Youth In Tumult
Growing up is awkward, uncomfortable even. A plague when it’s happening, but paradise to look back on.
Such feelings of nostalgia have always attached themselves to the work of Aries’ Sofia Prantera, but for SS23, these feelings are more than potent, they’re tangible. A self-described “Ode to awkward youth,” the endeavour sees the fastidious designer cast an eye back to the prevailing style subcultures of her own coming-of-age, recalling the back-end of 1970s punk experienced not through Vivienne Westwood’s outlandish rubber gear and provocative World’s End shirts, but fancy dress costumes and designer knock-offs.
Despite missing out on some stylish and well-documented hedonism on the King’s Road, this ‘dipping of the toe’ is part and parcel of the designer’s penchant for parody, forming the first of five archetypes of angsty teen that pepper the collection, inspired by the characters of Miloš Forman’s 1971 art house classic Taking Off. The film follows a well-to-do family in suburban New York, thrown mercilessly to the wolves of youth culture as they hunt for their runaway daughter, exposing themselves to a world of spliff-smoking, strip-poker-playing and sexual mischief in the process.
Prantera’s lookbook is far tamer, though perhaps slightly more hazy, than its reference material. Shot by David Sims (a frequent Aries collaborator) and Douglas Irvine, the designer’s satirically sexy streetwear finds itself manifested in The 90s Casual’s luminescent cargo pants and The Teenage Romantic’s pouffy denim miniskirts. She takes care to note the thriftiness of the Depop generation in party hats and Elizabethan ruff collars made from newsprint, with one of her archetypal creations (The Cultist) mixing once-distinct eras into their own smorgasbord of lurid green knits, balaclavas, carabiner belt chains, fluffy scarves and trousers with cheeky bumster waists.
Whether formally suited and boasting boner-rific broaches like The Trust Fund Baby, mummified in logo-printed waistbands or even spoofing Tom Ford for Gucci with a slinky monogram whale-tail, Aries’ wholehearted embrace of the love generation continues to reap the most stylish of harvests. Below, Prantera ruminates on her mission to break style stereotypes with the blissful naivety that threads this collection together.
“ It all stems from a desire for acknowledgement and a wanting to create something new.”
Bailey Slater: How did you go about splitting and choosing the cultural archetypes?
Sofia Prantera: I was listening to a Kurt Cobain interview over the weekend where he explained that now people know his music, he finds himself having to come up with a story about his next project, and the reality is that it feels unnatural and a bit preposterous to be doing so. He is almost apologetic about the difficulties he had in giving meaning to his work. I can really relate to that: it’s hard to justify what feels like something just you do. Yet it’s important, and when you’re confronted with it, it’s interesting and useful to analyse your output and question the outcome.
I grew up at the back end of punk, I remember going to fancy dress parties where people would dress up as punks. As a non-English national I experienced these movements through media coverage and bad fashion rip-offs. Whether I like it or not, it seems as if my whole work has been influenced by these subtle dress codes and I still analyse fashion accordingly. I never felt I belonged to any one of these movements and I am ashamed to admit I was never particularly attached to them in the admirable way British people are: I just dipped into one or the other and essentially remained pretty unchanged throughout these cultural upheavals. So this collection reflects this flippant referencing of obvious commercial cultural archetypes but on a deeper level: it also hopefully breaks the stereotypes we attach to them. The connecting thread is a celebration of the naivety and creativity of youth culture, independent of its different incarnations – it all stems from a desire for acknowledgement and a wanting to create something new.
“I remember going to fancy dress parties where people would dress up as punks.”
BS: Do you remember watching Miloš Forman’s Taking Off for the first time? What about it resonated with you so much?
SP: I do, it made a massive impression on me. Over the years, I actually made a lot of vain attempts at finding the opening sequence, which inspired our ss23 film presentation. The different girls singing in the video stayed with me all this time, I think the diversity and imperfections of the cast and their voices were in such contrast with what we were used to watching while growing up; it was this realism and spontaneity that inspired me.
BS: Is there anything you really wanted to experiment with or introduce to the brand for the first time this season?
SP: The most important experiment this season was to focus on Aries as we normally would on collaboration projects, and also joining the fashion calendar to show the collection in a more curated way, six months before reaching the stores.
BS: Nostalgia is as much a part of the Aries brand as your Temple logo, how do you think that plays out in this collection?
SP: After two years of living in a sort of online experiment, we are experiencing a strong backlash against the polished world of virtual reality. I know I definitely had a strong yearning for a return to a simple time where things felt more real. Especially in the film, the imperfections and simplicity of the images and music pull at your heartstrings in such a disarming way, they are nostalgic but they also hint at the beginning of something new. As you grow older and gain a deeper perspective, you see patterns repeating and you can’t help but [view] the past in a nostalgic way. It’s important, though, to remember that the new generations don’t recognise these references and experience these shifts as completely new.
BS: David Sims is back to shoot the lookbook, joining forces with Douglas Irvine, what is it that you think makes your relationship with these image-makers so special?
SP: I love working with other creative people, it’s what motivates me and helps to create the best work. Collaboration is of the essence.