Home Book editor Stephen Sprouse exhibition at Newfields showcases iconic fashion moments

Stephen Sprouse exhibition at Newfields showcases iconic fashion moments


Stephen Sprouse was famous for sending neon colors and graffiti to clothes that became a groundbreaking marriage of punk and high-end. When pedigree designer Hoosier affixed his heavy lettering to Louis Vuitton’s iconic monogram in 2001, waiting lists swelled before the fashion line even came out.

Her single-strap “Choose or Lose” dress – covered in buttons but without a bodice – was part of a 1996 MTV voter education campaign with model Kate Moss and musician Iggy Pop. And Sprouse’s single strap wore the 1979 TV scanline print dress that singer Debbie Harry wore in Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” music video.

The looks have emerged through Sprouse’s decades in the spotlight. Critics have characterized his career as a series of backslidings and valleys – a designer whose ideas were great but who never really fit into the niche of the retail market that the bigger names do. In the years since Sprouse’s death in 2004, his work has crystallized into a stable legacy that is the subject of a new Newfields exhibition.

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“Stephen Sprouse: Rock | Art | Fashion” opens Saturday at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, a venue that has been meaningful to the designer. Sprouse visited the museum when he was growing up in Columbus, Indiana, and in 2019 his family donated a collection of more than 10,000 pieces of clothing, accessories, textile samples, sketches, audiovisuals, and Polaroids. . Many items are a major source for the show’s exhibit, which includes more than 60 garments as well as shoes, videos from its runway shows and more.

“We have this very specific image of the 80s in our mind, which is more of a working girl, a company, big suits, women entering the workforce. And he focused a lot on the youth of the industry. era and the underground culture of the time, which is kind of not our universal understanding of the 80s,” said curatorial assistant Lauren Pollien.

Many of the roots of his creations were born while living in a loft in New York, when he explored the underground music scene at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. With neighbors like Harry, whom he began to dress, Sprouse was already well on his way to becoming the designer who captured America’s transition in the 1980s and beyond.

‘I use music and art to give my business the see

In May 1984, Sprouse’s show at the Ritz nightclub captured that energy. The club’s atmosphere contained concert speakers, a video screen, and strobe and black lights, according to “The Stephen Sprouse Book”.

Three years later, in 1987, he told the IndyStar fashion editor how his new collection captured America’s exhausted teenagers.

“Between AIDS and the economy, it’s a pretty weird time, and people need to keep a cool head and pray for good things,” he said of his mantle with ‘God Save America’. written on it.

In person, Sprouse spoke softer than his designs. Both IndyStar and Indianapolis News have reported remarks about his shyness over the years, while noting that he was polite and answered all questions.

In a preface to ‘The Stephen Sprouse Book,’ his friend Tama Janowitz described him as cool, saying he loved children and animals and drew pictures on his friends’ shoes, which, even though it was unexpected, ended up making them better.

Sprouse formed strong friendships with many of those he worked with – evidenced by a biker-style leather jacket in the museum exhibit tagged by his friends. One is by artist Keith Haring, whose collaborations with Sprouse included a shirt design based on an 1872 Antonio Ciseri painting that shows Pontius Pilate and Jesus after being scourged.

Pop artist Andy Warhol granted Sprouse the rare opportunity to use his prints on his clothing and was later buried in one of his suits. In the exhibit, Warhol’s camouflage pattern is depicted in a dress rendered multidimensional through cut-out fabric shapes stiffened with acrylic paint. Other rooms show paintings created by the collaboration between Warhol and art pioneer Jean-Michel Basquiat.

“Music and art really influence my fashion,” Sprouse told IndyStar in a January 1998 interview. “While I use everything I learned from Halston, sewing and all, I use music and art to give my business the see.”

Hoosier designers framed Sprouse

Halston taught Sprouse fine tailoring, and under her tutelage the young designer helped outfit Anjelica Huston and Barbra Streisand.

Sprouse, who was born in 1953 in Ohio, moved with his family to Indiana as a child. There he designed such stunning fashion collections that his father took them to the Art Institute of Chicago. From this connection, Sprouse met Norman Norell of Noblesville and Bill Blass of Fort Wayne.

The influence of Sprouse’s high-end training is evident up close in his clothing. The scan-lines dress made famous by Harry, for example, is constructed from two layers with the stripes exactly aligned, the museum briefing notes. Another olive and orange ensemble consisting of a hooded cape, sweater and skirt is so fitted that Pollien had a hard time putting it flat.

“It only rests on a body,” Pollien said.

In order to preserve these carefully cut garments, the museum actually modified the mannequins to fit them.

“We take measurements of the garment, then we cut out the fiberglass mannequins, then we reconstruct them,” said Amanda Holden, Senior Textiles Conservator.

Video throughout the exhibit shows Sprouse’s runway shows, which Niloo Paydar, curator of textile arts and fashion, says are important for gaining a deeper understanding of clothing.

“Models are jostling. It’s not like those stoic, European catwalks,” Paydar said. “He wanted to create a livelier club environment for his shows.”

Mind-blowing and expensive materials

Newspaper articles that cover Sprouse’s career note that he struggled to understand in the retail market. Part of that stems from his love of innovative high-end materials in wild colors that were difficult for mass retailers to acquire, Pollien said.

“He wouldn’t compromise on the colors he chose,” interpretive planner Maggie Ordon said. “He’s worked with a few very high-end department stores, though, on a few collections, but overall he didn’t compromise to sell to a wider market.”

But Sprouse’s perfectionism bestows a gift on those who view his work. Her coat and matching pants from Fall/Winter 1999-2000, for example, appear to be a solid gray in the front. But step back enough that light from the nearby screen hits them, and the whole thing goes from blue to teal to purple in seconds. That’s because tiny glass beads embedded in the high-visibility fabric reflect light, Holden said.

Elsewhere in the exhibit, a stringy pale pink dress glows in the dark. Next to him, a bright pink Day-Glo jacket fluoresces under black lights, becoming much brighter, Holden said. Sprouse’s love of technology also continued to evolve with developments. In his Fall/Winter 1999-2000 show, he used NASA photos of Mars from the Pathfinder mission in his fabrics.

The unique letters he drew are incorporated into many of his designs – forwards and backwards. The words have meaning, sure, but seem to say more in their artistry, with dull strokes and refined edges that communicate his bold visions.

IndyStar’s fashion editor wrote on December 6, 1987 that Sprouse’s art was the most telling. She noted that he apologized for being difficult to reach, saying he rarely gives interviews. His reason?

“I don’t think I have much to say,” he told her.

If you are going to

What: « Stephen Sprouse: Rock | Art | Fashion “

When: From Saturday to April 2, 2023

Where: Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, 4000 Michigan Road.

Tickets and more information: Included with admission. Free for members. Advance tickets required. Visit Discovernewfields.org.

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Contact IndyStar reporter Domenica Bongiovanni at 317-444-7339 or [email protected] Follow her on Facebook, instagram or Twitter: @domenicareports.