In 2020, Stussy became four decades old, which is quite an achievement. The brand has remained successful despite the rise of many fashion brands in the industry. One top feature of this brand is the documentation of the brand’s roots. The brand’s legacy is monumental, and one of the popular features of this brand is its hand-drawn logo. Since its inception, this logo has been its original logo and puts the brand in a league of fashion brands reserved for influential and recognizable brands. Stussy laid the foundation for an industry that wasn’t in existence decades ago, and that’s why it will continue to be held in high esteem. This article looks into Stussy history and how the brand focuses on branding.
A Look into Stussy History
Stussy’s founder is Shawn Stussy, who began creating hand-made surfboards in his garage in the early 80s. He was always blending unique shapes with stellar graphics. His designs encompassed post-punk, roots reggae, and even the new wave. Due to this, his skills were in high demand, and several professional surfers were loyal. Stussy always signed off his iconic surfboards with a hand-drawn logo, his uncle’s signature, an abstract artist.
Stussy was famous for taking disparate reference points and then bringing them under a single lens. He first made an entry into the clothing industry by providing traditional surfwear to his consumers. His designs were in loud contrast to the loud and brash surfwear available. In the late 8s, many of his customers searched for gear to transition from the beach or street during the daytime to the club or bar at nighttime. Luckily, Stussy was available to cater to this change in consciousness, and that’s how the Stussy brand was born.
Stussy History: Navigating the Brand’s Growth
Many firsts can be accredited to this brand today. For example, this brand is one of the first to rework pop-culture graphics and reference high-fashion houses. The brand is also known to continually straddle the line between high and lows and offer customers an all-inclusive fashion element. In addition, the brand was one of the first to put logos on baseball caps, and this business segment made up 20% of the brand’s business in the late 80s.
The late 80s look of Carhartt jackets, baggy jeans, and boots are one of the influences of Stussy. This trend also gave birth to the fashion segment known as streetwear today. In the early years of Stussy history, Shawn would travel worldwide to network with creative people in the industry. This network became known as the International Stussy Tribe and included high-profile individuals like James Lebon and Hiroshi Fujiwara. What set Stussy on a new trajectory in New York City was when James Jebbia opened a shop on Spring Street. The brand stepped away from the baggy look of the time while still embracing the street attitude.
Jebbia stocked a selection of younger, boundary-pushing labels and also wanted to stock Stussy, although Shawn refused. So it wasn’t until Shawn came to the store to see if he agreed that they opened the first Stussy store in 1991. Afterward, Jebbia started his own fashion brand Supreme a few blocks away.
The International Stussy Tribe
The International Stussy Tribe is one of the reasons why this brand quickly gained a spot on the international stage. Shawn was famous for sending clothes to different creatives and tastemakers worldwide. The brand produced varsity jackets for years before Shawn decided to make a special Internation Stussy Tribe Version. He customized each of these unique jackets with the individual’s names. Although today, people would view it as marketing, it was all organic. There was a real connection between members of the International Stussy Tribe. It consisted of people who shared style cues and interests. They were proud to wear the jacket, and somehow, the Tribe members became unofficial spokesmen for the brand.
Several of the members of the Tribe are responsible for some of the top brands in the streetwear and street culture brand. Although Shawn’s actions were organic, it was also genius in its growth. Several people who cared about what they wore discovered the brand and felt they had found something unique. The brand’s merchandise wasn’t available everywhere. Therefore, it said a lot about who the band was, and people who wore the brand’s merchandise showed that they cared about what they wore. The brand wasn’t advertising. Instead, people were discovering them.
As the years rolled on, several brands began to spring up focused on what was hot. However, Stussy refused to allow the fashion industry to dictate his products. Soon, many people confused Stussy with another brand, Mossimo, which had a similar logo to Stussy. However, this brand contrasted Stussy as it sold its product to any store that wanted it. Disheartened by the external pressures and dilution of the American market, Shawn left the brand in 1995.
The Entrance of Frank Sinatra Jr
Frank Sinatra Jr came into the picture in 1985. He was an accountant who went into partnership with Shawn on the brand. He convinced Shawn to launch an apparel line when the only clothing options from the brand were surfboard-focused. As the brand’s clothing options became increasingly popular, it became difficult not to branch into apparel fully. Frank Sinatra Jr took over during the years of struggle in the Stussy brand and brought in a new creative team to bolster the fashion brand.
He persevered, and with the help of other members of the brand and people in the New York scene, he could keep the brand legitimate. One of the members of the new creative team Frank Sinatra brought into the picture is Nick Bowers. Bowers had years of experience in the fashion world as he had spent time working at Valentino. He also brought a new creative director into the team, Paul Mittleman. Hiroshi Fujiwara, a member of the Tribe, is one of the reasons why Stussy was able to gain entry into the Japanese market.
Additionally, the rise of sneaker culture and the brand’s collaborations with other brands helps to provide the brand with new customers and outlets. One of the top collaborations in Stussy history is the collaboration with Nike in 2000 and 2002. The new team also had access to Stussy history as it was well documented. The history of the brand was available, and therefore Shawn’s work continued to serve as inspiration for the brand even in his absence. With this, the brand could make it through the years and remain profitable throughout the period.
Stussy History and Going Global
While talking about Stussy’s history, we mentioned how the brand developed the International Stussy Brand by taking the brand’s vision around the world. As Shawn went from country to country, he created a large following globally. When Frank Sinatra Jr. took over, he noticed the growth of this international following. Compared to the American sales of the brand, the global figures were more impressive than the minuscule sales in the American market.
Therefore, Stussy’s focus shifted to the international market, explaining its entry into the Japanese streetwear market. The streetwear scene flourished because of names like Hiroshima Fujiwara and Shinsuke Takizawa. The Japanese streetwear market loved Stussy for its uniqueness and authenticity. This market helps to bolster the brand, and in Stussy history, we also see it make an entry into the European market. One main distribution point of the brand in Europe was through the Slam Jam Socialism.
The brand’s business and revenue come majorly from the international market, with their US sales making up only 40% of revenue. Presently, the American market still does less for the brand than the International market. In 2014, the band recorded a whopping $50 million in sales. However, Frank Sinatra Jr. calls it a reluctant achievement because the brand focuses on staying small and niche-relevant.
Stussy History and Sticking to Roots
How the brand manages to stay relevant and successful will always matter. People are always curious about how fashion brands achieve success and longevity in the fashion industry. Stussy is a brand that many people are fascinated with. This question is essential when you consider Stussy history and its years of struggles. Shawn’s early days are one of the reasons the brand remains successful to date. Also, the main export of this brand from its history is the unique signature of the brand’s logo. There are also several iconic moments in Stussy’s history where the brand flipped other brands’ logos.
In the early days of Stussy history, the brand reinterpreted the Chanel Logo. The brand also poked at one of the longstanding fashion brands in fashion history, Louis Vuitton. It created a Stu-ey Vuitton homage that led the top brand to send Stussy a cease and desist letter. This rich background is one of the reasons why the Stussy brand strives to stay small today. The smaller the brand’s scale, the easier it is to remain close to its past. The brand’s size also shares a connection with its authenticity.
Staying True to its Vision
From the beginning years of Stussy history to the modern days, the brand leaders strive to keep the company’s scale in control. Frank Sinatra Jr shares that one of the team’s fears is that the brand will grow too fast to be controlled. The team wants to maintain Stussy’s connection with the people it sells to. The brand sells to people who fell in love with the brand and a collection of new informed consumers who need an option to turn to when more prominent brands lose their appeal. The Stussy brand also benefits from the number of young consumers obsessed with fashion.
Stussy stays true to its vision by answering the call of people who want an alternative to the 70s flair. This need continues to exist even in the younger generation’s market. Luckily, Stussy is well aware of these needs and strives to meet the needs of people in this category.
Most people consider Stussy the greatest streetwear brand despite its small size. The brand inspired many streetwear fashion brands today. Many of the people who made up the Stussy International Tribe have created companies of their own today, with Eddie Crus creating Undefeated and James Jebbia creating Supreme. The brand has a rich history which is instrumental in making it relevant today.
One of the reasons this brand is so successful is its designs and the people supporting it. Frank Sinatra Jr and Shawn Stussy’s decision to continue growing the brand organically while focusing on the brand is why the brand continues to stay relevant until today. As the Stussy brand sticks to its roots and stays true to its vision, it will continue to be relevant in the foreseeable future.