of strongest examples of IYKYK branding in clothing history. Not as ubiquitous as the Nike swoosh or the adidas Trefoil, but something more sophisticated and culturally defining. Immediately identifiable, internationally coveted, but more understated than any of the audacious monogram logos which have formed the bedrock of the new luxury era.
All this tactical prowess and cultural clout is down to one man: Massimo Osti. Having had the opportunity to visit the Massimo Osti archive in Bologna, I can attest that the niche details and weird and wonderful textile developments are as fascinating as the individual grails – items that are truly unreal to see IRL. Massimo Osti is without question one of the most important design voices of our times. This is my ode to him.
I think when fanboy-ing someone, it’s always best to start with a quote from someone in the know. While this one from tactical design heavyweight, Errolson Hugh has done the rounds, I think it sums up Osti’s pioneering design influence perfectly:
“These days it’s hard for me to not see the influence. I’m always annoying people with 'that thing that you thought was new was actually invented 30 years ago by this guy in Bologna...' if you’ve taken the red pill, the influence is inescapable."
- Errolson Hugh, 2016
Perhaps the best bit about Osti’s icon status is his humble origins. A tale not too far from the fledgling journeys of a lot of aspiring designers, sitting in their bedrooms at this very moment, playing on illustrator and finding their voice via vector files. Indeed, the first brand Osti launched was essentially printing graphics on blanks, but it’s where he went next that established him as one of the most pioneering and under-celebrated designers of our lifetime. It’s the textile innovation and the inimitable compass badge that sets Stone Island apart, but the graphic element is always there in the background: a calling card of Osti’s early DIY days as a bedroom designer with a dream, a talent, and a screenprinting plug.
A pivotal voice in the collision of technical sportswear with the leisurewear market, classic pursuit-garb has an unmissable influence on the cut and fabrication of the Stone Island and CP company archives. Sailing is a huge inspiration. Military details are littered throughout, with tactical details which belie a life lived in survival mode delivering aesthetic and functionality on another level. The Stone Island badge itself is a reference to military patching and badges, something which has carried through the culture to today: laying the foundation for the GORP movement which sees fans go nuts for Arc’teryx LEAF. It’s perhaps Osti’s intentional rejection of streetwear and casual clobber in favour of exploring and celebrating more niche and functional design elements in his portfolio that has contributed to his enduring popularity across global subcultures.
“I’m certainly not inspired by the streets, because if I look at the streets I see something that already exists. I think that, in my entire life, I’ve probably entered a store no more than twice. I’m not a consumer. Instead, I allow myself to be influenced by the second-hand market”
- Massimo Osti, 1987
Of course, no Ode to Osti would be complete without homage to the iconic Stone Island compass. The badge of course comes in a range of varieties, from the o.g. green edge pieces to the regular use and then into the more recent Ghost and Shadow Project editions which tap even further into the IYKYK mentality of the OG Stoney lad. Then there’s the vertical badge that’s used on some of the Stone Island Marina pieces. The rarity, the subtle change of pace and sailing influence that makes the stripes feel slightly softer than the hard military influence of the main line, converging to set brand-stans alight. The fact ‘get the badge in,’ is yet to make it into a bar in a drill or grime track is unfathomable but watch this space…
But beyond the products themselves, a brand cannot become so deeply entrenched in subculture and become a staple of style the world over without the people who wear it. People don’t wear Stone Island because Drake did, Drake wears Stone Island because the people did. Exhibit A: you can’t talk about Stone Island in the UK without talking about the terrace and casual cultures which were responsible for catapulting the brand into a cornerstone of British menswear. It’s been an enduring part of sports and street culture for years, and has managed to transcend and survive the tectonic plates of subculture shifting beneath it, moving from a cornerstone of male (and mostly hetero) culture to become a go-to flex for the most diverse array of customers I can think of. It’s the unmissable calling card in any train carriage of British football fans, but sits just as comfortably on a stylists’ rail at a music video shoot for the latest Driller. While it used to be a Gallagher-esque britpop staple, Stone Island has stayed the course to feel as relevant in an episode of Fire in the Booth or a Vince Staples video.
In short: it defies singular definition and stands apart as a true beacon of true excellence that everyone wants to fuck with.
"I like to play with forms which don't belong to the history of the 20-year olds of today, using materials which were unknown to the 20-year olds of yesteryear."
- Massimo Osti, 1988
Sharing my sense of awe for Massimo and his speaks-for-itself back catalogue of absolute heat, I spoke to the guys at 82archive who brought together a curation of some of their all-time favourite grails to shoot for this story.
What’s the draw to Massimo Osti and Stone Island in particular?
Osti represents an ethos of finding truly forward-thinking approaches that have paved the way for many current styles and trends today. As I delved deeper into his time at Stone Island and CP Company, I gained insight into older archival pieces – seeing where each product came from and how one design led to another. Actually owning a selection of these rare pieces, collecting them, and building a brand/shop to sell them on to like-minded collectors and enthusiasts has become a passion. Osti was and will always be a real inspiration and innovator in fashion, design and manufacturing.
What got you into the brand?
I first was drawn to the brand as a kid; my Dad and Uncles would rock it in the late 80s and 90s. Later in school there was that scene of football fanatics who loved it – a status symbol, even though half of us could barely afford a piece. It meant something to wear Stone Island. Later I dipped in and out of different groups, but I always loved my oversized vintage garms. Massive grandad knits that then became my first green edge S.I pieces. I loved the construction and the attention to detail, and that no one else had that same one.
The newer pieces compared to the older pieces are like two different worlds which is something I love about the brand: its ability to transcend into many different subcultures throughout the decades. From 80s / 90s casuals and football hooligans to high-end fashion. From council estates to luxury apartments. More recently, immersing further into the hiphop scene and blowing up in the states. The diversity fascinates me.
How do you like to see it worn?
Really how Massimo Osti intended, exactly that… I like to see it worn, used and loved. Personally, I like layering up, and wearing oversized pieces styled differently. As the vintage Stone Island sizing runs very big, this has always worked well for me, although I often hear from others who prefer more fitted smaller sizes which I can source for them without issue.
As we started with a quote, it seems only fitting we end with one, too. This time from the person who arguably knows Massimo best: his son Lorenzo who has picked up the gauntlet laid down by his pops to push the Osti name forward for a new generation of product nerds and collectors alike.
“The most vivid memory I have of my father is of him working on the Ice Jacket. It was back in 1988 and in that period the idea of a fabric changing colours was comparable to something from science fiction. And for me, a mere child, it was pure magic. But he seemed to be as excited about it as I was: he took it to the beach and wore it in the sea to check how it reacted with water, temperature... He obviously thought it was great fun, and so did I.”
- Lorenzo Osti, 2012
- 8 minute read