Spanish socialists on the ropes, but clenched-fist Stussy T-shirt is a hit

Sam Jones in Madrid
PSOE members in Madrid after the election victory of Felipe Gonzalez in 1982. Photograph: Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma via Getty Images

The Spanish socialist party (PSOE) may have slumped to its worst election results in 40 years, dumped its leader in a very bloody and public coup, and ceded much of its political turf to the anti-austerity Podemos movement, but things are finally looking up, if only sartorially.

The party’s logo – a left fist clenched around a red rose – is undergoing something of a fashion renaissance after being used on a range of T-shirts in the US.

Spaniards were puzzled and amused after it emerged that José María Cruz Novillo’s 40-year-old design had been borrowed by Stussy and slapped across the clothing company’s International Rose Tee.

The artist and designer said that although he imagined Stussy had no idea who had come up with the logo or what it stood for, he was pleased. “It’s an unexpected professional recognition that’s made me very, very happy,” he told the Cadena Ser radio station.

The PSOE, however, was less than impressed. One socialist MP branded the use of the logo a “disgrace”, while the party announced it was looking into the matter and had not ruled out legal action.

Urban Outfitters, which had been selling the T-shirt, took it off its website, but it is still available from Stussy for $32 (£25.65) in black, white, pink or purple.

By the weekend, the PSOE appeared to have opted for a little reclamation and had begun selling its own fist-and-flower T-shirts, tweeting:

The party has been in the hands of a caretaker administration since its leader, Pedro Sánchez, was overthrown after refusing to break the country’s 10-month political deadlock by allowing the return to government of the prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s party (PP).

Sánchez, who still enjoys the support of the party’s grassroots members, is now running to win back his old job. Facing off against him are Susana Díaz, the president of the PSOE’s Andalusian heartland – whose faction was instrumental in toppling Sánchez – and the former Basque president Patxi López.

Sánchez, who wants the party to lean further to the left to reclaim the ground lost to Podemos, has spent the last few months touring Spain to make his case.

Díaz, who has the blessing of the former PSOE prime ministers Felipe González and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, is aiming to pitch herself as the centrist, unity candidate who can bring the deeply fractured party back together.

Formally announcing her long-awaited leadership bid in Madrid, Díaz said she wanted “a PSOE that starts to win again”. She also called for co-operation and mutual respect to help get the party back on the road to government. “I can’t do it on my own,” she said. “I need the help of the whole party; I’m asking you to help so the PSOE can once again lead a project to take charge of Spain. Help me and come with me.”

Primaries are due to be held in May and the new leader will be elected at the party’s conference in June.

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