Monday 6th July

| BY Paul Toner

Aries Teams Up With Hillier Bartley For A Joyous Jewellery Collaboration

Aries founder Sofia Prantera is no stranger to a good ol’ collaboration. Since establishing her brand back in 2009, weird, wacky and frankly wonderful team-ups with creatives across all fields have firmly set Aries apart from its contemporaries. When streetwear giants have turned to luxury powerhouses for stellar tag teams, Aries has nabbed Turner Art Prize-winners, renowned photographers and your dad’s favourite footwear brands to create saught after pieces like no other.

One of which was a collaboration with high-end jewellery brand Hillier Bartley. “We had collaborated with Hillier Bartley in 2018 for our first pop up shop,” explains Prantera. “We share similar tastes and references but we operate in very different areas of the market which makes the collaboration interesting for both parties in terms of positioning and by subverting the common perception of the brands.” It was through this collaboration where Hillier Bartley and Aries created one-off couture pieces that morphed the former’s tuxedos and gowns with the latter’s tracksuits. “They were such beautiful pieces but we have long wanted to do something more accessible,” said Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley, founders of the eponymous label.

Now the pair have joined forces once more, this time to produce a limited-edition charm jewellery collection. Each of the seven charms that make up the capsule collection can be worn on Hillier Bartley’s signature 14K gold plated, paper clip earring, or a co-branded gold chain necklace. The actual charms feature popular motifs from both parties – including the Aries temple and the Hillier Bartley bunny, as well as a gold penis thrown in for good measure. “The paper clip is HB’s signature jewellery piece and the symbols that Aries use often seemed to sit comfortably oddly as charms dangling off one. We have done HB charms in the past, so these Aries temples and penis’ seemed to be a brilliantly irreverent way to partner,” explain Hillier and Bartley. “I think my personal favourite is the pentacle, it’s a charm we had made in the past and is a talisman,” Prantera continues. “It is used as a symbol of the element of earth or a magical object in Wicca and pagan religions.”

Although Hillier Bartley caters for a traditional high-end audience, and Aries a younger demographic, both parties actually operate with a similar ethos. “Each brand is playing with similar ideas of subversion, originality and a kind of cultural awkwardness,” say Hillier and Bartley. “We are friends away from the brands so talk a lot about ideas not limited to fashion. Our kids, politics, education, occasional conspiracy theories and some fashion. We have a lot of converging reference points on most subjects.” Originally the brands wanted to involve their friends and creative community with the project by asking each individual to model and record the charms on themselves. Yet after a few discussions with photographer Clare Shilland, the parties involved decided to push a documentary style-angle and “explore a more uncharted territory.”

Back in February, prior to the lockdown, they approached City and Islington College as they wanted to photograph young adults that would honestly represent how diverse London schools are. “We also decided it was important not to have a casting process but to encourage all students to come forward, regardless of the subjects they studied, and to allow them to fit in whichever way felt more comfortable to them,” said all three designers. Over a four day workshop, students took part in classes and lectures that focused on branding, product development and fashion communication. The students were asked to respond to the workshops through a range of creative mediums which included tie-dying, styling, photography and jewellery making.

Shilland documented the entire project, which is accompanied by a short film directed by Jeremy Pollard. “The eight-minute film painstakingly edited by Dario Vigorito is a collage of unscripted interviews about working with others, that in a post Covid world, sound terribly nostalgic and poignant,” reflect the design trio. The images will be compiled into a book designed by Jonny Lu, “an ironic take on educational theory” where the entire text inside is lifted from a Wikipedia page.

“We edited the film and images during lockdown and the Black Lives Matter protests and we realised how the project seems to be full of poignant messages, the students talking about learning together and from each other, about mixing with other students of different backgrounds and culture.  It all feels very moving and relevant at this point,” explain the designers. “We believe education, in general, is the key to a better life and achievement; by engaging with school-age students you are able to make a real difference to their prospects and hopefully inspire them to follow different paths they might have not thought of before. Art and a creative approach to education helps to empower individuals and make them realise they have choices. We hope they will all take something away from this and that it will help them in their future paths.”

Photographs by Clare Shilland. The Hillier Bartley x Aries collection is available to purchase online now.

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