What’s So Special About Stone Island? We Visited Its Archives To Find Out

Link Copied


What’s So Special About Stone Island? We Visited Its Archives To Find Out

Words by Mr Rob Nowill | Photography by Ms Nina Raasch | Styling by Mr Olie Arnold

15 April 2024

Ask any “menswear guy” which brands they think are the real deal, and they’ll usually hit you with the same few names: Rick, Raf, Thom, BODE, Noah. Increasingly, though, they’ll also start talking about Stone Island. Over the past 40 years – but especially over the past decade – the brand has cemented its position as one of the most innovative and forward-looking names in the pantheon of modern menswear.

But what, exactly, makes it so special? There are probably elements you already know: the distinctive “Wind Rose” badge that sits on the left sleeve of every garment; the nylon jackets; the technical wizardry.

But there’s a whole lot more to it than that. Which is why, on a particularly bright day in March, the MR PORTER Team paid a visit to Stone Island’s headquarters, which emerge like a Bond villain’s lair from amid the incongruous setting of Ravarino, a sleepy town in the Modena region.

We took a deep dive into the brand’s archive – alongside a closer look at the current spring collection – to give you a definitive guide to what makes Stone Island so special.

01. Colour

The most immediate thing you notice when you walk into Stone Island’s archive is the colour. Or rather, the colours: tangerine alongside moss, cardinal red next to royal blue. It’s the result of a deliberate strategy by the brand, dyeing each finished garment (instead of the more common approach, where bolts of fabric are pre-dyed).

Practically, that means two things: first, that no two jackets will look exactly alike, as each will take on the dye in slightly different ways. And second, that the brand can include a vast spectrum of different colours in each collection, as opposed to the more restrained palette of most other brands. In the SS24 collection, there are dozens of variations of greens alone. Not to mention sand, pale pink, slate, sky blue…

02. Fabric technology

Stone Island refers to its own design studios as a “lab”. From any other brand, that might sound highfalutin’. Here, it’s an accurate descriptor for how its garments are made. Stone Island is responsible for materials, finishes, and production techniques that have never previously been used in the clothing industry: from garments that change colour according to the temperature, to those that roll rainwater neatly off their surface.

There are smaller, subtle innovations too: the archival jacket pictured above, from SS02, is made by bonding two layers of lightweight nylon together, to create a garment that’s simultaneously light, durable and breathable (which is a harder combination than you might think). These fabric innovations are carried through every collection: the jacket pictured alongside it, from the current season, weighs ounces, yet is both water- and wind-repellent.

It speaks to the ethos of discovery within Ravarino – the idea every garment can be iterated upon over the span of decades, refining and evolving towards some Platonic ideal. Stone Island’s own president, Mr Carlo Rivetti, has called it “a bit of healthy madness”; the unfailing belief that you can always, always improve.

03. Utility

The first Stone Island garment ever made was cut from a tarpaulin normally used to cover trucks. Needless to say, the brand’s commitment to functionality runs deep.

Rivetti has spoken about wanting every detail in a garment to have a purpose: no fake pockets, no decorative zips that don’t actually do anything. Instead, the end use of every garment is considered.

Take the jacket pictured above: the fabric doesn’t just look cool. It is, in fact, made from ECONYL® regenerated nylon, a technique by which the fabric is repurposed at the end of its life to create a new garment. It’s reworked extensively to create the iridescent finish you can see on the finished jacket. All that, and_ _it’s treated internally with resin to improve its water and wind resistance. How’s that for wearable technology?

04. Camouflage

For a brand so deeply rooted in utility, it is perhaps unsurprising that military influences run throughout its collections, from the detailing on jacket fastenings to the placements of some pockets.

In particular, the brand has offered dozens of iterations of camouflage – it’s one of the few prints that Stone Island regularly returns to. And, of course, each one is considered, varying from archival ex-military patterns to bespoke prints made by the brand’s in-house technicians.

This season’s variant has a digitised, grid-like effect, created manually by painting through industrial nets, creating a “negative” of the net, which is then digitally reworked. It’s an extraordinary elaborate means of creating the depths of colour evident in the finished garment.