Stüssy is one of those companies that is synonymous with urban fashion, some would call it the godfather of street wear, it most certainly has withstood the test of time and even inspired the launch of other iconic brands like Supreme who’s James Jebbia famously worked with Shawn Stussy for years before forming what many consider to be the industry standard for this generation.
I recall first being introduced to the iconic brand in the mid 80’s when I started to skate, the tribal logo created by founder Shawn himself was instantly recognizable and appealing as where their ads which applied a great punk rock aesthetic to them with their collage like construction.
I remember flipping through the pages of Thrasher Magazine each month excited to see the latest one, cutting them out and sticking them on my bedroom wall for inspiration. I’m much older now and those torn pages obviously no longer grace my bedroom walls but I am just as attracted to the graphic work as I was when I was a kid and have recently noticed a nod to the past in some of their newer marketing which most certainly put a smile on my face and inspired this piece.
Stüssy has never hired out ad agencies or creative consultants. All ad’s are created in-house with a creative director leading the vision. Here is a breakdown of some of the important folks involved with the campaigns over the years .
Ron Leighton (1983-1986)
Ron met Shawn in the early 80’s when he and his wife, Michele, produced an ad for Newport Surf and Sport that featured some pieces from Stüssy. Shawn liked what he saw and asked Ron to do his thing on some ads for the emerging clothing brand, the two worked together for a period of three years amassing a large collection of photographs hallmarked by the globally recognized grainy black and white aesthetic Stüssy is known for.
Shawn Stüssy (1987-1989)
Shawn himself took over after Ron left in 86 and continued to combine his noteworthy graphic talents with his distinctive taste in humor. Shawn had an eye for ambiguous imagery and when he came across something he liked, he would shoot it, re-purpose it and add his own mark on the photographs often with a hip-hop inspired phrase in his iconic handwriting.
David Dobson (1989-1990)
Outside of California David spent portions of his life in Calcutta, India, Kenya, Egypt, and Sri Lanka, where he was exposed to various cultures that went on to influence his work. As a fan of Stüssy, David cleverly reached out to the brand for a box of t-shirts to take along on a missionary trip just to see what he could come up with. What the brand got in return was a series of photographs that displayed his unique ability to connect and communicate with the diverse cultures in a natural way that didn't look staged. Most impressive perhaps is that his work still looks just as fresh today as it did two decades ago.