The Stephen Sprouse Book

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-01-13
  • Publisher: Rizzoli
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Inventive, enigmatic, and supremely creative, Stephen Sprouse made art and clothing that captured the mood of the eighties. One of the first American designers to mix graffiti and a punk aesthetic with fashion, Sprouse manipulated conventional notions of style, and his unique sensibility has inspired designers from John Galliano to Raf Simmons to Marc Jacobs. Sprouse's career started in the late seventies, when, after working for Halston, he migrated to a warehouse on the Bowery and started making outfits for his neighbor, Debbie Harry. The fashion world quickly embraced his innovative, culturally relevant sensibility and downtown edge. But Sprouse's inability to compromise his artistic vision for the rigid fashion business compromised his commercial success. The Padilhas possess the largest private collection of Sprouse's work, and were given exclusive access to his archives by his family for this project. They also obtained never-before-published images from photographers such as Steven Meisel, Bob Gruen, and Mert and Marcus. The book features a foreword by the novelist Tama Janowitz, one of Sprouse's closest friends. The release of this book coincides with a retrospective at Deitch Projects. The book will be available with four different jackets, each featuring a different Day-Glo color, an homage to Sprouse's iconic album cover for Debbie Harry's Rockbird.

Author Biography

Mauricio Padilha and Roger Padilha run MAO Public Relations, MAO SPACE, a series of runway shows that coincide with New York Fashion Week, and publish MAO MAG, a bi-annual fashion magazine. Tama Janowitz is the author of seven novels, including Slaves of New York.


Before the mid-1850s there was no such thing as cool. Cool started with modern jazz, hipsters sniffing Benzedrine, the Beats. Cool started with James Dean, Sal Mineo, and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Cool continued in the 1960s withEasy Riderand mind-altering drugs and the Merry Pranksters of Ken Kesey. In New York City cool was junk, the Electric Circus, the Velvet Underground.

Being cool meant a certain irony, being outside of mainstream society and viewing it with a certain amount of suspicion. Nice people were not cool. Nice people did not have tattoos and piercings. Now, almost everyone who thinks he or she is cool or “different” has a tattoo, but now it’s not cool, because it is mainstream.

Stephen Sprouse was cool. He appeared to be an outsider, with his lanky, seemingly adolescent and sullen manner, his wig, his watch cap, his postpunk/pregrunge appearance. He was so cool I couldn’t believe he would ever be my friend. What made him cool? In some ways he was just like the regular guys I had grown up with. He was a nice guy who loved kids and animals. People thought he was a tough guy. He projected an aura that wa all his own, something akin to that of Iggy Pop, Dee Dee Ramone, Sid Vicious, Johnny Thunder. He wasn’t like them–although maybe those guys weren’t really like how they appeared either. But whatever that quality is, that is what he projected.

One thing I have found: People are scared of people who don’t talk much. As it turns out Steve was smart but completely inarticulate. He was a totally visual person. You felt that he struggled for words. He was a perfectionist, he wanted everything he created to be exactly as he envisioned it, and so nothing he touched was ever watered down, or commercialized, or changed by a marketing division. So what we have now in his body of work is–unlike most fashion–purely the end product of his vision.

He created other things as well: He was a painted, a designer, a trend-spotter, a decorator. He would decorate anything he could get his hands on. If he liked your shoes and he was your friend, he might take a marker and scrawl something on them. Even if you didn’t really want your shoes written on, later you would realize how much they were improved, and how daring he was, really, to not take objects at their face value and how he felt free to make them his own.

Whenever I was on a book tour in the UK I would wear something designed by Stephen, and whenever I walked into a room it would fall absolutely silent. Later that day there would be calls from the press to the publicist handling my book, asking her WHO was I wearing, and how much it cost because, they said, it must have been insanely expensive.

But in NYC during the same era (the era of big shoulder pads–like an extra set of breasts, except on the shoulders, I always thought–and ladies with perfect, stiff hair and beige lipstick), Stephen was underappreciated. Dining regularly with Paige and Andy at Le Cirque, whenever I wore one of Steve’s outfits the other diners would look askance.

One time Steve and Paige drove up to see me in Princeton, and as it turned out Steve was not a good driver. He looked like he would have been a good driver (he also looked like would have been a good skateboarder!) he was not, and so we chugged around Princeton in a rented car–a Rent-A-Wreck, I think–with Steve driving and me and Paige trying not to scream.

I was a writer-in-residence that year and I had a rat’s nest of hair, and there was Stephen with stuff written all up and down his hands and arms in felt pen, and his wig and his hat and his cigarette, looking for models. But the type of models Steve was looking for were the kind of guys missing a tooth or scruffy, boyish, dangerous, and tough–not a Princeton undergraduate in a polo shirt and khaki trouse

Excerpted from The Stephen Sprouse Book by Roger Padilha, Mauricio Padilha
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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