You probably wonder why do I choose to write about this brand. When I started to go deeper into branding, I wanted to find out why people will pay more, or even four times more for a product? It turns out that is because some brands have the capacity to fascinate people. And it turns out that Stüssy is one of it. But how this brand does it?
Let’s go to its beginnings. Everything started in the early 80´ in California, when the founder Shawn Stussy while making customize surfboards, started to make t-shirts with Stussy printed on them. Those t-shirts were very demanded. Then after a few years, in 1984 together with Frank Sinatra Jr. (no relation to the singer), started the brand Stussy. Shawn would leave the brand in 1996, and Sinatra Jr would take the whole business.
What I really like about this brand is the way they understood what makes them special. And I think the greatness comes always from there, from the comprehension of what really makes you stand apart. What made Stüssy really special? The original fusion of streetwear, surf, skate and hip-hop culture. All this came naturally because in the end the founders were part of this culture and they were vividly exploring this world.
SKATE, SURF AND HIP HOP. That’s right and all this shaped their personality around words as effortless, rebellious and ironic.
They even gained the title of ¨the original streetwear brand¨.
Stüssy built a brand on a culturally significant background. A culture where high & low and old & new are mixed, where people express themselves in a strait-forward and honest way, and where being authentic is the key to gain trust.
From the beginning, they appealed to nostalgia as a base to their communication. They honored the old but constantly mixing it with the present.
Talking about cultural significance, I think they excelled on this through their advertising campaign around 1989-1990, that was shot by the talented photographer David Dobson. The company distributed their t-shirts to children in areas such as Egypt, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, and photographed them to create a accentuate the cultural diversity that the brand appeal to.
During all these years they reflected and celebrated a youthful spirit, a lifestyle and cultural attitude perfectly in accordance with the personality their consumers wished to project. In one if his interview Shawn Stussy claimed ¨Everybody is out there looking for an identity¨. And he gave to those people the personality they wished to project.
While watching the skate scene, they realized that the cool kids were wearing painter´s hats, so they decided to start making painters’ hats and baseball hats with Stüssy graphics. This was happening in the late 80s. They were also the first brand to really make a baseball cap a real accessory.
In their beginnings, the brand went out of the mainstream and tried to stay small. Sinatra´s philosophy of approaching the business is “brand-first, revenue second”. With the years they kind of changed their positioning, going from fashionable retailer as Dover street market, Colette, to collaboration with other street brands such as Supreme, Nike, DR. MARTENS, and they´ve ultimately entered in the mainstream retailer also such as Asos and Urban Outfitters.
So, they become so ´fascinating´ by understanding what really makes them special and projecting it in an authentic way. You can see here Stüssy Women´s Spring ´18 Lookbook released last month.
I have recently visited their shop in Madrid and found a few kids inside engaged in a conversation about style that blew my mind.