FILM REVIEW | DYE HARD
photo & text by nacrowe
not sure why but i recently watched the documentary DYE HARD (SKY ISLAND, 2022), which effectively promotes the idea of TIE DYEING shirts and related paraphernalia as an ARTISTIC recruit worthy of COMPETITION and critical assessment. going into this film i was more than SKEPTICAL but then i am the wrong demographic. i have never owned a TIE DYED shirt or had any inclination to procure one, furthermore i am not a fan of PHISH, THE GRATEFUL DEAD, WIDESPREAD PANIC, MOE. or THE STRING CHEESE INCIDENT despite having been in and around VERMONT during my FORMATIVE years as an underclassman in high school. i was exposed to the MUSIC, DRUGS and SUBCULTURE and promptly rejected all of it. including the TIE DYE.
but on some level what interests me about this brief film is the ARTISTRY and TECHNIQUE, specifically the MATH involved, to create DIZZYING MANDALAS and impossibly COMPLEX FRACTAL PATTERNS by hand. the idea that you spend up 8, 10 or 20 hours preparing a shirt, tying it up with varying materials and dousing it in specifically procured DYES and PROPRIETARY chemical solutions, only to have a rolled out canvas that is largely a MYSTERY is particularly FASCINATING.
DYE HARD, which i must admit is a great title, AGGRESIVELY attempts to promote specific ARTISTS that are a part of the COMPETITION at the focus of the film. the fact that some take TIE DYEING very seriously above and beyond a hobby is more than a bit COUNTERINTUITIVE, especially given the ANTI-COMMERCIAL ETHOS of the JAM bands that support such designs for decades. the COMPETITIVE ego-driven CAPITALIST mindset that has set in for a few of these ARTISTS is more than a little JARRING and UNFORTUNATE, since undoubtedly the vibe of the COMMUNITY at large is one of mutual COLLABORATION and SUPPORTIVE and EMPATHETIC COMMUNICATION. then again, some of the most SUCCESSFUL VENTURE CAPIRALISTS in SILICON VALLEY have long been deadheads so maybe that ETHOS was BULLSHIT all along. probably. others look at the competition as a family reunion where they get to share their art with close FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES and potential future COLLABORATORS.
definitely a compelling look at an EMERGING SUBCULTURE that since the pandemic has found new interest from a younger generation that has already innovated on TECHNIQUE, materials and overall ARTISTIC COMPLEXITY. all that being said, i would still not be caught dead wearing one of these rainbow monstrosities.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
there is perhaps nobody more responsible for the visual aesthetics of PUNK ROCK than the late legendary ICONOCLASTIC BRITISH FASHION DESIGNER VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, who with her former partner MALCOLM MCLAREN helped initiate the notoriously CONFRONTATIONAL counterculture revolution in BRITAIN. but that known biography is not what makes the recent retrospective documentary WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST (FINISHED FILMS, 2018) such a COMPELLING artifact. it is what she was doing at the then-current cultural moment, taking on ARTISTIC and POLITICAL stands that made her life's creative work in FASHION such a TRANSCENDENT and INSPIRING narrative.
and what is she focused on at the time of this film: CLIMATE CHANGE. having visited the melting glaciers in the arctic via GREENPEACE, WESTWOOD is seen attempting to leverage her public profile and reputation as a FREE-THINKER to promote GREENER ENERGY ALTERNATIVES and better business practices. with the latter at front of mind, her business (note: film was shot pre-pandemic) for the first time has been witness to incredible growth on a global scale which means growing pains regarding less control and oversight relative to such an expanded operation. that such comes at a time when WESTWOOD is prominently voicing a more CONSCIOUS approach to objectively UNSUSTAINABLE INDUSTRY PRACTICES is the challenge of her late career. but her creative work has always served as an ALTERNATIVE to the predictable, so there is no doubt she'll figure it out.
i believe words like IDIOSYNCRATIC and ECCENTRIC have a negative connotation about them, so i will utilize words like SINGULAR and UNCONVENTIONAL to describe her ECLECTIC and ever EVOLVING aesthetic style which seemingly borrows from all aspects of history and geography. there is a moment in the film where WESTWOOD showcases her latest collection on a BRITISH daytime talk show only to be laughed at in scorn by the geriatric audience. its the perfect visual metaphor for why her work is such a VIBRANT expression of being BRITISH, fuck the boring middle-class bourgeois sensibilities regarding respectability. relatedly, one of the key declarations in the film by WESTWOOD is how PUNK ROCK was not a revolutionary movement but a temporary distraction that was soon commodified and appropriated into the corporate structure for ripe exploitation of the youth. having remained INDEPENDENT and SELF-OPERATED her whole career, there is an argument that WESTWOOD is more PUNK than the actual musicians that popularized the movement. just that insight alone into owning your own future and gaining the benefits from your own hard work outside of the fiefdom of corporate overlords feels in keeping with the stridently DIY aesthetic of 80s HARDCORE bands, not a fashion label.
its hard to watch WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST and not be INSPIRED to create and take real chances. most definitely a film worth watching irregardless of your interest in FASHION or PUNK ROCK. its a documentary about being a SELF-ACTUALIZED individual and wearing your freak flag no matter the consequences or public ridicule. those people will be forgotten. VIVIENNE WESTWOOD and her contributions to world culture, never mind the UNITED KINGDOM, will live on.
RIP VIVIENNE WESTWOOD
photo & text by nacrowe
growing up through the mid-90s in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, specifically the then-conservative enclave of ORANGE COUNTY, i was made more than well-aware of BRAND-conscious peers that went past brands like NIKE and sported surf and skate related labels like BILLABONG, O'NEILL, VANS, QUICKSILVER, RUSTY and OCEAN PACIFIC as well as other lifestyle firms like STUSSY, MOSSIMO, CROSS COLOURS, NO FEAR among countless others.
it is one of those interesting things about my upbringing that my family left SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA for NIGERIA in 1996, right when clothes was becoming a thing. a demarcator of identity. living in AFRICA killed that instinct (outside of basketball shoes!) where you were witness to those who had very little. it made this all feel very... small and insignificant.
in reading THIS IS NOT A T-SHIRT: A BRAND, A CULTURE, A COMMUNITY - A LIFE IN STREETWEAR (MCD, 2019) by BOBBY KIM, a.k.a. BOBBY HUNDREDS, of THE HUNDREDS fame, it became apparent that streetwear and fashion for him as a creator was less about exclusivity and more about expression. i didn't realize it beforehand, but all those labels i grew up on were run and started almost exclusively by white men. streetwear from THE HUNDREDS and its competitors was very much about penetrating the fashion and garment industry and gaining marketshare for a more diverse and inclusive set of designers. KIM is a lifelong CALIFORNIAN, HARDCORE PUNK kid, former LAW student and the son of KOREAN immigrants, which makes the rise of the label he co-created that much more interesting as it exemplifies a progression of AMERICAN culture writ large. the segment THE HUNDREDS brand satiates is as diverse as KIM himself.
which is kinda the point.
the label in many ways is an outgrowth of his personality and more specifically his blog. THE HUNDREDS was early to blogging and utilized such to contextualize their collections and transform the product being marketed as a psychic extension of their obsessions, hobbies and COMMUNITY. the blog essentially founded a community and it is that relationship with this COMMUNITY which is at the heart of this memoir.
what is KIM's relationship to his audience? what does he own them? does he allow them, or the idea of them, to lead his decision-making on future collections? or is his task to lead them deeper down an explored and deeply-shared sense of COMMUNITY based on similar obsessions, perspectives and viewpoints.
its an interesting dynamic that ive become interested in since starting my MBA recently, that of how one runs a business while leading an authentic existence. not exploiting either labor or your customers when all incentive and reward structures suggest otherwise. what ive taken from KIM's example is keeping ownership and financial control close and being realistic about potential risks and opportunities and how those will affect the standing of your brand. it may be that KIM has a unique perspective given his label's longstanding brand equity based on the transparency and interplay of his blog and social media with his COMMUNITY. as long as that relationship is intact and relevant to his consumers, it would seem the brand has a shot at continued viability.
but in the end it is not about a t-shirt, a brand or even KIM himself, it is about the COMMUNITY being fostered. and that is pretty cool. i never felt that from wearing a BILLABONG shirt back as a 12 year old. if anything SKATE and SURF culture came of as exclusive rather than inclusive.
very interesting BUSINESS memoir i'll be thinking of for quite some time. well worth checking out.