Under the Cali Sun
You don’t have to fly five and a half thousand miles to feel the warmth of the Cali sun. When Raquel Allegra comes to London, she brings with her a corner of her Los Angeles studio – where tie-dyed tees and softest silk separates become items of beautifully-crafted, desirable style. It’s a glimpse of Allegra’s La La Land life, a place where tie-dying serves as a form of zen and coconut water replaces soda. So this week we learned from the Queen of tie-dye herself, when she hosted some textile workshops to demonstrate different styles of that somewhat dreaded textile treatment technique born in the 1960s.
Raquel Allegra and her head of design Wyatt Hough showing us the making of the shell
All you need is a t-shirt, a bleach solution, a bleach-stopping solution and a bit of water. After damping the t-shirt, and squeezing the water to almost-dry, it’s print you’re going for. The shell is a typical spiral shape where you use a ruler to twist the fabric, la bomba stands for an irregular pattern Allegra described as an explosion, while the bamboo symbolises a grid-like shape created by folding the tee like an accordion. After creating the shape and tying the cloth with lots and lots of rubber bands, it’s time to dunk it into the bleach, leave it to soak for about three minutes and then rinse the chemicals off. But the point of this workshop wasn’t really to learn how to tie-dye – it’s about experiencing the hand-heavy process of creating a pattern, playing with fabrics and learning how to chill. “It’s about embracing that a-ha moment,” Allegra repeated throughout our struggles to create something remotely similar to her signature motifs.
In the process of trying to make something reasonably similar to Allegra's original techniques...
Away from floral crowns and questionable Aztec-inspired prints, Allegra and her team design for a romantic free spirit that represents a grown-up, sophisticated surfer girl at heart. Her most recent autumn/winter 2017 collection named Pura Vida is everything but a cliché – inspired by Costa Rican nature and culture as well as the graphics of a 1973 Japanese animated feature called Belladonna of Sadness. The collection is an eclectic mix of visual references blended into a set of looks you can wear both on the beach and in the office. When she started her brand almost a decade ago, it might have been just a t-shirt dyeing and distressing manufacture, but now it’s a true sunshine California lifestyle brand.
Raquel Allegra autumn/winter 2017
But you don’t have to spend half a year in a camper van to wear these clothes. Her silky dresses look great over a pair of skinny blue jeans while the chequered suits make perfect sense for a daily business look. We all need some of those good vibrations in our lives, and Allegra’s clothes are the perfect excuse to bring back the tie-dye and pretend you’re on the beach – even if you’re stuck in the rush-hour on the tube.
Shop Raquel Allegra’s collection via net-a-porter.com with prices starting at £165.
Text by Dino Bonacic