I decided to move to Los Angeles because, if I didn’t at least try, I would regret it for the rest of my life. After a quick stint in New York, I moved back to my hometown of Detroit a few years ago. Since I grew up there, it’s always been a city where I feel really comfortable. I’d reached a point in my life though, where I was ready to sacrifice comfort to test the full range of my potential. I didn’t have a master plan, just the names of a few stylists to assist and designers to meet. The opportunity to work with Barneys and shoot Stone Island’s exclusive capsule collection on the road surfaced right before I was planning to make the move. Stone Island has been picked up and adopted by a wide range of movements and subcultures over the years, and its fluidity seemed appropriate to capture my transient feeling during the move.
Started by Italian sportswear master Massimo Osti in 1982, Stone Island made a name for itself by focusing on craft—techniques like garment dying, heat-treating, and technical weaving were par for the course on every new garment. I’ve always been a men’s style enthusiast—like really into the details in a studied, even obsessive sort of way—so I appreciate how Osti drew inspiration from massive collections of vintage military clothing that he had collected over the years.
More recently, rappers like Drake and 21 Savage have brought Stone Island to the attention of the American audience. Drake was likely influenced by the London Grime rappers, who themselves co-opted the brand from UK football hooligans of the ’90s. Back in the ’80s, Italian youths were known for wearing Stone Island jackets with Timberland boots. The through-line among the brand’s loyal cult followers has always been people that appreciate superior quality and innovation over flash.
During my cross-country drive, people were always interested in the Stone Island clothing I was wearing. The range of responses reflected the range of feelings I had along the way. In Denver, I was wearing the digital camo pants and sweater, waiting in line behind a group of teens. One pointed to the patch on my arm and said, “Yo, that’s the Drake chain right?” He was referring to the pendant chain Drake had made of the Stone Island logo, and I let him know that the clothing brand had come long before Drake adopted its logo. On a side street in Vegas, a British couple walked by as we were taking a few photos, and the man remarked, “Stone Island, aye? Top drawer, that!” He ended up being the only person east of L.A. that had properly identified the logo. I got more and more comfortable discussing my new welcomed wardrobe as we went along, just as I’d gotten better at trying to tell people why I was moving west. In both instances, I didn’t know more about either than when I’d started, but I’d had plenty of time and space to reflect and search for answers.
All that space on the road felt free, but also lonely. I was restless to get to the next spot on the map without knowing what to expect once I got there. The more I lived with the Stone Island pieces, the more I realized they mirrored my mood.
At first glance, each Stone Island piece is familiar in form, but something is always unique. The white parka has an amazing garment-dyed finish. It’s an ambiguous shade of white—when you really look closely, it could be cream, maybe even grey. Have you ever crinkled up a piece of paper and then smoothed it out again for a softer but resilient touch? That’s the closest you’ll come to understanding the hand-feel of this jacket without experiencing the real thing. The black anorak is a super-thin leather that’s bonded to an organza lining. It looks and feels like leather, but it moves like a wind-breaker. I threw the jacket on each morning in my frigidly air-conditioned hotel rooms as I drank my morning coffee.
I’m still in a liminal space. In L.A., I haven’t yet replaced my old life with new routines. I haven’t found my groove. I’m still confused about what shade of white that coat is, but I know that it’s beautiful and will last me until whatever move comes next. It gives me hope that well-made and innovative things will always have a place in this world. Top drawer, that thought.