It’s a basic instinct we all have; finding a worried face staring back at us from the taps in the sink. Seeing a cock and balls in the clouds on a summer’s day. It’s just one of those things. We expect to find meaning in there, through cause and effect, recognising patterns allows us to make a connection between memories and work out what’s coming.
Aries is street wear is fashion and fashion is street wear. We break the pattern of knowing what a design means. Or knowing what a logo means. Tie-dye is an important part of our anatomy, a multi-coloured sinew that holds us together, making us bend and curve, holding our limbs up. Each item comes from the same starting point, a plain white t shirt or a pair of socks or a pair of high-hipped jeans. But each one will be totally unique, a new garment making its way in the world.
Like everything these amorphous shapes of ink and dye came into life in a small London studio ten years ago, where plain garments would be bought in bulk and one-by-one would be tied up with string and dyed, then washed and hung up to dry. This process yielded a different result every time, as the way the dye attached itself to the fibres of the fabric was unpredictable.
But the process of tie-dye has been around for a long time before that. In 800AD, weavers in the mountains of Peru pinched and twisted areas of their fabric, before tying a string around them and dipping them in dye. Why? No-one knows. Maybe they wanted to brighten up their plain fabric for fun or for ceremonial reasons or maybe it was to hide stains.
In Japan they took up the art of shibori, which involved stitching patterns to resist the dye. In India they have bandhani, tiny circular patterns made by pinching cloth with your fingernails before binding them. There’s evidence that people have been doing this for 6000 years. And in 8th century China, tie-dyed cloth was a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Different colours held different prestige – and tie-dyed silks were used to wrap bodies in tombs to show respect for the dead.
We probably know tie-dye from it’s less hallowed incarnation, as a symbol of counter-culture during the 60s, when mottled swirls of colour took on a new meaning. In response to the buttoned-up, preppy culture of the 50s, tie-dye was loosey-goosey and unpredictable. It played fast and loose with the rules and showed you did too at a time when the dominant culture was associated with standardisation and mass production. If you wore tie-dye you stood for something during the politically turbulent times of the 60s. With liquid dyes newly available to everyone, tie-dyed clothes transcended socio and economic status, the conservative form of dress that had gone before was an easy target.
Hippies, of course, rejected the establishment. They wanted to worship the individual and since each tie-dying sessions granted a unique outcome, it became an integral part of the counter cultural stance. Rockstars wore it; a little bit psychedelic, a little bit rebellious. Soon of course, like all trends, it fell out of favour, only reappearing 30 years later in another counter-cultural guise: Rave. A subculture that rallied against the austere Thatcher regime, rave was a movement that asked for optimism and change, and tie-dye quickly became part of the happy baggy uniform of it.
That wasn’t fashionable 10 years ago when Aries started, in a studio in London. But it must have been in our heads. The first thing we tie dyed was white silk, dipping it in cold tea until it took on a new found fragility. Then somehow tie-dye became part of our signature. Pink jeans became flecked and swooshed with black and red. We still don’t know if it’s better to do the light colours first or the dark colours first. Like any voyage of discovery it is trial and error, sometimes things come out and look life changing. Other times they come out shit. It’s serendipity.
Our products are still dyed by hand, now they go to Italy where they are bathed in seas of colour by the hands of an Italian tie-dye artist. We use other methods like ice-dying, where you use chunks of ice and powdered dye and leave them together to melt and become one. There is no certainty to the outcome, it just is what it is, tie-dye will always look better that way. The clothes look soft and cared for, and as if they have already had a life of their own, there’s a depth to them that you don’t get if you dye something one flat colour. You can find tie-dye everywhere now. But wearing it still means something; and we are re-inventing what.