Born in 1953, in Ohio; died of heart failure, March 4, 2004, in New York, NY. Fashion designer. Twenty years after Stephen Sprouse's debut as a fashion designer on New York runways, street culture was regularly invoked as an inspiration at the most luxe of design ateliers. Yet back in 1983, when Sprouse's spray-paint-derived Day-Glo colors took their cue from the subway graffiti that once plagued the New York underground, his vision was light-years ahead. The exuberant designer was a fixture in the New York spheres of music and art as well as fashion, and was a longtime contributor to Interview, the magazine founded by his friend and role model, Andy Warhol. Interview eulogized Sprouse as "a perfect embodiment of the cultural renaissance of the times, when the barriers separating high and low, uptown and downtown, and fashion and art—once as solid and redoubtable as the Berlin Wall—came crashing down and everything from painting to politics came together."
Sprouse failed to find a good set of business mentors, and struggled for the remainder of his career. After failing to present a collection in 1986, he ventured into retail in 1987, but the New York and Los Angeles venues were shuttered a year later. "It happened so fast. I was in my own little vacuum. I trusted everyone, and then a wall went up," his obituary by WWD writer Lisa Lockwood quoted him as saying. The 1990s were marked by a series of struggles and small successes: he did a line in 1992 exclusively for haute-New York retailer Bergdorf Goodman, and another in 1995 for Barneys New York. He presented a collection at the 1997 New York Fashion Week, and scored a hit in 2000 with the signature graffiti-print limited edition handbag line for Louis Vuitton, a company whose creative director, Marc Jacobs, was an old pal from the punk-rock era. Sprouse's last venture was a special line for Target in 2002 with his exuberant signature graffiti print.
Sprouse had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and was hospitalized not long after he returned from a trip to South America in early 2004. He died of heart failure at the age of 50 on March 4, 2004, in New York City. He is survived by his mother, brother, niece, and three nephews.