Evolution of Tie-dye

A Bellwether Insight

Photo: Eberhard Grossgasteiger
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While we sit at home, contemplating our own existence, we thought this would be a great time to talk about the evolution of tie-dye. You’re asking, why guy? Because trends do not lie. And tie-dye is not about to say bye bye. You’re welcome. Tie-dye is making an even bigger comeback now that most of the world is quarantined at home and looking for those DIY projects to pass the time, as seen by ASOS & literally every other website.

The initial trend started many seasons ago, as we move through a nostalgic 60’s protest period of design, and is evolving into many different iterations of the original psychedelic spiral resist dyeing. We are seeing 80’s references, 90’s rave culture and endless summer vibes, influences from shibori, punk and more. Let’s dive in.

Good ol’fashioned tie-dyes

The traditional patterns of spirals, bullseyes and stripes don’t seem to be going anywhere. We are also seeing more complicated color mixes from brands like Amiri, and a spiral-inspired single color family iteration from brands like The Elder Statesman and John Elliott. Remember to keep these tie-dye’s bold and bright for now, but we are already seeing some fall colorations from brands like Sean Suen.

Dip-dyes and Color gradients

Tie-dye has inspired another kind of color use in dip-dye and gradients. The color use is very much the same as traditional tie-dyes and offers a nice mix within one collection to use both. We are loving the gradation of multiple color families within one piece, specifically. Look at how Valentino used art from Roger Dean for a color gradient and print mix as the addition of patterns or motifs will be the next evolution of this trend.

Psychedelic

The 90s brought us all sorts of rave-inspired, drug fueled styling…often looking at the 60s hippie culture as inspiration. We explored that again in the 2010’s and now we are doing it again again in the early 2020’s. What we are seeing now is a mash-up of 80’s Technotronic (yyaass) with psychedelic rave and punk culture and a little 90s endless summer Miami.

Designers and artists alike are exploring these two decades and the subcultures within, combining them in countless ways. Get inspiration from heat maps, iridescence in nature and psychedelic acid-trip art. You can throw in a little Joe Exotic for good measure.

All Watery and Earthery and Texturey

The African versions of tie-dye, known for multiple use of bright, saturated color and pattern-work that resembles complicated geometric waterways or maps, were referenced through the 60s and 90s. Ancient Peruvian tie-dyes closely resemble the patchwork resist-dyes of the 70s.

The current trend is a resurgence of shibori dyeing techniques of Japan and southeast Asia, creating watery and earthy textures. Use resist dyeing and digital printing for the more complex versions, and work with your graphic designers (if you are flush with that cash) so achieve some of the watered-down versions (get it? those are water references).

A look at the data

Searches for ‘tie dye’ have exploded since beginning of 2020. We see that July 2019 saw a big spike in searches, but that was due to the release of Starbuck’s Tie-Dye Frappucino (go figure). Summer has brought an increase in tie-dye searches each year for the past 5 years, probably due to the inherent summer style of tie-dye and festival season.

When we search for ‘tie dye clothing,’ we see the spike in searches over the last two months, which corresponds with the stay at home orders of COVID-19. The term ‘tie dye sweatpants’ also had a big increase once the stay at home orders went into effect. The term ‘tie dye shirts’ specifically shows many more consistent searches over the last twelve months than any other item of clothing. For women’s clothing, we see ‘tie dye dress’ searches are lower than ‘shirts’ but more than just generic ‘clothing’ searches.

A look at our intuition

This trend is definitely not going anywhere. As we continue to question what’s happening in the world we will continue to look into the protest culture of the past for inspiration. Not to mention, tie-dye has been popping up every decade since the 60s in new ways, so it’s for sure that designers will continue to reinvent it. Because the traditional tie-dye look has saturated the market and social media, we are calling this trend ‘peak;’ but, expect the trend to keep coming back for more.

We will start to see fall color iterations of tie-dye becoming more prevalent, like the recent AW2020 menswear collection from Sean Suen. We are seeing animal print inspired tie-dye (or tie-dye inspired animal print?) from Tom Ford and spray-paint/tie-dye hybrids over patterns from Dolce & Gabbana.