You can shop the new collection on Highsnobiety here, and to learn more about Aries, read on to catch our interview with co-founder Sofia Prantera
Aries – with its penchant for tie-dye, ungendered design, and high-fashion-meets-streetwear sensibilities – was ahead of its time when Sofia Prantera and Fergus Purcell launched it in 2012.
Much like the astrological sign it was named after, Aries likes to come first, to blaze the path.
The Italian-born Prantera moved to London before finishing high-school. She spent a year studying architecture before obtaining a fashion degree at CSM, which prepared her for a design job at London skate institution Slam City Skates. It was here, among the skaters and burgeoning subcultures, that Prantera met co-founder Purcell (who designed Palace’s “Tri-Ferg” logo) and together they launched their hybridized vision.
Filtering Purcell's flair for graphics through Prantera’s knowledge of subcultures, Aries has established itself as a cult label for those who like their clothes anarchic and bold, but cut to Italian-crafted levels of quality.
All successful brands will attract a tribe. Perhaps, there's a certain kind of girl who gravitates towards Aries: minimal make-up with a few stick-and-poke tattoos, she skates and possibly models for GOODHOOD as a side hustle. Then there’s the Aries guy, he’s maybe wearing the same thing as the girl with a few styling tweaks, he has an abundant supply of psychedelics on him at all times but can also quote Rimbaud, Foucault, and has archived copies of The Face at home. It’s basically galaxy brain streetwear for those seeking a little more than your standard edgy graphic tee.
Aries' online store is split into men/women/don’t care – do you give much thought about who is wearing Aries in terms of gender?
My designer push has always been quite genderless, even when I did my previous brands, Holmes and Silas. Maybe because I dress in a way that you would probably assume is quite manly. When we were starting Aries it was like “why do we do a women’s T-shirt and a men’s T-shirt when we’re essentially using the same shirts?" My family all wear the same clothes. It just seems stupid, especially when you’re talking about casual clothes, to make that kind of division.
When we started the website, I was adamant there shouldn’t be any gender division, but we soon realised that there were lots of men, especially, who were a bit confused by it.
We realized that commercially it’s best to show things on men and women, even though it’s the exact same jean, so we decided to split it into men and women but we kept that “Don’t Care” category as that’s where I would shop as I wouldn’t want gender to divide my shopping. Apart from height I don’t think there’s any significant difference.
You’ve been working in the fashion industry for 10+ years, what changes in the industry strike you the most?
The business of online sales and the way you structure your business has changed things a lot. Especially compared to my last business where online was non-existent, aside from a few stores like END. who were up-and-coming at that point, and are huge now.
I think it’s made a really dramatic difference to the industry. It allows you to showcase your brand in a much stronger way. Brands are now able to be communicating all the time. Of course you still rely on press to get a new public, but you’re able to have your own presence as a brand, and in that way it’s become a lot more democratic.
It’s a really interesting change because it’s allowed smaller brands who are maybe more tech-savvy to have a bigger presence on the international market. I do think that’s the biggest thing - along with the genderlessness of clothes.
What was the mood and inspiration for SS20?
Paul Simonon [bass player of The Clash] was on our board. At the time of The Clash's popularity there was an Americanisation, a kind of "cowboy-ziation" of that subculture. There were western elements going into the ’80s punk movements with buckles, boots, and those odd prints on top of bowling shirts. We were looking at that. And I think Paul is a pin-up anyway, there was a 'fuckoffness' to the way he dressed.
How did you develop some of the new dyeing techniques for SS20?
We really thought about how we can push the dying, which I think we do extremely well as we have an amazing dyer in Italy. But we thought, how do we push that into nylons and stuff?
There’s a company we work with that has started making garment dyed nylons. And so we started working on that and dyeing them in-house to see what happens, also spraying them. That’s where the tracksuits for SS20 came from. We’re going to develop on that a lot more because it’s something that's technically difficult, but we've got the capabilities of doing it. I think it will set us apart from a lot of the other brands. If you're manufacturing in the far East, you don't really achieve those levels of sophistication on the product unless you're making very, very big quantities, which we're not at the moment.
You've got to realize what you're able to offer on a commercial scale. Our quantities are still tiny. We can't compete with a lot of the bigger brands, so how do you compete? You compete maybe by having a point of difference, and that's definitely something that we do very well.
What do you think subculture means today, if anything?
Subcultures don’t have the “air” that they used to have. I’m not inspired by a specific subculture; I just like outsider art. I like things that come from people’s rebellion, and from their thoughts that live outside the commercial world.
I’m interested in people that are propelled in their work by the need to make work and express themselves instead of the need to make money. Obviously, making something commercially successful is useful because then you have more power to do what you want, but for me it’s always been about the anarchy of just saying, “Okay, I’m just gonna do this and i don’t really care,” and that’s what’s appealing about all subcultural movements really.
Now, I think it’s much harder for subcultures to grow, as marketing agencies are more connected than they would have been 20 years ago, so subcultures don't have the time to flourish before they are exploited.
I think true subcultures still exist, but by nature they are extremely uncommercial and really quite unpalatable. So they are harder to find and definitely harder to sell.