Oi Polloi

An Interview with Archie Maher, vintage Stone Island collector

Published: Thu Feb 22 2018

We’ve been working with an ardent hoarder of vintage Stone Island garb by the name of Archie ‘Arco’ Maher on an exhibition of fancy jackets. 

It’s taking place tonight down at our Soho shop, but for those who can’t make it, here’s an interview with the man himself, as well as some nice photographs of his rather nice collection. 

Ahead of tonight’s exhibition of his archive down at our Soho shop, we thought we'd ask him a couple of questions.

Main photos by James Starkey, rail shot by Marc Pritchard.  

Okay, what’ve you been up to today? 

A couple lengthy trips to the post office, a spot of washing and ironing and some heavy browsing and researching through Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s Seditionaries book - an archivist’s dream picture book. 

You collect Stone Island jackets. How did you get into this? When did you go from having a few jackets to ‘a collection’? 

I collect and archive 'unique' Stone Island pieces from 1982 to the late 2000s period, predominately focusing on the Massimo Osti and Paul Harvey years. It started fairly innocently and organically from grabbing a late 80s striped Marina t-shirt about five years ago, which caught my interest online somewhere. 

I think I consistently wore that t-shirt most days for a year or so and became slightly obsessed from thereafter. I began purchasing a few more pieces here and there and gradually clocked on to the expansive and ever impressive history of the brand. 

Whilst pretending to study for my History of Art degree at university up in Manc, I would spend days on end reading books and magazines with any Stone Island references, fully immersing myself in the brand and delving into the numerous subcultures that surrounded the brand. I began to study Osti’s work and look at his collections very closely whilst attempting to search and amass as many “sought after” items as possible. 

The buying and selling aspect of Arco Maher kicked in and I started to provide pieces to people dotted here and there around the globe. As people always say, Stone Island is very much a globally respected and adored brand, so it’s always powerful to be connected with people who share the same passion. 

The Arco Maher Archive began to grow and sparked certain interest, with the introduction of press loans rentals and sales of the pieces for fashion editorials and to artists for their music videos and personal wardrobes. The rest is history, with a lot more growth and change to come!  

Why Stone Island? What is it about this stuff you’re into? 

I’m the kind of person that’s pretty easily distracted, with a fairly short attention span, so unless something REALLY engulfs me I’m not too bothered! 

Stone Island never fails to grab my interest, whether it’s the mad colour palettes Osti experimented within his garment dyeing processes or the different materials they boldly introduced, it’s hard not to be continuously amazed by it all!  

There’s some mad details on this stuff that I reckon most people would miss. Can you walk us through a few interesting features on these jackets you’re into? 

Trust me, there are some ridiculous details on these pieces and they can sometimes be a little overwhelming when looking at them. 

I always think the Ice Jacket model is good one to discuss; it always leaves people gasping for more! In short the Ice Jacket changes colour dependent on the temperature it’s exposed too or the body heat of the individual wearing the piece. 

The colour change occurs due to the thermo-sensitive coating with liquid crystals built into the fabric, a mad Japanese invention! When thinking Ice Jackets most people commonly think of the iconic 1990 Ice Camo range, which are constructed from a ‘magic’ cotton canvas rip-stop twill material. The piece is scattered in a camo print, which becomes more pronounced as the fabric fades away when the temperature drops. 

Even some small details like the built in wool balaclava feature on one of my 1987 Raso Puffa Jackets or the ridiculous glazed silk phone pouch on the arm of my 1992 ‘Toffee Wrapper’ jacket… the list is endless, I’m always discovering crazy new bits on each piece.  

Not being funny or anything, but how do you afford this stuff? Those jackets aren’t cheap. 

Definitely man, some pricey stuff! I think the buying and selling nature of things allows me to invest certain funds into gradually building my archive up, plus the hire and rental aspect of the business always helps! It’s something I’ve worked on day in day out for quite some time; so it’s always rewarding to see new special pieces come in.  

Where do you get stuff from? I know most collecting is done via the internet these days, but do you still get stuff in real life sometimes too? 

That’s something I always get quizzed on. Obviously platforms like Ebay, Depop and other online forums are always helpful to grab the odd piece here and there, but to get the real special pieces it’s always handy when you stumble across old collectors who’ve been buying and actively wearing the brand for the last 20 years or so. I’m only 23 so there was a fair bit of catching up to do! 

I’ve learnt most of what I know from having long, intense conversations with these collectors, in which these guys relive when they wore each piece or where they got it from – it’s always mad interesting to hear about. 

This is why I always have a lot of respect for the generation who exposed Stone Island to the UK, as I wouldn’t be here doing this without them. 

What’s the most effort you’ve gone to, to get your hands on a jacket? 

I’ve been on a couple trips deep into remote towns of Europe and an unexpected one to San Francisco last year. It’s usually worth the stress when you know you’ll be unearthing a goldmine!

Actually, one of my favourite pieces in my archive, the A/W 1984 Heat Treated PolyVinyl Ski Salopettes, came from a very snowy small town in Hungary – the ride back home was luckily very toasty, given the recent acquisition. 

It seems like more and more people are into collecting these days and everyone’s pretty rapid on eBay and that now. Does this make it harder for you to get stuff? 

I think it’s definitely getting tougher and as the demand for vintage Stone Island increases, more people are keen to experience the buzz of having these pieces, so it’s all getting snapped up fairly rapidly. 

I think as long as you’re very resourceful and you look to exhaust every small connection possible (which I always do haha), you’ll just about be okay! I think Stone Island is at the height of its popularity at the minute, massively helped by certain musicians and important fashion heads rocking it. Although, I do genuinely think it’ll just continue its natural popularity and growth and in five years down the line be just as in demand as it is now.  

Do you collect owt else? Is there anything else you go mad over? 

Hmm, I guess it’s a more common obsession but wherever I am in the world, I’ll try grab a piece of gold jewellery, whether that’s rings, earrings or a chain, I’m always on the hunt.   

Where do you think this ‘collector mind’ comes from? Did you collect stuff growing up? 

I think it may be partially due to my father habits, as a child he collected and hoarded matchbox cars, then Fender guitars and now records as he’s grown older. Growing up, I was exposed to all of these bits and bobs, so my thing was stamps and Chelsea FC match programmes — not very original sadly, but yeah, I’ve always held onto and collected certain things growing up.  

What else do you get up to outside of hoarding jackets? 

Running Arco Maher is a fairly full time thing — whether it’s styling shoots, lending pieces for music videos, building the archive or bits of brand consultancy here and there, I pretty much work at it nonstop. 

But it’s always healthy to take a step back and have a break; I’m quite an avid drummer and have always played percussion so will usually have a little jam in the cellar at home a couple of times a week to de stress and relax!   

Very nice. You got any wise words to wrap this up with? 

It’s probably a good time to say, big love to Oi Polloi for working on this project with me. 

No worries.

See some new Stone Island stuff here. 

Oh, and if anyone is wondering why they can't see their comment anymore... we may or may not have accidentally wiped them. Should hopefully get them back soon.