Late fashion designer Stephen Sprouse’s friends and collaborators read like a who’s who of the 1980s superstar. He designed designs for Debbie Harry, Axl Rose and Billy Idol, and worked with Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Stefano Castronovo and Jean-Michel Basquiat on ensembles with artistic influences that mixed haute couture with iconography directly from the graffiti streets of downtown New York. Sprouse is currently being celebrated in his home state of Indiana with the “Stephen Sprouse: Rock, Art, Fashion” exhibition, the largest survey of his work to date, showcasing rarely seen looks and iconic costumes from over 10,000 pieces of Sprouse archives. mother and brother donated to the museum in 2018.
A New York magazine article published shortly after Sprouse’s death in March 2004, he wrote that his models, dressed in neon lights and graffiti-adorned ensembles, “looked like they’d been partying all night and were using the runway as a shortcut to go back home”. Sprouse brought the spirit of the punk scene into the realm of fashion, erasing the boundaries between artistic genres, harnessing the 80s counterculture and translating it for high fashion. Sprouse designed clothes for people of all genders and was one of the first designers to work with a transgender model, frequently collaborating with Teri Toye. The exhibit features Warhol’s portrait of Sprouse staring down every square inch of the glamorous rockstar, staring straight ahead, eyes heavily outlined in black, crowned by a jagged mop of black hair.
Despite financial problems in the mid-1980s, Sprouse returned to prominence in the early 2000s, when Louis Vuitton approached him to collaborate with Marc Jacobs on a graffiti logo bag – a collection that is ripe for a throwback to 2022s-inspired style.
“Stephen Sprouse: rock, art, fashionis on view until April 2, 2023, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Newfields.
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