As He Opens His 30,000-Piece Archive, Slam Jam’s Luca Benini Shares his Personal Favorites

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If you think your wardrobe is full to bursting, then spare a thought for Luca Benini. Already an avid collector of clothing before he founded Slam Jam in 1989, the Italian entrepreneur has since amassed an archive of 30,000 items. These have been acquired across a career dedicated to identifying and working with some of the most significant names in streetwear and fashion from Stüssy to Alyx. As well as garments, the Slam Jam vaults include accessories, shoes, records, and art.

For the first time, Benini is set to make that archive publicly accessible, both physically in Slam Jam’s home town of Ferrara, Italy, and virtually through archivio.slamjam.com, which will open on February 25. The plan is to use the archive as a “physical and digital reference point on street culture and cultural anthropology of costume,” according to a release. The archive will be curated by Slam Jam in partnership with the Turin-based art studio Nationhood to editorialize and contextualize Benini’s heaving shelves of grails. To do this well, 50 new archive pieces will be published every month or so, following the 100-ish tranche available at launch. Anyone wishing to visit in person can book a slot online.

Before this museum of streetwear throws open its doors, we took the chance to catch up with Benini—and to ask him which seven pieces of that 30,000-strong haul he feels most personally attached to. From Stone Island to first generation Air Jordans via Supreme decks and art by Jun Takahashi (the last two live in Benini’s apartment), it’s a trove that tells of a life spent exploring the globe’s freshest springs of cultural creativity.

Vogue: Slam Jam’s success was founded on strategies that included importing Stüssy into Europe or partnering with Carhartt WIP. Do you think similar opportunities exist today, and where do you see them coming from?

Luca Benini: I think they do for sure. But as in the past, it’s not easy to spot them—now for different reasons—but we’re always looking for the authentic that goes beyond the object itself.

What do you think are some of the unifying factors that link successful labels in the so-called streetwear category?

The dialogue with the community. Relevance comes from the capability of brands to engage in new and meaningful dialogues with the people and nurture them throughout time. Think about the International Stüssy Tribe back then, a global set of true connections among people before the social networks, based on passions like clothing, music, sports, and so on.

Sustainability does not yet seem to have become a significant factor for streetwear consumers and designers—do you think that should change?

I think that must change dramatically, and it’s not an option to ignore that. Taking good care of the planet we live in—and future generations will [live in]—has to be a main priority and inform decisions, in all fields and industries. Way too often I’ve seen the term being abused in a meaningless way or just as a marketing statement.

When did you first start archiving your pieces, and why?

A few years ago. It was my daughter Giulia’s idea, who’s now on the project full time. The aim is educational, and not just internally. We hope it will be an important source of reference for the current and future generations of creatives and enthusiasts. After three decades in the game, we’ve felt driven to order all the things I’ve collected, to share them and give back to the community. These pieces represent the heritage of what we consider a very significant cultural period that I’ve had the luck to witness in person.

Is there anything that you failed to archive that you later regretted not preserving?

So many I can’t even count them, luckily the team is helping to retrieve some of them. For sure the Memphis-inspired collection from some time ago (I just got a tie) and pieces by the early 1980s Italian wave of innovators, including Armani, Fiorucci, and Massimo Osti.

We’ve asked you to compile a very short list of the items to be held in the newly accessible archive that you feel are the most valuable, whether that be in historical, emotional, or monetary terms. Is there anything that links these pieces together?

The impact on my heart and eyes. All pieces caught my attention in a way or another, and that happened throughout almost four decades. It all started as my wardrobe and own collection, hence as a very personal journey, but then fully became a joint one with my team.

Of all of the pieces in your archive edit, which is the one to which you are most fond of or attached to and why?

For sure the oldest pieces are very special to me. Probably the zebra print t-shirt I bought at Plastic Club co-founder Lino Nisi’s iconic store Crazy Boy in Milan in December 1978. A Stone Island Jacket I bought around 1983. I then gave it to a friend, and luckily bought it again from him afterwards. To be honest, however, still every year there are incredible pieces I fall in love with. And more to come for sure.

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