Author(s): Stephen Sprouse
This books is drawn from a large archive of design work (comprised of 1500 individual items that include some 600 drawings, color Xeroxes, swatch references and inspirational material) by Stephen Sprouse that spans the years of 1974 to the late 1980's. Sprouse's meteoric rise to become America's daring darling of the Fashion World is a story still being processed. The works in the book focus on a period reflective of Sprouse's participation with and connection to the glamourous, high profile Uptown studios of Bill Blass and Halston and his profound embrace of the Downtown vibe of the East Village and the Bowery. It is here where he would ultimately create his most iconic design work surrounded by a hotbed of furious creativity, where art/fashion/music thrived as interdisciplinary talents. Stephen Sprouse would embody this revolutionary fusion like no other.The works on paper include sketches and designs executed with Sprouse's facile and powerful use of ink markers. With this medium Sprouse's line conjures the delicate and fluid to the dense and bold with the urgency of an explanation point! Several of the works represent Sprouse's use of the Xerox machine which allowed him quick design options including application of vivid gouache color. Paper is only varied by the sketchbook or notepad in use or, as in some of the earliest works, lined paper from classic hole punched or spiral bound notebooks are employed. Rock and punk music were a constant theme for Sprouse engaging his aesthetic sensibilities. An early ink drawing from the mid 70s depicts a raven-haired model wearing a dress that features a long skirt with a slit beside which Sprouse hand writes the words in large caps "GO JACKIE GO-GO-GO" - invoking the former First Lady to dance with abandon! There are several nods to Jackie Onassis in Sprouse's drawings. Another drawing shows a coiffed, chic, brunette in a bright, hand-colored red jacket and skirt ensemble. An observance from another Halston assistant of the day stated that Stephen really saw "the edge" in Jackie and added she would come to the Atelier and Stephen would hem her pants. The image of the two together in this gesture brings to mind compositions of reverence not dissimilar to religious or royal court paintings of the Renaissance - such was the devotion to his muse. In the late 70's, his most important muse was Debbie Harry of the group Blondie. For Debbie, his close friend and roommate as well, he created perhaps his most iconic designs. His true debut to the public at large commenced the minute Debbie stepped onto the stage to sing "Heart of Glass" in a 1978 televised/video appearance where she wore an off the shoulder short dress. Debbie's Sprouse original was designed with a fabric Stephen created from tv and video scanlines that he photographed, Xeroxed and silkscreened. Life imitating art. The birth of Punk, an arguably American invention, headquartered itself in the East Village and Bowery streets and Sprouse was in his element here. Certainly, the title and lyrics of a classic New York Dolls song inspired the subtitle of this exhibit. One drawing on view depicts a female model in rock stance whipping a microphone in hand and bears Sprouse's handwritten reference to a Patti Smith lyric "Starts Pumpinnn" -" My Heart (Pumpin)" - from her 1976 Radio Ethiopia album. From these influential dynamics, Sprouse would launch collections coveted by women and men and celebrated as much Uptown as Downtown for their brilliant attitude. We see the trajectory of the designer's career as it developed in these works displayed. At its height, Stephen's work would jump off the pages of every conceivable Fashion magazine. His designs would embed themselves into the creative banks of the Fashion Industry and continue to influence that community to this day.Recognized at age 14 as a "boy genius" in an article by Eugenia Sheppard written in 1966 for The International Herald Tribune, the notoriously shy talent found himself placed in the constellations of fame and notoriety. This book is a look at that engine of geniusness. It was observed by peers and friends that music blasted from Sprouse's studio while he worked at the speed of light - breaking a sound barrier of sorts - but on paper. Sprouse's line is pure energy. The black marker is his fuel. Such assuredness of vision is discovered in the wake of his extraordinary journey. It was said that when Warhol was laid to rest, he was buried in a suit by Stephen Sprouse. It was also reported that in Sprouse's too early passing, that one of his "beloved" markers was placed in his hand. One could imagine the heavenly collaborations between the two superstars. In any case, Sprouse's life and his contributions are beyond legend.
He was 14 years old when he began sketching for designer Bill Blass, andin the 1980s Sprouse worked with Andy Warhol on a collection inspiredby Warhol's "Camouflage" series of paintings. Sprouse reemerged inthe 1990s, but it was his 2001-02 graffiti-motif clothing (for Target)and handbags (for Louis Vuitton) that fueled his reputation as a designpioneer. Sprouse also clothed a former neighbor--Debbie Harry ofBlondie. He worked extensively with the band Duran Duran at the endof the 1980s