As streetwear-meets-fashion label Aries launch their online platform today, we go behind the seams with co-founder Sofia Maria Prantera.
Here at Wonderland we love a good streetwear-meets-fashion label, especially when it’s 80’s-inspired and creates beautifully cut, hand finished items like those by our faves, Aries. We’ve been scouting out founders Fergus Purcell (aka Fergadelic) and Sofia Maria Prantera’s designs at all the usual haunts like Goodhood since the label launched, but never has our appetite been satiated with enough Aries pieces for our liking. Enter new site Aries Arise. Modelled like a Tumblr of oh-so desirable nostalgia-infused images, get ready to fall head over heels into Aries’ wonderful world. Featuring their full archive of collections for outfit inspiration, you can also watch films, trawl through their Instagram and, of course, shop. Trust us, you’re going to want to buy it all. We caught up with Sofia ahead of the launch to chat aesthetics, cosmetics and that Aries ethos.
Tell us a bit about the aesthetic behind Aries, your imagery is always so young and fresh? Who do you have in mind when designing?
I think most women could wear our clothes. Other brands usually choose to display their clothes on younger women; no one aspires to look old these days; I for one am in my forties and happily wear most of the line. I don’t think our imagery is particularly young, but it is true that there is a purity to it: no make up, lo fi, but this could and should apply to every age group. I am interested in the idea of creating a different type of femininity, pure and maybe more “gender fluid”. .
Most womenswear that is menswear-based is quite intellectualised and stark and unsexy, whereas what we do has a sexuality to it. The girls in our imagery – they are to me quite sexual. I have a problem with make-up and nail varnish and cosmetics in general. I think they have a place in the market, but for myself, I find any obscuring of beauty displeasing. For me, beauty is pure. I like the openness of not wearing any eye make-up or base or lipstick.
There must be some kind of psychological explanation because I hate anything to do with cosmetics. That translates into my taste – how the clothes are deconstructed for example. The raw edges, the lack of facing and interlinings – they need that lightness. There is a word in Italian called ‘posticcio’ which translates as “false” but it’s not false, It’s like when you have a theatre and you see the theatre and film and it’s amazing, but when you go behind the scenes and you see the reality of it and it’s falling apart. There’s an element of dressing up and make-up that reminds me of that. I like the purity of a girl wearing a t-shirt and looking extremely hot in it, but doing it in a really nonchalant, effortless way.
What inspires you to create collections?
The inspiration to create is for me innate and is fuelled by a force beyond a theme. We might have an underlaying theme each season; a few images, films, experiences that help us focus on that particular collection. But my work has always followed a path of development and builds on the past. One vision, one obsession.
The Aries iconography and visual language, however, has a strong overall abiding theme and a very clear & definite conception; it is based on the vernacular of classic luxury Italian labels, particularly notions of classicism & antiquity, with the idea of branding then corrupted with imagery of the modern condition, especially the idea of a culture in ruins & the life that then flourishes in these ruins: hence the temple, the rat, the caveman
What’s been your favourite collection/piece since you launched the brand?
I think the piece I am most proud of is our new Lilly jeans, I am always looking for the perfect pair of jeans, and i think the Lilly are just that. They fit everyone and can be worn baggy or tight. I love the glitter applications on them because they are completely original and created by experimentation rather than by inspiration. I also love our long sleeve tees. I wear them all the time – again a perfect reinvention of a classic garment.
Why is now the right time to launch your website?
We have only had a blog until now and it was very abstract. We are growing and we need to have a stronger, clearer presence; the website is a platform that allows us to show what Aries really is.
Aries is a subtle brand, easy to wear and to make your own, which it’s part of its strength. It’s casual wear, it’s streetwear, but there’s an element of it that is quite fashion and elegant, and, more importantly, it is about a different way to be feminine. Hopefully all these layers will come alive on the website.
What should we expect from the online collections?
I would like the site to be a platform and an outlet for our more creative work.
We hand finish a lot of our products and, at the moment, there are a few products on the site that are hand made customised, but having the website will allow us to increase this side of it; it will give us scope to display our less commercial work.
You work a lot with denim – what do you love most about this fabric?
I love how hardwearing it is, how well it ages and how different it can become when treated. It looks amazing with everything.
Tell us a bit about the ethos behind the brand? How did it begin?
When we started Aries we wanted it to be a unisex brand, but this proved difficult straight away as we were dealing with different buying departments etc. We wanted Aries to be a return of the 80’s sensibility where street-wear was fashion and vice-versa. Fergus came up with the name & he is an Aries, so that was the first reason (I am a Taurus on the cusp of Aries, so it fitted in that regard too). The qualities of the star sign – coming first, being a leader, having a strong creative drive, etc. – seemed to be appropriate for our brand.
I should say that the brand name is simply “Aries”, the name “Aries Arise” is for the website, since the domain name of just “Aries” wasn’t available. We liked the unfashionable (hippy) connotations of naming the brand after a star sign. Ferg is really into star signs, although I am not. There was also a reference to the Woody Allen film “Sleeper” that features a sinister government plot called “The Aries Project” which I always thought was an amazing name for something.
We wanted Aries to be about detail and quality; all our garments are made in factories we can control and a lot of it it’s hand made – we want our customer to feel like an individual in a world of mass-production and increasingly generic style and to be comfortable ethically about where the garment came from and how it was made.
I love Marina Abramovic’s quote “the artist is present” and we often refer to it when we do our production, as most of the pieces we sell have passed through my hands. This provides an attention to detail that factories can’t achieve. As we grow this will become harder to do but as a designer I like having complete control of the production process.