A wise man once said that youth is not a time of life but a state of mind. Step forward Slam Jam's Luca Benini. Involved in the industry for well over 30 years, the Italian has crafted a fashion empire from the simple but criminally overlooked virtue of good taste. What began as a distributor and importer has since assumed an amorphous form — a kind of streetwear symbiote — taking guise as a licensee, boutique, art dabbler, global collaborator, and much more.
Benini is a fashion wildcard; a music-obsessed high school dropout far removed from the new-age entrepreneur who spouts garbage language from a book of marketing 101. His is a multi-million business run on intuition for cool and a genuine love for the cultural underground. He says he's a DJ, not a curator, and his selections come from real experiences they don't teach you in class. This is the guy who brought Stüssy to Europe in 1989 — well before I was even born. Since then, he has played as big a role as anyone in demolishing the barrier between high and low.
Benini is now assuming something of a professorial role himself by blowing off the dust on his Slam Jam archive. The new endeavor — physical at the Slam Jam headquarters in Ferrara and digital on archivio.slamjam.com — will be shared with the public, encompassing 30,000 items including clothing, accessories, shoes, records, works of art, and documents. Fifty pieces will be released monthly (around 100 for the first launch), each contextualized by art studio Nationhood.
There might be more to Slam Jam than streetwear, but its history there is unrivaled. Check out the archive here and find some of Benini's favorite bits below.
Carhartt WIP "Luxury Hurts" T-shirt, 2013
"My old car at Slam Jam Headquarters in Ferrara is shown with no wheels as they just got stolen. Carhartt WIP then made a T-shirt out of the picture."
Slam Jam Varsity Jacket, 1998
"A custom varsity jacket for the Slam Jam team 22 years ago, featuring my birth year."
ACRONYM, First Edition Kit, 2001
"I've got piece number 1 of 120. At that time, we were working with Errolson [Hugh] on the Italian market."
Nike Air Kukini, 1999
"These remain an inspiration for my team nowadays. I'm not a big fan of the shape, but they are iconic and very innovative."
Alpha Industries x Stüssy AM-1 Bomber Jacket, 2005
"This 25th-anniversary jacket features Slam Jam pins, alongside Supreme, Fragment, and UNDEFEATED."
FUCT "You're Next" T-shirt, 1994
"A strong and meaningful statement graphic by our longstanding partner and friend Erik Brunetti."
Zoo York x Supreme Zoopreme Skateboard, 2006
"A Supreme and Zoo York collaborative deck from our collection. Slam Jam distributed both brands across Italy throughout the 2000s."
TROOP Sneakers, 1988
"After seeing Public Enemy's Flavor Flav wearing them, I traveled to London and got my pair at Four Star General, a crazy basement store in Carnaby Street."