It’s fair to say that COVID-19 has reduced our collective wardrobes to comfy sweats, fuzzy slippers, and other I-give-up sartorial selects that help cushion—literally and figuratively—the quarantine blow. But there’s one fashion trend that’s been going gangbusters during this world pandemic: tie-dye.
From the highfalutin runway to high street, this year’s fashion is all about embracing 1960s hippie counterculture. Although its history can be traced back to ancient China, tie-dye is now more commonly thought of as a symbol of non-violent protest over the Vietnam War; its vibrant colours and psychedelic patterns serve as powerful expressions of peace and love at a time of global upset. With global upset again the order of the day in 2020, tie-dye is today’s way of saying, “We see you COVID-19, and we’re gonna fight this.”
To be sure, tie-dye accomplishes several things as artful protest. First, the colours express an exuberance and hope that are sorely needed right now as we all grapple with current events. Second, the process of twisting, folding, and crumpling the fabric before applying the dye feels deeply metaphorical for the wrenching, topsy-turvy world we live in. Third, the idea of protesting violence in a non-violent way has particular resonance in light of what’s going on around the world. And fourth, tie-dye is perfect for those DIYers who are stuck at home, regardless of their protest stripe.
And as we move on from summer’s biggest trend and look ahead to fall, one thing is clear: tie-dye is staying with us but in a more refined, grown-up way. In lieu of the standard mandala, spiral, and peace signs, tie-dye is reimagined as sophisticated, subdued expression—a cautious optimism, if you will.
Nowhere is this clearer than the just-released fall 2020 ready-to-wear collection from Dior. Here, counterculture still abounds but within the elegant and sophisticated house codes currently produced by creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri. Gone are tie-dye’s traditional psychedelic hues, and in its place is a palette of modern shades ranging from pink and deep red to navy blue and khaki. From the Saddle bag to a bomber jacket, Dior’s most timeless pieces undergo a perfect retro makeover.
Over at the House of Chanel, it’s always a bespoke affair with the Métiers d’art, and this fall, it’s tie-dye with a painterly effect. Inspired by a suit with a tie-dye lining that Chanel herself created in 1960, this season’s handmade collection courtesy of the brand’s heritage artisans showcases tweed with hand-applied chromatic hues on black. It’s a mix of old and new—looking back and looking forward, subversive yet safe.
Meanwhile, fashion disruptor and innovator Gabriela Hearst has introduced tie-dye in muted tones that look as far ahead as her Resort 2021 collection. To boot, all her fabrics feature a digital identity using QR codes to provide a garment’s origin, material, production process, and carbon footprint. It’s a lens through which the past, present, and future are all acknowledged.
All three brands take this summer’s quintessential fashion moment and elevate it, reconciling tradition with innovation in collections that push boundaries while simultaneously staying in their lane—peaceful protest.
The fashion industry has been turned on its head during COVID-19, and the ongoing tsunami of sweats doesn’t bode well for its future. But despite this, these designers are saying, with cautious, muted exuberance, there’s hope—for the industry, for us, for the world.
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