Stone Island Special - The Idea: Massimo Osti

Stone Island Special - The Idea: Massimo Osti

Welcome to the Biancissimo Stone Island Special - An upcoming series of articles just dedicated to the one Italian sportswear brand that was and still is changing the understanding and looks of modern menswear. In the following weeks you will meet a couple of interesting characters that got inspired by the brand, worked with it, made a business out of it or just deeply fell in love with it.

The most important of these characters is Massimo Osti, because he was the one that founded the brand in 1982.

To kick off this series properly Biancisimo teamed up with the Berlin based illustrator Johnny Terror and UK fashion student Kameron Birchall to highlight four of Massimo Osti's most iconic and pioneering ideas and shed some light on the genius himself.


Stone Island Special: The Idea - Massimo Osti

Massimo Osti was a graphic designer turned fashion designer from Italy. He single handily changed the fashion industry with his unique dyeing techniques, materials and a drive for experimentation - It wouldn’t be wrong to call him an inventor.

He was one of the first to take screen printing to clothing and pioneered countless new innovations, ranging from garment dying to rubber wool. His work was aesthetic but above all, functional.    

His passion for militaria and workwear shone through in his designs and set him apart from the crowd. Not only was he creating rugged and hardwearing clothing for the consumer but also designed uniforms for Volvo, the Swedish car manufacturers.

It would be hard to find a piece of modern clothing that wasn’t in some way influenced by Massimo Osti. His spirit continues to live through Stone Island and CP Company who are constantly developing on his works from thirty or more years ago but it would be criminal to forget his other works with brands such as Left Hand and Boneville.

There is simply no other contemporary menswear designer like him.

Zeltbahn/Tela Stella

Considering it’s made from a single piece of canvas, it would be hard to pass blame on someone who overlooked the Zeltbahn. Used by various armies through the 19th century, the simple but versatile canvas can be used in numerous ways.

A single module can be worn as a highly water-resistant poncho or, when tied and pegged, can be used as a small shelter. Two can be stuffed with straw and rolled to make an improvised float for crossing bodies of water, or can be pulled flat and used as a stretcher for moving injured soldiers off the battlefield. Several modules can be combined to create different sized tents, the largest being the house tent which would require 16 Zeltbahnen. It covered 25 square metres of ground and was 2.8 meters tall. The structure offered space for at least 16 men and was often used to store food and ammunition.

It’s no wonder that Osti, with his love of all things functional, was drawn to the design and included it in his first collection for Stone Island. The piece differs from the original design by adding a hood and wide cuffs for additional elemental protection. It was also made from Tela Stella.

In the early days of Stone Island, Massimo Osti spent a lot of time working on a material that seemed more suited to the military. It was a tarpaulin made from 90% cotton, 10% polyester gauze and treated with resin, which was then dyed giving a distinct colour on each side. Finally, it was washed with pumice stones, softening the fabric and giving a worn look. This was the birth of Tela Stella.

The material was brought back a couple of time with the last entry in 2012 for a 30th Anniversary jacket, but don’t expect to see a lot of these floating about.

Lining system

Many of Osti’s outerwear designs have a 2 in 1 nature; an inner detachable layer, made to keep the wearer warm and an outer shell, normally with some form of new treatment or process to make it stand out from previous designs.

It isn’t uncommon to find a Stone Island jacket designed for the most abrasive winters transformed into a thin, weightless piece, in the time it takes to pull a zip. Often, the linings can be worn individually, as their own jackets, since they have pockets and zips.

While the brand has used different methods to achieve this modularity, the Dutch Rope system seems to be the favourite among devotees. The system was inspired by the fastenings on horse riding chaps produces in Italy and Osti's passion for maritime sailing. It works by inserting each loop through the previous one and making a knot with the last. It might be more time consuming than a zip or buttons, but it is so incredible unique that there could be no other brand to implement it.

Garment Dyeing

Garment Dyeing is the process of dying finished pieces, rather than using pre-dyed materials to create garments. It’s a relatively simple process that Osti helped pioneer. It allows manufacturers to create very specific colours for their clothing, and gives a unique worn look to each individual piece. It also allows unused or leftover light shades to be re-dyed and treated for later seasons, reducing the amount of waste created.  It was seen as being revolutionary and was immediately adopted by many clothing companies.

“The ‘used’ look characterises the image of the garment itself. Each piece is unique and unrepeatable and the differences between one garment and the other are a peculiar feature of the product itself”Taken from a CP Company tag.

The method was unheard of until Osti started his work in the early 70’s, back when CP Company was still Chester Perry, with the idea to remove the stiffness from fabrics. In the late 60’s through to the 70’s this was the fashion and garments were often made from tightly cut, unyielding materials.

However one big problem, aside from the cost, is shrinkage. Garment Dyeing requires high heat which can cause fabrics to lose up to 50% of their original size. As no two fabrics are the same, it is a constant process of experimentation.

Modern iterations of this process allow more complex construction of clothing. Jackets made from multiple different materials can be dyed simultaneously as the science behind dyes and how they take to materials had advanced.  

Ice Jacket

Innovation, experimentation and brilliant design are fundamental aspects of Massimo Osti’s work. There are many stand out pieces from his labour, but perhaps the most prominent is the Ice Jacket.

There are multiple versions of the Ice Jacket, made from just as many materials but one thing that is consistent is the colour change and while it may not seem out of the ordinary now, it was ground-breaking back then. We are talking about the time of Nintendo, Walkman, Back to the Future, RoboCop, Ghostbusters, Air Max 1’s… colour changing clothes was incredible!

It all started in 1987 when a style assistant for Studio Osti encountered a new material from Japan named Sway. The material was nylon coated with resin, containing thermosensitive microcapsules which allowed colour change in the dye with change of temperature.

The first Ice jacket was released in Autumn/Winter 87/88. There were three colours to choose from; yellow to green, white to blue and pink to grey. It was an instant classic, and was widely seen across the ski slopes of Europe.

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