Click on Aries Fashion.com and you’ll find yourself in web 1.0 with an array of erm… ‘funky’ fashions. Click on AriesArise.com and you’re not quite sure whether you’ve happed on to a fashion label site or not as you’re met with an assemblage of Google Images randomness. Those in the know – and that number is on the rise – will recognise this as Aries designers Sofia Maria Prantera and Fergus Purcell (aka Fergadelic)’s stream of awesome image consciousness.
Prantera takes charge of most of the design work whereas Purcell, in between his many freelance graphic gigs that have included the latest Marc by Marc Jacobs (*sob sob*) collection, comes in to provide both the prints and a sounding board on the looks. “In a weird backwards sort of a way, I’m sort of like the muse.” said Fergus. Not one that wafts around the studio listlessly but instead has given the brand a strong visual identity and an embedded attitude. Prantera and Purcell met when they were working at Slam City Skates, with the former having had a wealth of experience in streetwear, specifically in cult brand Silas.
They came together to dream up Aries, a streetwear meets fashion label that would be like no other. “When we first decided to do the project – I want it to make it really branded – a bit like Versace,” said Purcell. “I like that they have that phony take on classicism. It gives it amazing sense of heritage of like, 2000 years which seems absurd. That’s why we have the temple in the logo. Meanwhile of course it’s not just a luxury brand. Some graphics show the temple being destroyed. To me, it’s what modern culture is like. It’s like what life is like that exists in the ruins. It’s not like a bleak dark thing. It’s an exciting thing. I guess it’s my way of aesthetically combining something anarchic and punk and then something quite classical.”
Sofia’s half Italian heritage is rooted in Rome where classicism is also abound. “In Rome, you’ll have amazing sculptures that are graffitied with arms torn up,” said Prantera. “I think that extends to the way I see fashion. I like things that are authentically destroyed.” Incidentally, the first time I wore these beautiful hand painted Aries jeans, that roar and rage from the ripped knees was in Bath, where its Georgian backdrop is begging to be contrasted with a garment of epic destroyed proportions.
Occupying a specific medium between streetwear and fashion means that for both Prantera and Purcell, there isn’t necessarily a distinction between the two. Having grown up with the fashion culture of the 80s and 90s, the two were often one and the same. |The fashion we liked from our era were the likes of John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Bodymap, which all had a streetwear sensibility because they came from the clubs,” said Purcell. “Obviously in the early 2000’s, big businesses made streetwear mass produced,” added Prantera. “But for me, it’s always been in my blood. I grew up being inspired by Fiorucci. I remember going in there with my dad. It wasn’t that dissimilar to a colette store, where there’s a culture attached to the fashion. It had all these magazines and fluorescent objects. it was so different from everything that was around in Italy. That’s really formed my basis of fashion.”
For an artist like Purcell, fashion holds fascination as a fluid medium – which is why he has chosen clothes as his main canvas. “I love fashion as an art form because it’s so whorish – it’s really open and porous,” said Purcell. “That’s why it moves so fast. The depressing side of if is that you have to conform to certain aspects season to season. I like something to work on a commercial level. But I’ve found that the best way to connect is to go out on a limb and hopefully it will click rather than trying to water it down to please people.”
Prantera is there to ensure that Aries isn’t just some “weird art project”. It’s there to be worn even if it does have something more to say than just the mere surface of clothes. Hence the image stream of consciousness on the website and on their Instagram as well as the composite lookbooks where found imagery that Purcell has “fucked around with” are contrasted with a girl that looks like she lives and breathes the Aries lifestyle. And when it comes to the clothes, Prantera is adamant that she wants to create some kind of forever language. “You know when you buy Westwood, and no matter what era that piece of Westwood is from, you know what it is.” And so Purcell’s tumbling temple graphics carry on from season to season exemplified by a Flintstones-esque Bam Bam character welding a club with a primitive spirit. Prantera and her team lovingly augments denim with either hand painted graphics or foiling – a key feature of the current S/S 15 collection, which is also partly inspired by a artist Lynda Benglis and her poured latex rainbow sculptures. Without sticking to a specific theme, the rest of the collection drifts in and out in between doses of rave motifs, hippy dippy free love and an ongoing obsession with youth cultures of the early 90s.
Likewise their “girl” isn’t fixed. “I’m thinking about the garment and about who’s in it. Whoever, whatever they’re like – that’s awesome. I like have it to have its own life,” said Purcell. With that said, Prantera concedes that a certain type of girl will be attracted to Aries clothes. “She’s a bit tomboyish. She’s not scared to mix things up.” And trying to categorise Aries has been half the battle for Prantera. “When our sales agent in Italy saw the first collection of t-shirts, she said ‘ Nobody’s going to buy that’” That person might be eating her words now as Aries segues nicely into a niche of fashion which isn’t so high-end it’s intangible nor is it soul-less contemporary, as so much of fashion is. MatchesFashion.com, Goodhood and Other in London are just some of the stockists who get Aries.
Their A/W 15-6 collection sees the Aries language broadening out just that bit more. It’s warmer because of its grungy rose prints and teddy bear furriness. Less reliant on a graphic tee, the Aries girl varies it up whilst still tapping into those aforementioned sources of inspiration. And that foiled denim is still there, albeit with the pattern applied in abstract stripes. Still, that properly lived-in quality prevails. It’s not something that can be mass-produced or churned out. Prantera and Purcell both collectively know a thing or two about authenticity. And Aries has it in spades.