The Sprouse House – Monthly Indianapolis

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Lori Phillips and Stephen Sprouse in high school, before going on to fame and glory as fashion designers in New York.Photo courtesy of Lori Phillips

A a few moments after Lori Phillips dragged a blue pillowcase through a cafe in downtown Franklin, she took an awkward break to reconsider her tote choice. Then she smiled. “Stephen would approve,” she said. “It’s very discreet.”

Inside the unassuming tote she had stuffed memorabilia — photos, handwritten letters, original artwork — of her friendship with fashion designer and cult artist Stephen Sprouse, who is the subject of a new exhibition, Sprouse: Rock/Art/Fashion, opening July 16 at Newfields. The two had grown up in Columbus, Indiana, and remained in contact until his death in 2004, at age 50, from heart failure.

After graduating from Columbus North High School in 1971, Sprouse moved to New York and soon began working for famed designer Halston. In a letter, sent to Phillips in college, Sprouse joked about his dislike of denim and offered encouragement: “Keep wearing your nice clothes and don’t worry about those weird blue-jean-clad girls. It’s old-fashioned anyway, they don’t know it yet.

“He was just the nicest guy,” says Phillips, a retired speech pathologist who still lives in Columbus. “He always had a twinkle in his eye, as he was very observant and able to read between the lines. And what a calm, gentle spirit.

Sprouse vollsbotsyiond

Left to right: Sprouse’s take on the iconic Louis Vuitton handbag that turned out to be one of her most sought-after items; a pop art painting of Iggy Pop on a cross; a piece from one of Sprouse’s latest collaborations, this one with Target; a sketch of his kilt design for Hoosier rocker Axl Rose; and fabric designed in collaboration with Knoll.Handbag, Target collection and fabric swatch courtesy of Lori Phillips; Painting, sketch and following images by Iggy Pop courtesy of Newfields

It was Sprouse, friend. Sprouse, the style iconoclast? He has been dubbed “The Duke of Day-Glo” and “The Punk Glamor God” by fashion writers. He created the chiffon and silk-jersey dress with photo-printed televised sweep lines that Debbie Harry wore in Blondie’s 1979 “Heart of Glass” video and designed the kilt that Axl Rose wore on tour with Guns N’ Roses in 1993. Its pop-graffiti lettering reinvented the Louis Vuitton Spring 2001 handbag collection that Harper’s Bazaar declared “launched a thousand waiting lists”.

The 60 looks on display at Newfields, curated by textile arts and fashion curator Niloo Paydar, will include a version of the ‘Heart of Glass’ dress, as well as a wall of shoes. All are part of a massive donation made to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2018 — more than 800 pieces of clothing and shoes, as well as thousands of Polaroids, videotapes, sketches and papers — by Sprouse’s mother, Joanne, and her younger brother, Bradford.

Stephen Sprouse had a connection with the museum. As a high school student, he often came to see art and stage sessions with his friends. Her family’s relationship with Paydar, which began with the 2012 exhibition American Legacy: Norell, Blass, Halston & Sprouse, led to the historic donation. It offers an intimate look at the creative process of the visionary artist and his personal life. It’s also a scrapbook of New York’s nightlife and underground art scene in the 1970s and 1980s, when Sprouse collaborated with artists like groundbreaking transgender model Teri Toye, photographer Steven Meisel, and artists Keith Haring. , Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. . Warhol is buried in a black cashmere suit designed by Sprouse, and the pop artist’s double portrait of Sprouse will be featured at Newfields.

“Mom wanted to put it somewhere where they would appreciate it, preserve it, and let people see it,” Brad Sprouse said of the collection. “And heck, the Warhol museum is in Pittsburgh.”

A Polaroid selfie of Sprouse

This selfie is part of Sprouse’s large collection of Polaroids, now owned by Newfields.

Sprouse’s personal collection did not include the elusive Louis Vuitton bag. Newfields borrowed two from the luxury French fashion house for its exhibition. Outside the Franklin cafe, Phillips retrieved her purse – in pristine condition – from the trunk of her SUV, along with an never-inflated beach ball from Sprouse’s 2002 Americaland collaboration with Target.

An element that she would have liked to keep? A sign Sprouse wrote and posted on the door of his family’s den when he returned home for the funeral of his father, Norbert, in 1994. When Sprouse was 12, Norbert, the business owner of successful manufacturing, began taking his talented son to New York so he could show his portfolio to fashion designers like Bill Blass and Norman Norell, who also had roots in Indiana.

While others gathered at the Phillips’ home after the funeral, Sprouse retreated to the den with his niece and nephew. Their ‘clubhouse’ sign required a special password for entry.

“When he came home for Christmas or was at a party, he almost always gravitated to a corner with kids,” Brad says. “And before you knew it, there would be markers and crayons, and they would all be doing an art studio.”

The following outfits are part of the exhibition Stephen Sprouse: Rock/Art/Fashion, which opens in Newfields on July 16.

Graffiti shirt and pants

Graffiti shirt and pants

Graffiti was Sprouse’s love language. He’s tagged outfits like this, luxury handbags, and even shoes from his friends. Similar writings also made their way into her arms in the form of reminders or phone numbers. When Sprouse was a kid, his uncle would come to dinner and draw pictures of cars on his nephew’s arm. “Stephen loved it,” his mother, Joanne Sprouse, told New York magazine. When he said his bedtime prayers, he asked God to bless Uncle Gene’s fountain pen.


sweep lines dress

A black scan line dress

Blondie’s Debbie Harry wore an identical version of this chiffon/jersey dress in the 1979 “Heart of Glass” video. Her good friend Sprouse based the print on a Polaroid he took analog TV scan lines. In 2012, the singer visited the IMA’s American Legacy: Norell, Blass, Halston & Sprouse exhibit and told the curatorial team that until she met Sprouse in the mid-1970s , she “wore vintage dresses and cowboy boots. .”

Debby Harry in her signature blonde and sheer nude dress

Debbie Harry photographed by Stephen Sprouse.


Camouflaged dress

A camouflage dress signed by Andy Warhol's signature

Look above the top left pocket of this dress and you’ll notice Andy Warhol’s signature. The “Camouflage” series was the last printed wallet designed by Warhol before his death in 1987 following gallbladder surgery. Just a week before, Warhol had given Sprouse – his close friend whom he admired – the rare and all-important permission to use the prints for his clothing. The satin bodycon dress was part of Sprouse’s Fall/Winter 1987 collection.


Bubble Dress

Bubble dress by Sprouse

Through Andy Warhol, Sprouse befriended Keith Haring, who got his start as an artist drawing illegally on the New York City subway before breaking into the mainstream. The two worked together on fabric designs, including this 1988 silk-velvet bubble dress featuring Haring’s famous “squiggles” and graffiti-infused serigraphs of Jesus.


The self-adhesive dress

A self-adhesive dress

Punk rock stickers on skateboards in the East Village inspired this nylon and spandex dress from the Burnout ’88 collection. Sprouse bought stickers, cut them out, and artfully arranged them to create the imaginative design. He also designed a pop-graffiti skateboard for Target’s Americaland collection. In 2009, Louis Vuitton released three skateboards from its Stephen Sprouse tribute collection. They were selling for $8,250 (including the trunk). Talk about shock sticker.


Hooded dress with matching shoes and tights

Between 1983 and 1985, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat collaborated on more than 100 paintings. Plug pulled on Coma Mom (1984–85) inspired the design of this hooded dress, with matching high tights attached to the shoes, from Sprouse’s Fall/Winter 1998 collection. The dress in wool/synthetic fabric has velcro. Sprouse was the first designer to use sticky, loud closures. He once put his runway models on the microphone just so he could hear the rippp backstage.


“Robot” hooded dress and sunglasses

Silk, rayon, velcro, plastic, paint, a variety of materials went into making this hooded dress accessorized with alien sunglasses. Sprouse screenprinted an original Andy Warhol robot illustration to create the design in Spring/Summer 1998. “Stephen idolized Andy,” said photographer Paige Powell in Stephen Sprouse’s book. “He loved Andy’s idea of ​​taking something common and turning it into great art, and Stephen did the same in his own way. He juxtaposed top and bottom.


“Robot” tank top and pants

Tank top and robot pants

“The things I want to show are mechanical,” Andy Warhol once said. “Machines have fewer problems. I would like to be a machine, don’t you? Warhol’s Flash Sharivan robot was one of the images Sprouse screenprinted on his “Robot” garments, including this rayon/cotton tank top and pants created in Spring/Summer 1998. The original artwork sold for $93,750 .


NASA Collection Blouse

NASA collection blouse

Sprouse has transcended time – Kim Kardashian’s recent white cutout dress was a throwback to the Sprouse look that Carmen Electra wore to the 1998 MTV Movie Awards. He has also transcended space, having collaborated with NASA twice. He used NASA photos taken on Mars by Pathfinder in 1999 to create the print for this neon nylon/elastane blouse. Audiences on his fall 1999 show viewed the interplanetary drawings through 3D glasses.

A Polaroid from one of Sprouse's collaborations with NASA

A Polaroid from one of Sprouse’s collaborations with NASA.

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