Steven Sprouse   born Sept. 12, 1953 -  died March 4, 2005.

Little Steven Sprouse (Stephen Sprouse (September 12, 1953 - March 4, 2004) was a fashion designer, artist, and photographer credited with pioneering the 1980s mix of "uptown sophistication in clothing with a downtown punk and pop sensibility".

His bright, fun fashions wowed fans, but he had mixed business success. His first two collections (1983 and 1984) were huge hits, but he was out of business from 1985 to 1987. In 1987, he opened shops in New York and Los Angeles, but he lacked financial backing and closed down again from 1988 to 1992. Despite such ups and downs, Sprouse's talent was so admired that his designs continued to fetch high prices in vintage stores long after he stopped producing the clothes.

In 1992, he designed a line for Bergdorf Goodman. In 1995, Barneys New York handled the production of an exclusive Sprouse line. The graffiti logo bags he designed in collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton made the fashion world take notice. In 2002, he created a collection of tank tops, skateboards and swimsuits for the Target discount chain.

He designed clothes for Blondie's Debbie Harry (his one-time upstairs neighbour). He worked extensively with the band Duran Duran at the end of the 1980s -- he designed the clothes for their 1989 tour for the album Big Thing, as well as the covers for their 1989 greatest hits album Decade: Greatest Hits and their best-selling 1993 album Duran Duran (a.k.a. The Wedding Album), and he painted giant canvases that hung behind the band during their performance on the MTV Unplugged show.

In the late '80s, he collaborated with Andy Warhol in designing a line of clothing based on Warhol's "Camouflage" series of paintings.

He died at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City of heart failure, after a closely guarded diagnosis of lung cancer a year before. He was 50.

NEW YORK CITY - Stephen Sprouse, a New York fashion designer and artist, died March 4, at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. He was 50. The cause of death was heart failure, though he had been diagnosed with cancer one year ago

Son of Joanne and Norbert Sprouse, he was born in Dayton, Ohio, on Sept. 12, 1953. From the age of two, Stephen and his family lived in Columbus, Ind., where he began designing clothing at the age of nine. Following high school, he briefly attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I., before moving to New York City to work as an assistant to Halston, another American fashion designer. Later, he designed under his own name and became a creative influence in the fashion industry of New York City. Most recently, in addition to creating signature graffiti bags for Louis Vuitton, as well as projects for Diesel jeans and fabric for Knoll International, Stephen was devoting his time to painting, mostly portraits. He also was the fashion consultant for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland when it opened. In 1984, he received the CDFA (Coty award) for his energy and use of intense color.

Throughout his life, Stephen summered with his family in northern Michigan. They have resided on Glen Lake since 1968.
Because of his love of northern Michigan and Glen Lake, the family requests any memorial contributions be directed to the Glen Lake Association Preservation Fund, P.O. Box 245, Glen Arbor, MI 49636.

He is survived by his mother, Joanne Sprouse of Empire; his brother, Bradford (Jandy) of Maple City; a niece, Ashley Sprouse, and nephew, Brandon Sprouse, who both attend Michigan State University; two stepnephews, John and Peter Kerby-Miller, and his maternal grandfather, W. Miller Bennett of Phoenix, Ariz.

GLAMOUR BOYS - Steven Sprouse and Me (Andi Punk) by Andrew Stergiou

Left Typical Steven Sprouse Street Look Andy Warhol Steven Sprouse print

Below is a feature article that was taken from the April 5, 2004 issue of New York Magazine on Steven (Little Stevie) Sprouse unfortunate as was typical in death as well as most often in life that article failed to mention the real story of Steven Sprouse as I knew him back in the early 1970's. Steven had serious emotional problems that involved drugs, sex , and a regular supply of money to pay for them. I don't think he ever got a grip on it as though his death was said to have been caused by a heart failure undoubtedly the massive amount of cocaine and heroin he had taken in the earlier part of his life must of played some role in his death, as well as permiscious Gay sexual life style rarely if ever mentioned.

Though he was in the position to help those he allegedly cared for, he failed when actually he was lost in the seductions of forbidden fruits his so called "friends" even in death failed to be honest about. READ the article for yourself. Even where he was hopeless addicted to cigarette smoking failed to quit smoking where I succeeded and could have learned a thing or two from me, but where we were from radically different class backgrounds and social circles that was not to be his fate though at one point between 1980 and 1996 I quite smoking cold turkey where he sought out "therapists".

Where did Sprouse get his ideas from? one can easily can say from whatever inspiring he came into contact with, in essence when he was designing for Fred Halston and the proper world of commercial haute cloture, he was inspired by me and even purchasing the jacket off my back (for a good price) for one of his experiments.

The first time we met back then I remember visiting his digs on West 58th. Street in Manhattan off of Seventh Avnue where he was developing some crazy pop art idea by dripping paint onto clear acrylic plastic sheets that he had drapped over large composite collage pictures of Eddie Sedgewick that I though was crazy. Since I was early exposed to the fine art world of haut culture thru my mother who took me on trips to the Brooklyn Museum to participate in treasure hunts involving clues that they printed up for the kids, supplied a list for and let us loose in the museum with to figure out.

I was introduced to Steven Sprouse by Richard Sohl under some vaguely remembered circumstances from our party days back then, and as of yet Steven Sprouse as we called him (not Stephen) had not as of yet made a mark for himself out side of the influence of such employers as Bill Blass and Fred Halston who had worked with many lesser known persons so as to procured his objectives (like Andy Warhola not their objectives as their palce was to do their jobs).

One day I remember sitting on the floor with Steven and asked what was a $150 design because I heard the number thrown around, when he proceeded to scribble off a design of a women's dress (that I still have) which took him about 30 seconds at which I can not laugh at as it seemed funny to be so simply said when in acuality I knew a great deal of thought went into designing, and in perspective took years to realize.

When we met he lived on a diet of cigarettees, tea without sugar or creme, and drugs, which pissed me off as I remember spending long hours at his apartment without there being any real food in the house (he was a true druggie lunatic except he was supposed to have been rich (go figure rich kids on drugs? Why?).

But then again on reading the article below I could help notice the inconsistencies in the article that differed from the facts as I remembered them. As events make my place in memorys in that according to New York Debbie Harry and Steven Sprouse were supposed to have lived in a Lower East Side Loft in in 1975, and then moved into the same building two years later in 1977 (West 58th Street).

Punktuated by the release of Debbie' Harry's first record produced (1976 "Blondie") I found that strange as those events would mark time in my mind differently so as to make such a move and events impossible as New York Magazine stated them as then is when we were hanging out. As I am still waiting for copies of the photographs Steve took at his place of me with me and never keep his promise to do so.

Steve struggled with the inbreed stale uptown yuppiedom as didn't lend it self to the creative process as did the "Downtown" look did, while on the other hand he was not true to that "Downtown look" as he lived uptown (Midtown), amongst the well off parasites that inhabit society devoid of the reality he sought downtown, but could never find as he loved it, but never lived it, and owes a great debt to as with out it he was nothing.

"Sprouse wedded downtown cool with uptown luxury *** creat[ing] $1,500 sequined dresses swarming with graffiti; silk pants photo-printed with Pop Art; *** Sprouse loved rock and roll [it is said] but he can be said to have loved it so much he killed it when he infused "his clothing with its raw, pulsating energy" putting a "face on punk and got it out of the rock setting,h, and into the uptown stench that suffocates it.

"The Punk Glamour God" by By Patricia Morrisroe


At 14, Stephen Sprouse interned with Bill Blass. At 18, he was Halstonfs right hand. He traipsed through the eighties with Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol, brokering the marriage between art, rock, and fashion. But he never made it from cult figure to the legend he might have been.

By Patricia Morrisroe

Sprouse looking vaguely Iggyish in a 1997 Times story. (Photo credit: Rainer Hosch)
When Stephen Sprouse was working for Halston in the early seventies, he liked to tease the designer. gOkay, here we go,h hefd say. gAnother shirtdress for the old ladies.h Sprouse loved Carnaby Street and miniskirts. He wanted to see womenfs legs again, and pestered Halston constantly about it. Finally, two days before a major New York show in 1974, Halston let Sprouse have his way. gWe rolled a big fat joint,h says the actor Dennis Christopher (another of the designerfs gHalstonettesh), gand Halston said, eDo it!f Stephen picked up a pair of giant shears and began cutting off the bottoms of the dresses.h Christopher soon joined in, and with Halston crying, gSkimp it, skimp it!,h they created what became known as the Skimp.

Sprouse, who died at 50 of heart failure on March 4, spent his entire career slashing conventional notions of style. From one of his earliest shows in 1984, when the model Teri Toye, a transsexual blonde Valkyrie, burst upon the runway in a blaze of Day-Glo, Sprousefs clothes signaled the dawn of a new day. Dawn, in fact, was the operative word, for his models, stylistic forerunners of Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp, looked as though theyfd spent the whole night partying and were using the runway as a shortcut home.

Sprouse wedded downtown cool with uptown luxury and space-age fabrics. He created $1,500 sequined dresses swarming with graffiti; silk pants photo-printed with Pop Art; 3-D prints in collaboration with nasa. Sprouse loved rock and roll, infusing his clothing with its raw, pulsating energy. gHe put a face on punk and got it out of the rock setting,h says Ileen Sheppard Gallagher, who is curating a Sprouse retrospective for the Museum of the City of New York. gWhat Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood did in London, Stephen did in New York. It was something we hadnft seen before. Few designers, if any, were combining rock and roll, art, and fashion in such a unique and creative way.h


"The Punk Glamour God"

Midwest to Upper East: Clockwise from top right, Sprouse during his RISD days, circa 1971; back home after his three months there; and fitting Angelica Huston with Halston in the early seventies. (Photo credit: Karen Bjornson (left); Nuala Boylan (right).)
Sprouse immediately got a job with Halston, yet another Indiana boy, who was then at the height of his fame as Americafs top fashion designer, and a reigning prince of Manhattanfs nightlife. Christopher remembers Sprouse as a gtotal drawing machine.h Halston frequently designed by draping fabric, and Sprouse, sketchpad in hand, would have to visualize the architecture of his draping and then translate it to paper. Other times, Halston, between drags on a cigarette, would simply say, gNow, give me a dolman sleeve,h and Sprouse would instantly create one. From Halston, whose strength as a designer was in the purity and simplicity of his forms, Sprouse learned about shape and luxury. He also met many of the leading social figures of the day. gWe were living such a strange existence,h says Christopher. gWefd be going off in a limousine with Halston to have dinner at Diana Vreelandfs and then, because we were so broke, wefd have to scrounge for change to take the subway home.h

Halstonfs boutique on East 68th Street functioned as a kind of salon, where multiple tiers of New York society intermingled. gYoufd have the Babe Paleys and the Pat Buckleys,h Christopher says, gbut youfd also have Liza Minnelli and the younger beautiful girls, like Marisa Berenson.h Jackie Onassis, for whom Halston created the famous pillbox hat, came by regularly to have him design her pants. gStephen loved her,h says Christopher. gHe thought she had an eedge.f h

Sprousefs favorite, however, was Barbra Streisand. While he appreciated her voice, it was her space-age looks that really impressed him. gHe thought she had this fabulous, 1960s lunar quality,h says Christopher, gwith that winged eyeliner and that beautiful haircut. It reminded him of an alien helmet.h One day, without telling Halston, he took part of the designerfs collection over to the Plaza, where she was staying, and showed it to her. gWhen she called up later to place her orders, Halston couldnft believe it,h says designer Bill Dugan, also an assistant. gLetfs just say he sent Stephen home for a few days after that.h

More and more, the artist in Sprouse bridled at the conventions of both fashion and uptown society. gIt was getting a little too grandly divine for Stephen,h says Christopher, gand he was ready to say good-bye to that world and connect to the life of the streets. He and Halston had a real father-son dynamic and he needed to break away.h

Sprouse left Halston after two and a half years, and in 1975, he moved to a loft in the Bowery, where he shared a bathroom and kitchen with singer Deborah Harry, who would routinely feed his cats. Harry, a beautiful ex–Playboy Bunny, and former art student Chris Stein had recently formed Blondie, and they were beginning to gain a following at Maxfs Kansas City and CBGB. At Halston, Sprouse had loved playing dress-up with the designerfs favorite model, Karen Bjornson, who personified the cool Upper East Side blonde. He transformed Harry into a kind of Bowery Bjornson, creating clothes from ripped tights, T-shirts, and objects he picked up off the streets. In London, designer Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols, were already making the conceptual link between fashion and punk with their Kings Road boutique, Sex. It sold slashed T-shirts and bondage gear. Sprousefs vision was less hard-core, more glam.

He may have created a dress with razor blades dangling from the hem, but it was beautifully designed.

Two years later, Sprouse and Harry moved into a building in the West Fifties, where neighbors included rock-and-roller David Johansen and Candy Pratts Price and her husband, painter Chuck Price. gStephen and I were totally fascinated watching Debbiefs various dates come and go,h says Candy. gIt was like, eWow, therefs Mick Jagger.f It was like one big playground for us.h

Art, rock music, and fashion were the central themes of Sprousefs life. When he wasnft designing clothes, he worked on his art, doing giant silk-screen paintings of rock stars, and painting pictures over the Xerox copies he made with his large industrial copier. With the advent of music video, rock and roll was becoming a bigger part of mass culture. In 1978, he photo-printed a picture hefd taken of TV scan lines onto a piece of fabric, which he then designed as a dress for Debbie Harry. She wore it in the video for her No. 1 hit gHeart of Glass,h giving Sprouse the kind of exposure it had taken Halston years to get.


Sprouse found many of his design ideas on the downtown club scene. He was a regular at the Mudd Club, where the gtheme partiesh—the equivalent of happenings in the sixties—attracted both an art and a music crowd. It was viewed as the antithesis of Studio 54, which, in Sprousefs mind, was more Halstonfs territory. One thing both places had in common, however, was the copious quantities of drugs being consumed on their premises. Pot was Sprousefs drug of choice during the Halston years, says Christopher, but he later moved on to heroin. Friends say that if he hadnft stopped, it would have killed him, but he went into AA and quit twenty or so years ago. gStephen wasnft stupid,h says Christopher. gHe wasnft about to become a drug victim. His work meant too much to him.h

For years, Sprouse had been adorning his hands and arms with friendsf phone numbers—his version of a Palm Pilot. Graffiti, both an essential element of punk and an outgrowth of subway art, had already been incorporated into the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Sprouse decided to use it his way.


gStephen told me that he was wandering around the East Village one day,h says Beyer, gand suddenly went home and began sketching graffiti-covered motorcycle jackets and sequined miniskirts.h He showed them to his friend Steven Meisel, then an aspiring photographer, who brought them to fashion producer Kezia Keeble. In April 1983, Sprousefs clothes appeared in a show of young designers that Keeble produced and were such a hit that Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendel immediately ordered ten dresses. He was suddenly a bona fide fashion designer—something he wasnft entirely sure he wanted—and with $1.4 million from his parents, he set up his business.

Eight months later, at his silver-painted showroom on 57th Street, he introduced his first, groundbreaking collection, a synthesis of sixties and eighties pop culture, which merged all the visual references hefd picked up on during his thirteen years in New York. The models wore big Jackie O sunglasses, impish stocking caps, and graffiti-covered white motorcycle jackets, while punk rock and the Rolling Stones boomed from speakers. gI remember being totally overwhelmed,h says Kal Ruttenstein, now Bloomingdalefs senior vice-president for fashion direction. gIt was the first time Ifd seen Day-Glo clothing. You had very loud rock-and-roll music, which you just didnft have before in shows. You had boys and girls walking together down the runway, which wasnft done, and you had Teri Toye, a man who lived as a girl. It was a very powerful moment.h (Ruttenstein says that when Bloomingdalefs started carrying the line, Karl Lagerfeld and Claude Montana always wanted to see Sprousefs clothes.)


The Punk Glamour God"

In May 1984, when Sprouse showed his latest collection at the Ritz, a former club downtown, 2,500 people attended, including Andy Warhol. He loved Sprousefs sixties-inspired clothes and afterward traded two portraits for the whole collection. gSprouse was definitely one of Andyfs echildren,f h says Benjamin Liu, who worked as Warholfs assistant. gSo much of what Andy was brilliantly known for—the neon colors, the Pop imagery, the association with musicians—Stephen brought into his own work.h

Warhol, in turn, brought Sprouse into his life, inviting him for dinners at Odeon or Indochine that would lead to after-dinner excursions to Area, at the time the cityfs hottest club. Like the Mudd Club, from which it evolved, Area had changing monthly gthemes,h with various people creating installations. Doonan recalls seeing one Sprouse designed, in which a gguy in silver jeans, in an all-silver room, watched one of Stephenfs shows on a silver TV.h


gI remember meeting Stephen at a Valentine Dayfs party Warhol threw there,h says Jeff Slonim, now a columnist for the New York Post. gUrsula Andress was on the dance floor with Alexander Godunov, and it was all terribly glamorous. Stephen had this incredible rock style, which was a little off-putting, and I thought he wouldnft bother with me. But he turned out to be so soft-spoken and friendly and meek.h

Sprouse had been in business only a short time but had quickly become a cult figure, his clothes prominently featured in major department stores and on the pages of Vogue and Harperfs Bazaar. He was part of Warholfs coterie. Rock stars, like Madonna, wanted him to help style their images. But there was one way in which success eluded him: He was running out of money. From Halston, hefd developed a taste for expensive materials, but since no one was making Day-Glo fabric at the time, he turned to Agnona, the Italian luxury cashmere manufacturer. As a result, his clothes were priced too high for the youthful customers who gravitated to them. Then there were the production problems, as Sprouse insisted on doing things like hand-painting the graffiti on the clothes himself. By the spring of 1985, he owed $600,000 to creditors; that summer, Sprouse shut down his business. Kim Hastreiter, co-editor and co-publisher of Paper, remembers vintage dealer Patricia Field buying vast quantities of Sprousefs clothes at his bankruptcy sale. gShe sold them really cheap to the kids,h she said. gThey went totally insane.h

The press had a different kind of field day, and stories appeared with headlines like SPROUSE: HOW SUCCESS TURNED TO FAILURE. Sprouse, for the most part, kept his feelings private. Much as hefd done as a little boy, he compartmentalized his life. Many of his friends knew one another only as names scrawled in ink on his arm. While Sprouse, who was gay, had lovers over the years, according to Christopher, he never met his romantic soul mate. gStephen wore his heart on his sleeve,h he says. gPerhaps in some way, he didnft feel he was worthy of a relationship. That was all part of the contradiction.h


gThe Concorde hit turbulence. I looked over at Stephen. He was writing his name on his arm so hefd be identified.h

In September 1987, six months after hefd designed costumes for the New York City Balletfs premiere of Ecstatic Orange—and after the sudden death of Warhol, who was buried in a Sprouse suit—Sprouse returned to fashion with the opening of his own store in a converted firehouse on Wooster Street. He was now in business with 24-year-old Andrew Cogan, whose father, Marshall, was chairman of GFI-International. At last, he had big money behind him. But the store was a risky venture—he would be the first designer to have a full-scale emporium in Soho. gThere was nothing like this downtown,h says Price. gIt was a real happening. A living environment.h

Sprouse controlled almost every aspect, designing the interior, picking out the music, selecting the images for the massive video wall on the first floor. He created three different clothing lines, including a cheaper one for younger customers, as well as gloves, fishnets, hats, shoes, jewelry, even makeup. gThe opening was unbelievable,h says Jamie Boud, Sprousefs longtime assistant. gDebbie Harry played on a stage formed by a big red X. Stephen knew a lot of people, and they all showed up for him.h


In 1988, with Sprousefs career flying high, Absolut Vodka selected him for its popular advertising campaign, taking him to Sweden on the Concorde as part of a promotion—gthe Absolut Trip.h Jeff Slonim was invited along at the last moment (gThey said, eWefve got an extra seat on the Concorde. Want to take it?f so I didh). He sat across from Sprouse, who hated flying. gWe hit turbulence,h says Slonim, gand all of a sudden the Concorde turned into this projectile, and it was like, Uh-oh, here we go. I looked over at Stephen. He was writing his name on his arm so hefd be identified.h


In addition to running his store, Sprouse was now selling wholesale, working from one of Warholfs former factories, at 860 Broadway. gIt wasnft Stephen alone anymore,h Powell says. gHe had to deal with marketing people in conservative suits. Stephen would get to work very late and hefd always be listening to rock music. I remember one time this businessman walked in and said, in this booming voice, gStephen, think plaids.h It was right out of The Graduate. Stephen just had his mouth open. But then he took a picture of TV static and, by using a computer, produced these very futuristic plaids in neon hot colors. Stephen delivered.h

He did two shows that year, one grown-up and sophisticated, with prints done in collaboration with Keith Haring, the other a Sprouse phantasmagoria, with models stumbling down the runway chewing capsules that gushed fake blood. gThat show was really panned,h says Boud. gBut Stephen thought it was the best one hefd ever done. He was into the showbiz of it all. The clothes were just costumes for the eshow.f h


By 1989, Sprouse, in what was now becoming a familiar pattern, was once again unemployed. He lost his stores—hefd opened a second one in L.A.—and his wholesale business. gWe were too crazily, overly ambitious,h admits Cogan. "At the end, we were doing close to $10 million worth of business, but it wasnft enough. The clothing, particularly after that last show, which was a spectacular bomb, didnft sell. Telling Stephen we couldnft continue was the worst day of my life.h gAfter the store closed, Stephen was a little lost,h says Boud. gHe was just a freelance guy at that point. He realized fashion was what he was best known for, but nothing about his career had ever been calculated.h He spent more time on his art, creating giant silk screens of rock stars, like Iggy Pop and Sid Vicious. He made costumes for Mick Jagger, Axl Rose, Trent Reznor, Courtney Love, David Bowie, and Duran Duran, and designed numerous album covers and backdrops for sets.


"The Punk Glamour God"

Wild style Sprouse creations in a 2000 fashion shoot for a Japanese magazine; Rachel Williams modeling his spring 1989 collection. (Photo credit: Rainer Hosch; Jamie Boud.)
When Clevelandfs Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in 1995, Sprouse was asked to become the consulting fashion curator. He threw himself into it, working closely with a sculptor at Pucci International to make sure the mannequins had the right look. gHe felt their bodies should be skinnier than normal bodies, because of the years of drug use,h says Ileen Sheppard Gallagher. gHe knew exactly how they should hold their arms and tilt their hips. He was so uncompromising.h Sprousefs vision even extended to the security guards, whose uniforms he insisted on designing.

In 1996, Sprouse won the rights to use Warholfs imagery on his clothing, which led to a deal with Staff International, an Italian company whose stable of designers included Vivienne Westwood. Sprouse returned to the runway in the fall of 1997 with a collection that paid homage to Warhol: Models wore the artistfs vivid Pop images on dresses and baggy raver-style pants. But when Staff was later bought out by another company, Sprousefs license wasnft renewed—a cruel irony, as fashion was then experiencing a retro-eighties moment and Sprousefs designs were fetching high prices at vintage stores.


In the summer of 2000, Marc Jacobs asked Sprouse to go to Paris to help with his spring collection for Louis Vuitton. Jacobs, whofd known Sprouse from his own club days, had long been a fan, and arranged for him to stay at the Ritz, where Sprouse, staring at TV static one night, came up with the idea of creating floral prints using huge digitized cabbage roses. But it was Sprousefs graffiti bag, on which hefd written, in raw painted lettering, louis vuitton paris, that became the big hit, with long waiting lists. Sprouse confided to Boud that even he couldnft get one. Months later, he could—on Canal Street, where counterfeiters were selling them by the hundreds. gAt least the knockoffs were expensive,h says Boud. gOther bags by other designers were selling for $20; his were $90.h Friends bought the standard LV knockoffs and asked Sprouse to paint graffiti on them.


The experience with Marc Jacobs soured Sprouse on fashion; instead of coming away envious of Jacobsfs lucrative LVMH deal, he realized hefd never be able to work in such a rigid corporate structure. Though Sprouse was then in his late forties, he was still very childlike and loved sitting in Washington Square Park, watching the kids skateboard. gHe really fed off their energy,h says Beyer. gI remember we were out at a rock club one night and these kids came up to him and said, eHey, you wrote the last words.f It made him feel really good.h

In 2002, Sprouse designed a lower-priced line of red, white, and blue clothing and accessories for Target. Everything had usa written on it in graffiti print. While some people viewed it cynically as a cheap way of cashing in on 9/11, Sprouse, whofd lost a friend in one of the plane crashes, felt an uncharacteristic surge of patriotism. gI hope people wonft misinterpret me,h he said to Christopher, who replied: gStephen, when havenft you been misinterpreted?

For years, friends had noticed that Sprouse, who smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, seemed frequently out of breath. Benjamin Liu recalls that when Sprouse came to visit him at his fourth-floor walk-up, he had to take a gbreathing breakh on the second floor. gSometime in late 2002, he called me up and asked if there were any rehabs for cigarette smokers,h Christopher says. gHe wanted to go to a place where theyfd lock him up.h

Finally, Sprouse quit cold turkey, but in spring 2003, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. gWhen he called me on the phone, he was sobbing,h Boylan says. gThey told him he had only three months to live.h

Sprouse kept his diagnosis a secret from all but a few friends. Andrew Cogan, who by then had become CEO of Knoll, had hired him to do textiles, and Renzo Rosso, the founder of Diesel, wanted him to design T-shirts and jeans. He was very concerned about losing those contracts.

Boylan took him to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and managed to get him admitted into an experimental drug trial, but when his breathing worsened, doctors wouldnft let him continue with the protocol. Over the next eight months, he visited numerous oncologists and took various drugs, hoping to improve enough to be readmitted into the Dana-Farber program. One drug gave him such bad acne he didnft want anyone to see him. In September 2003, though, he had to put in an appearance at the opening of the new Diesel store hefd helped to design on Union Square.

gWe went to dinner with Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins,h Boylan says. gIfve never known a man to be so jittery. He just didnft want to go to the opening. By then, the illness was really contributing to his depressed frame of mind.h At one point during the evening, he looked at her and said, gI was Stephen Sprouse. Am I prostituting my talents?h

Yet he had his optimistic moments, as if cancer were just another business reversal from which he could stage a triumphant comeback. He put his energy into painting portraits of his friends and nephews. He was even working on a painting of the space station for NASA.

This January, he took a six-week trip to Buenos Aires to visit a friend. A few days after his return, he went to the Paradise Cinema to see The Dreamers, Bernardo Bertoluccifs film about three young film students in Paris during the 1968 student revolt. The next afternoon, Boylan got a call from him. He sounded exuberant and told her hefd do anything to get back on the Dana-Farber program. He pictured himself living in Boston and taking art classes at Harvard. gHe didnft care if he staggered into those classes,h says Boylan. gHe was going to do it.h

That evening, though, Sprouse couldnft catch his breath. He called a friend, Sean Bohary, who took him to St. Lukefs–Roosevelt Hospital, where he died early the next morning.

In Paris, the fall 2004 shows were in full swing, with people saying an emotional farewell to designer Tom Ford, acting as if hefd died when he was only leaving Gucci. On Sunday night at the Vuitton show, tucked inside the program, people found a slip of paper that read, gThis collection is in loving memory of our friend Stephen Sprouse.h

Back in New York, Boylan arranged a small funeral service. On March 10, 25 friends gathered in New Jersey for the cremation. With pens and Magic Markers, they covered his wooden coffin in graffiti, writing messages to him on the inside and outside surfaces of the box. Then, before closing the lid, someone placed a Magic Marker in Sprousefs hand, so he could write the last words himself.

Universally Copyrighted, All Rights Reserved (copyright 1955-2006 Andrew Stergiou (aka Andreas), use at your own risk, contact for author's consent to fair use (fascists only have rights to drop dead, die, or be killed!)