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THE INTERNATIONAL STÜSSY TRIBE, CREATING INFLUENCE

Born in a surf environment, Stüssy preferred to choose their own references, far away from what was expected from a board-maker brand. In a moment in which Californian surf started to use leather jackets, Stüssy’s influences were broadening towards rock, graffiti, punk, hip hop, skate or almost any emerging culture in which youth culture was involved.

Innovative in its designs and in the way of understanding urban cultures, Stüssy is normally quoted as the creator of the urban fashion concept and the style that we have now; playing with cultural icons, graphic designs, t-shirts and caps as statement pieces or a curated selection of points of sale. But we don’t talk very often about one of their most innovative and influential actions, the creation of the International Stüssy Tribe.

In the beginning, it was only meant to be a group of friends of the Stüssy brand that were used as reference feeders, names that were usually unknown to the greater public but idolised by a minority. Characters from a scene in which most cases fashion was understood as an organic relationship with their activities and that ended up forming a true tribe, that would meet together to celebrate the brand or to star in advertising campaigns. One of their identity markers, the Stüssy jackets that were personalised for each one of the members.

Instead of searching for big names that would raise awareness of the brand, Stüssy had names that would show its true influence years later. They were: Hiroshi Fujiwara, by then a DJ and a column-writer, considered now as the godfather of streetwear; Jules Gayton, skater and DJ; Alex Turnbull, DJ and former member of 23 Skidoo, an unclassifiable band that would mix funk and post-punk; ‘Barnzley’ Armitage, ex i-D, founder of Acupuncture and guilty of making everyone in London wear fake Chanel and Hermès t-shirts; James Lebon, fashion photographer, video director and graphic artist (legend has it that he’s buried in a coffin full of Stüssy stickers); Goldie, the jungle pioneer; Mick Jones from The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite; Luca Benini, founder of Slam Jam, now at Alyx and Dante Ross, producer and A&R, who worked for Tommy Boy Records and Def Jam for De La Soul, Queen Latifah or Digital Underground.

Stüssy thought of the present, but its influence was projected into the future. Whilst they created a style later turned into the streetwear canon, the members of the International Stüssy Tribe developed a network of relationships that thirty years later continues to dominate fashion.