The late fashion designer Stephen Sprouse’s friends and collaborators read like a who’s who of 1980s superstardom. He crafted designs for Debbie Harry, Axl Rose, and Billy Idol, and worked with Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Stefano Castronovo, and Jean-Michel Basquiat on art-inflected ensembles that blended high-fashion couture with iconography straight from the graffitied streets of downtown New York City. Sprouse is currently being feted in his home state of Indiana with the exhibition “Stephen Sprouse: Rock, Art, Fashion,” the largest survey of his work to date, featuring rarely seen looks and iconic costumes from the more than 10,000-piece archive Sprouse’s mother and brother donated to the museum in 2018.
A New York magazine article published shortly after Sprouse’s death in March 2004 wrote that his runway models, clad in neon and graffiti-emblazoned ensembles, “looked as though they’d spent the whole night partying and were using the runway as a shortcut home.” Sprouse brought the spirit of the punk scene into the realm of fashion, collapsing the boundaries between artistic genres, harnessing the ’80s counterculture and translating it for the high-fashion set. Sprouse designed clothes for people regardless of gender, and was one of the first designers to work with a transgender model, collaborating frequently with Teri Toye. The exhibition features Warhol’s portrait of Sprouse looking every inch the glamorous rockstar, glaring straight ahead, eyes heavily outlined in black, crowned by a jagged mop of black hair.
Despite financial troubles in the mid-1980s, Sprouse returned to the fore in the early 2000s, when Louis Vuitton tapped him to collaborate with Marc Jacobs for a graffiti logo bag—a collection that’s ripe for a comeback in the aughts-inspired style of 2022.