Shawn Stussy: The streetwear founder ?

As it is often said that success can't always be explained, but then how to present Shawn's success and his Stussy brand which is undoubtedly the most emblematic streetwear brand. It must be said that the Californian label has literally changed the face of ready-to-wear around the world. Bobby Hundreds himself has declared it to be "the greatest streetwear brand of all time."

Let us not be afraid of words and give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, without Shawn Stussy streetwear as we know it today would probably not exist. There are very few Streetwear brands that have enjoyed the same longevity and trajectory as Stussy. Since its inception, the Los Angeles-based label has never ceased to surprise us by continually pushing its creative boundaries. This particularity today allows it to blend into the underground cultures of the world and engage a large community around its values articulated around the desire for freedom.

The fame of the American label is therefore well established. On the other hand, what do you really know about its founder? The man who first signed his name on a surfboard in 1980 and who at the same time gave life to one of the most unique logos that fashion has ever known maintains a certain mystery about his person. Although he is no longer at the head of his empire, Shawn Stussy has left an indelible mark on the history of the brand and of streetwear in general.

Who is Shawn Stussy ?

Born in 1954, Shawn Stussy has always been immersed in the surfing culture of the western United States. His passion for surfing has always been his passion and he has made it his way of life by becoming a shaper. Thus, he specialized in board making and quickly distinguished himself as an expert. It must be said that nothing predestined him to be at the head of one of the most recognized textile brands in the world. In an interview with the media outlet Empire Ave, he says that the idea of producing Stussy t-shirts was not in his plans:

"This has happened at trade shows. I had to scribble what is now the Stussy logo on the boards I was making. I didn't know how this kind of convention went, I'd never been to trade shows before. So I decided to print black Hanes t-shirts on which I silk-screened the Stussy logo, like the Alva brand used to do, you know? I participated for three days and sold about 24 plates. But everybody came up to me and said:

"Yeah, I'll take a board or two, but how much do these shirts cost?" And I thought, "I don't know, they're not for sale." "But no, I want to buy 24 of them." So I thought, "Okay, they're eight dollars."

There was no price list or anything. By the end of the three days, I had sold a thousand shirts, and I thought, "Oh, my God, are you kidding me?"

His first experience as a board salesman at a trade show was not a great success. As mentioned earlier, Shawn was recognized as a very good shaper and it was this characteristic that allowed Stussy to exist in his first decade. It was not until much later, in 1984 with the arrival of a new business partner in the person of Frank Sinatra Junior (a former chartered accountant) that Stussy laid the foundations for its worldwide success.

The golden age of the Californian brand in the 90s

This era will forever mark the history of the label, with the legendary Stussy "double S" logo appearing as a tribute to the Chanel logo. Overtaken on several pieces, it was very quickly adopted by the hip-hop movement and the artists who would actively contribute to the brand's growth in the 90s. Paradoxically, this success triggered a phase of questioning for Shawn Stussy, who decided to leave the company in 1996 for family reasons on the one hand, but also because he could not stand the rigour imposed by the management of such a large company. In an interview with Acclaim Mag, he confessed that :

"It became something I had never sought. With that came a lot of responsibility, twenty-hour work days and all the money in the world. But if you don't have time to go out and spend it, what's the point?"

Behind this decision there was also a deeper problem, which was the differences in vision between the partners. Shawn Stussy has always admired brands like A.P.C. and Comme des Garçons. In his view, Stussy needed to have the same vision to keep the craze alive, while some partners didn't want the brand to stray from its roots.

The year 2008 marks Shawn Stussy's return to the fashion world with the creation of S/Double. The identity of this brand is different from the previous one. This label offers more accomplished pieces and obviously keeps the surf spirit dear to the designer. Obviously, S/Double and Stussy are not comparable. S/Double is in the lineage of a designer's brand and offers mainly capsule collections. Like the character, S/Double remains a rather discreet brand. But this trend could well be reversed with the DIOR Shawn Stussy collaboration.

So it would seem that the career of the American creator is taking on a new lease of life. To be continued...

About Stussy, also read :

30 years of reign, the most outstanding Stüssy collaborations
Stussy, its impact on the street and streetwear
Stussy, more than a brand
How does Stussy fit ?