Avant Garde is a term being used less and less in the fashion industry. With so many designers blurring the lines between fashion and art and concept and reality, almost every new designer hitting the fashion scene involves some kind of avant garde ideas. In case the term Avant Garde goes right over your head and you lean more towards commercially viably designs and garments, let’s just confirm exactly what Avant Garde is and potentially more importantly, what it isn’t.
What Does Avant Garde Actually Mean?
The dictionary definition of Avant Garde states that it is simply new and experimental ideas, pretty vague if you ask us. Within fashion, Avant Garde is a term used to describe garments that convey a concept or idea but that in literal terms acts more like a piece of art or statue. Very often these works of art are created using textiles but it’s not a requirement. Ultimately, an Avant Garde piece of fashion should pose deep questions and expand our thoughts on what clothing actually is or how it is perceived. More often than not, designers who consider themselves to be Avant Garde, have little interest in commercial clothing and are more interested in challenging conventional standards of beauty, what is acceptable norms and push the boundaries in terms of materials used and their own creativity freedom. Unfortunately, Avant Garde is a term sometimes used incorrectly to label a designer who has simply made a statement piece of wearable fashion which can be confusing to those learning the language of fashion. It’s important to remember that Avant Garde fashion isn’t usually supposed to be worn off the runway and it’s not supposed to be practical – instead it should conjure up ideas, get your brain thinking and inspire you.
Maison Margiela and the Bovine-Toed Tabi Boot
Martin Margiela’s split toe Tabi boot is a concept of equal parts curiosity and disgust. We can’t help feeling our stomachs churn and our toes curl (pun intended!) at looking at these beasty boots. There’s something very unsettling about wanting your feet to look like a cow’s trotters, conjuring up ideas about devilish creatures and hooved beings like the Minotaur. From a practicality point of view, these must be incredibly painful to wear but like we said before, practicality isn’t the point of Avant Garde fashion. The Bovine-Toed Tabi boot is so iconic to the design ethos of the Maison Margiela brand and perhaps this is the reason it is one of the few designs that to this date hasn’t been copied…yet!
Viktor & Rolf Spring 2019 Couture Show
Images Via : Vogue
The ball gowns that broke the internet, Viktor & Rolf’s Spring 2019 Couture Show embodied everything we wish we could say out loud and proud. Part fashion, part internet meme, their oversized tulle trimmed gowns were emblazed with passive and not so passive aggressive statements. The concept here appears to be that fashion is always considered an expression of our personality, an extension of it at times and so why not say what you really mean. What we love most about this collection of literal fashion statements is the potential for commercial viability. Avant Garde is a very intriguing concept but if the ideas aren’t sellable, there’s no business. While we can’t see anyone wearing these dresses except maybe the odd celebrity donning one for the red carpet, we can see every person ever wearing these designs translated into a slogan tees.
Maison Margiella SS11
Images Via : Vogue
We’re back to Margiella because they’re just too good! For their Spring Summer 11 collection dubbed the dress wall garments were created to look like flat pack furniture. Shirts folded like they were straight out of the packaging appeared to be balanced on models’ shoulders like advertising sandwich boards creating a 2D flat wall appearance. It wasn’t just dresses and shirts that Margiella flattened that season, pants also got their fair share of the steam roller, with waistbands extending from either side of the waist. The concept for this collection was menswear on the female form, perhaps Margiella was attempting to exaggerate the difference between the boxy nature of menswear and the curves of a female body? Unfortunately for Margiella, the collection wasn’t well received as they had set the bar high with their previous collection jam packed with highly wearable goods. You win some, you lose some but as a concept we think it’s brilliant!
Article Commissioned by Mod'Art University of Shanghai