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Moment 64: Sprouse Party

Stephen Sprouse became downtown Manhattan’s "It" boy, merging New York punk and high fashion and kick-starting trends that defined much of the Eighties.

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Stephen Sprouse’s spring 1985 collection

Stephen Sprouse’s spring 1985 collection.

Photo By WWD Archive

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

In 1983, Stephen Sprouse blazed onto the scene with an explosion of Day-Glo colors. The guy from Dayton, Ohio, soon became downtown's "It" boy, coolly merging New York punk and high fashion and kick-starting trends that would come to define much of the Eighties—those punchy fluorescents, graffiti markings and Velcro fastenings. On May 1, 1984, he rocked the New York fashion scene with a runway extravaganza at the Ritz that pulled in 2,200 people; 500 had to be turned away. The success was short-lived. Sprouse's critical accolades never quite translated on the retail side and, on July 12, 1985, he closed his business, just months after a CFDA win. "It happened so fast," he told WWD at the time. "I was in my own little vacuum." Two years later, he staged a comeback; sadly, it would be the first of many. But Sprouse proved prolific in other ways. He created album covers, dressed Axl Rose and served as creative consultant to Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2000, he collaborated with Marc Jacobs on the Louis Vuitton graffiti bags that became instantly iconic; a year later, he scrawled on the facade of the 7th on Sixth Bryant Park tents, and a year after that, partnered with Target for the cross-category "Americaland" collection. The designer died of cancer in 2004, leaving a powerful if star-crossed legacy. To wit: in 2009, Marc Jacobs paid tribute with a flamboyant Sprouse-inspired collection for Louis Vuitton. "It's not even a question of ‘does this look right, now?'" said Jacobs. "It's always good."