Aries' Sofia Prantera Is Here to Help You Find Your Path
As the label launches its Vans collaboration, its founder is doubling down on her manifesto.
It has been a little over a decade since Sofia Prantera founded Aries. In that time, the label has quietly become a stalwart of London’s fashion world, as well as collaborating with brands from New Balance to Porter. While Aries has become known for these collaborations, and for its signature graphics, Prantera has spent the last 10 years quietly transforming U.K. streetwear from the inside with her ethos.
“If I look at the first manifesto of the brand to where we are now, the ideas are always there,” Prantera tells HYPEBEAST. “It’s always been this idea of doing something non-gendered, that comes in different sizes for people to wear however they want.” This approach has been consistent throughout Aries’ history — its web store was previously split into “menswear,” “womenswear” and “don’t care” — although the way it is seen more widely has changed.
“At the beginning, it was very difficult to communicate a genderless message because people weren’t ready for that,” Prantera continues. “It made it very difficult to sell, but now the whole idea of having clothing that is genderless is very open and is much easier to communicate.” The message Aries is trying to communicate is one of mood, rather than gender. “The reality is, it’s all the same, it’s just how you want to wear it. People still ask if it fits men, or what size they should buy. But it all depends on how you feel on the day.”
“When I grew up in fashion it was about rebellion and finding individuality in fashion. Nowadays, that feels like quite an archaic concept.”
As well as its genderless approach, another key pillar of Aries has been its focus on graphics. The temple logo has become the label’s calling card, while the recent Fall/Winter 2021 collection incorporates tiger stripes, doner kebabs and body painting into its graphic approach. “There has always been very heavy graphic influences in collaboration with graphic artists,” Prantera says.
The latest platform for the Aries ethos is its new collaboration with Vans. The capsule is the second time the two brands have worked together, following a limited-edition release back in 2017. For this collection, Aries graphics sit front and center, particularly the phrases “Go Your Own Way” and “Art Trip,” which reinforce the brand’s message.
“They were the original graphics that we did for our first collection,” Prantera says. “It’s about trying to find your own path, not necessarily following others. When I grew up in fashion it was on the back of punk and rave, it was about rebellion and finding individuality in fashion. Nowadays, that feels like quite an archaic concept. Fashion is about expressing yourself, and trying to find your own way. What I do has always been about not conforming, so these slogans are about not conforming and finding creativity and individuality in your clothes and in the way you put your clothing together.”
The slogans are not the only graphics used in the collection, which features everything from tie dye to animal prints running across the sneakers. The inspiration for the pattern-heavy collection came from a make-your-own Vans poster hanging in Slam City Skates when Prantera worked there at the beginning of her career. As well as referencing the prints, Prantera also tried to go back to the less-polished approach of that period.
“A lot of these vintage Vans would be slightly mismatched,” she adds. “The colors of the leather wouldn’t match and there was this layering of textures. That then disappeared a bit when things became more mass produced. I liked the idea of going back to that, and trying to find a way of making the product look as crafted as possible.”
To achieve that aesthetic, Prantera and the Aries team worked with Vans to bridge the gap between digital and analogue. One way this was achieved was through screen printing the fabric for the shoes. Whereas most footwear is now produced using digitally-printed materials — meaning that everything lines up perfectly and is identical from one pair to the next — the method used by Aries and Vans saw printed fabric cut and sewn into shape. “It creates a randomness to the way the fabric appears on the shoe,” Prantera adds. “I just like this idea that there was a lot of work in them, they look rare and like an amazing find.”
“Design is important, but the process of how you achieve certain designs is just as important, if not more important.”
For Prantera, the question of how something is made is just as important as the way it looks. “We are a very process-intense brand, and we explore processes as part of our design,” she continues. “Design is important, but the process of how you achieve certain designs is just as important, if not more important. A lot of design nowadays is about drawing something and hoping somebody can make it for you, but for me it’s very much about how do you make it? What process do you follow to achieve the best quality and the best results?”
The analogue-meets-digital processes used in this collaboration are not necessarily simple, but, in Vans, Prantera found a willing partner for her techniques. “I think they had really looked into it,” she says. “There are so many people going and looking for old Vans and vintage Vans, so the brand themselves were really interested in capitalizing on the originality of what they did at the beginning. Vans already has such a unique project that they’re known for. The whole idea is about how you push that product to its best and most interesting.”
The exploration of process continues away from the product, with the same approach also translated into the collection’s campaign. The focal point of the creative is a short film captured in Cornwall by friends of the brand. “The interesting idea was just to let it be really free, rather than preparing and writing a script,” Prantera says. “We sent a filmmaker off with a camera to record their holiday, and then we structured the narrative around the footage.”
Across the film and the still images that accompany it, the Aries team once again blurred the lines between analogue and digital. “All the images were captured very naturally, and then a lot of CGI was added. It was going back to how an old Thrasher might have looked, or one of those old skate films. It’s all about using modern processes to achieve something layered and analogue. In the film, in the shoe, and in the clothing.”