Dizzy Spell

Tie-dye makes a comeback as print aficionados lure a master out of obscurity

dizzy spell tight 

When accessories designer Calleen Cordero discovered in 2006 that her Ojai neighbor, who goes by the name
Zubin, was a pioneer of tie-dye, she begged him to collaborate with her. Zubin had dressed Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in finery in the 1960s, reviving the ancient technique of twisting and tying fabric to resist dye penetration. He walked away from the vats in the 1970s to pursue another passion: airbrushing. “His work is not just tie-dye, it’s art,” says Cordero, who persuaded Zubin to work on leather pieces for shoes and bags. Uninterested in loud colors, he created muted maroon and turquoise shapes that resemble fuzzy leaf imprints. “I developed some new folding techniques,” says Zubin. “That’s how you get interesting patterns.” Word about the forgotten master got out, which led the L.A.-based label Tree to ask Zubin to work on silk chiffon for dresses. “His prints have a hand-painted modern edge that’s different from the hippie cliché,” says Tree designer Theresa McAllen.

Zubin isn’t the only West Coast talent practicing the art. The sportswear companies Three Dots and Michael Stars have put tie-dye patterns on T-shirts in their spring collections, while L.A. designer Gregory Parkinson has employed the method on his upscale dresses (pictured) since 1994. He uses the Japanese process known as shibori, which involves stitching and compressing fabric in addition to tying it before dying. His silk frocks, some of which feature just one or two oversize rings of color, have sold so well at stores like Barneys New York that Parkinson jokingly refers to them as “my Juicy Couture tracksuits.” While the look of yesteryear’s bright tie-dye remains associated with the counterculture, it has lost its radical connotations. Still, there’s seditiousness to the subtle embellishment of Parkinson’s pieces. “I have always wanted color to be subversive,” he says. “I love it when women who say they only wear black walk out of my studio in a dress with ten colors on it.”

Photograph courtesy by Gregory Parkinson