Aries Hillier Bartley Project Based Learning
It is impossible to create something without destroying something but it is even more impossible to create something new entirely by doing it alone. When you collaborate with someone your ideas bend and stretch and morph and come to life and your mind grows and changes. The Aries x Hillier Bartley collaboration started six months ago, before the world changed. The final aim, after making the charms, was to produce a body of work with the students of The City of Islington Sixth Form College and through project based learning, make a difference to their lives by introducing new things to them.
Project based learning is the active exploration of challenges and problems. There’s no right and there’s no wrong, there’s just the final outcome. That’s the beauty of collaboration, together you redefine the world the you are creating. “Collaborating means you can be creative in different ways,” says Aries head honcho Sofia Prantera. “Maths can be creative because there are different ways of solving problems. It’s good to be wrong sometimes.”
Aries and Hillier Bartley have collaborated before. And working together on jewellery made sense. Taking the Hillier Bartley paper clip – a punk idea that is crying out to be adorned, a utilitarian token that lends itself to being repurposed time and time again – made sense. So Aries visited the maker William Cheshire, who they had ties with from before. See? Nothing is possible without collaboration. Half of the charms you see are from the Aries mind-canon - the dick, the ring pull, the throwing star. Katie Hillier, of Hillier Bartley designed the key – it’s a hand cuff key – for her husband. The bunny has always been part of the Hillier Bartley language, it’s the full stop to their visual sentence. “Collaborating with different people brings you so many different experiences,” says Hillier. “It enriches learning. I love it.” Hillier has collaborated on projects throughout her career. She’s made a point of it. “I think my career would have been different if I hadn’t collaborated so much,” she adds.
The next step was to work with the City of Islington Sixth Form College. Sofia practically walks past it every day and had been talking about changing the way they worked at Aries. Even if you are at university studying fashion you are already at an advantage. So she wanted to work on a program that offered internships to people who might not normally feel comfortable going into fashion as they don’t have access to opening the door to the fashion world. Art is for everyone but at the same time, it’s hard for everyone to get to it. Sofia wanted to change that.
Working with the students was enlightening. Not only did they learn that there are different realities and different ways of working but also that one person’s vision can build on your vision; kids who have studied academia discover that they are still creative. Collaboration is power and growth for everyone.
The final images of the kids wearing the charms, styled themselves, adapting and evolving the charms and the clothes into something new are beautiful and fragile. Seen through the lens of a woman, the photographer Clare Shilland, the kids embody a new way of looking at fashion. It’s raw and it’s theirs. They own it. They have taken it to their own place. It becomes not precious to them because they have no fear. This isn’t something new to them: it’s the same as recycling an image on the internet. It’s sharing a stream of consciousness on social media.
It is perhaps prescient that Aries decided to change the way they worked before the world stopped and decided that it was going to do the same. That they decided to work in a way that opened opportunities to those who might not have them, that took their ideas and grew them creatively through playing with ideas and graphics. As the quote says, you learn the most through playing, so maybe it isn’t prescient. Maybe Aries is a brand who likes to learn. You could say it’s dorky. But actually it’s pretty cool.