Tie-dye, intrinsically linked with 1960s hippies, was splashed across the SS19 catwalks. Images takes a closer look at what promises to be a defining decoration technique of 2019

At a time when politics is fraught, distrust of people in power is at a high and protesting via slogans on T-shirts is a part of everyday life, it makes sense that our choice of clothes reflects this by opting for a colouring technique that was made famous in the 1960s and 1970s by peace-loving hippies who wanted to rebel against being ‘part of the machine’. Creating unique patterns on fabrics and secondhand garments allowed them to express their individuality and rejection of the capitalist system.

Last seen en masse in the 90s, when it was adopted by the surf community and uni students riding the ‘baggy’ wave, tie-dye has been slowly infiltrating the fashion scene in the past couple of years, reaching a crescendo at the SS19 shows. Sharon Bell, product manager at the wholesale tie-dye brand Colortone, comments: “The spring 2019 catwalks were peppered with the popular rebel print, from Prada’s dresses, blazers and hoodies to Stella McCartney’s T-shirts and two-pieces.” R13 went full-on rainbow with its blazers and T-shirts, Calvin Klein teamed tie-dye-lined wet suits with Jaws-inspired tees, and Eckhaus Latta showed dip-dyed and tie-dyed denim.

The high street has been quick to pick up on the trend. “We’ve seen the likes of Converse, Zara and Urban Outfitters tapping into the tie-dye trend for 2019; Asos has also been selling tie-dye T-shirts, Champion is offering tie-dye hoodies, and Stüssy has a full collection of tie-dye styles ranging from socks and hats to shorts and shirts,” says Sharon. Paul Godfrey, director of group sales at Tshirt Group, which has a trade dyeing facility in Stoke-on-Trent, comments: “All of the major design houses have featured their take on tie-dye garments for SS19, with standout pieces from Prada, Chanel, Michael Kors and Proenza inspiring ranges from Topshop, Boohoo and Asos.”

Colortone’s Rainbow Tie-Dye Hoodie is available in three colourways

Tshirt Group is launching a new faux acid wash range this Spring

The comeback kid

According to Sharon, trends from the 1990s are on the up, as is a wish to be seen as ‘authentic’. “We saw fashion enjoying a bit of a nostalgia-fest over the course of summer 2018, which seems to have reignited a love for colourfully stained clothing reminiscent of a carefree youth. We are also living in a time when authenticity is increasingly important, and tie-dye was once very authentic; various methods of tie-dying have existed for centuries, before being adopted by hippies who wanted to use secondhand folk/tribal fabrics to suggest non-conformity and anti-consumerism.” It’s also a versatile technique, with results ranging from subtle, pale clouds – Paul notes that pastel shades such as lavender and coral will dominate summer wardrobes – to spirals of brash rainbow shades. “Justin Bieber wears tie-dye to church, Beyoncé was spotted wearing a tie-dye dress on a yacht last summer, and Lady Amelia Windsor (a member of the royal family) was seen wearing a tie-dye piece by Michael Kors,” reports Sharon.

Single-colour decorations work well on tie-dye styles (Picture courtesy of M&Co)

The retro surfer look is set to be big in 2019 (Picture courtesy of New Look)

Easy to decorate

The dyeing process used for most tie-dye items may now be on a commercial scale rather than by hand at home, but the principle remains the same – each T-shirt is manipulated and dyed in a way that results in a unique look, whether it was placed in the same batch of dye as one other T-shirt or 100. For the Instagram- generation competing to set themselves apart, being able to buy a ‘one-off’ at high street prices is hugely appealing. The designs have evolved over the years, reports Sharon. “The contemporary tie- dye trend is more clean, crisp and edgy in comparison to past tie-dye clothes which evoked images of the 60s and 70s; the colours are acting like more of a print than a random explosion of colour.” 

Tie-dye doesn’t need to be confined to core styles only, although Colortone doesn’t have any plans to expand its offering at the moment, says Sharon. “We are sticking to what we do best; we already offer a wide selection of tie-dye styles, covering T-shirts and hoodies in both adults and children’s sizes.” Tshirt Group’s UK dyeing facility allows it to dye most garments, explains Paul. “We have created tie-dye suit jackets, tracksuits and trench coats, and our processes and designs can be applied to most garments.”

He adds that the company will be launching a new faux acid wash garment range in the spring. “We have developed a process where we distress a garment using a mix of discharge chemicals and additives to create one of our unique acid wash effects. The garment then undergoes a binding process to prepare it to accept a final colour. The wonderful thing about this process is that we can apply it to pretty much any garment. It has already been met with great enthusiasm from our customers, major high street retailers, and we have just produced bespoke garments using these effects that have featured at London and Paris Fashion Weeks.”

Tie-dye styles are easy to decorate as well. “Tie-dye provides a great background for logos, and works really well with print and embroidery,” says Sharon. “Simple, single colours always stand out well with the garment being so bold and colourful.” While the decoration does depend on the style, Paul reports embellishing the Tshirt Group’s garments with stones, faux-animal fabric and studs. As the full impact of the catwalk shows continues to filter through to the buying public over the spring and summer seasons, get ready for an influx of tie-dye requests ranging from Grateful Dead-inspired band merch to high-end retail styles featuring pastel swirls.