Think oversized blazers, legwarmers, and big hair. The 80's were a time of exaggeratedly ornamented, sized, and even colored garments that reflected a sense of extreme individualism, power, and freedom individuals embraced during the era. The fashion was reflective of so many influential and life-changing events that occurred as they paved the way to channeling a new way of thinking - an empowered way of thinking. So when a sartorial prowess by the name of Rei Kawakubo debuted Comme des Garçons in the spring of 1981, critics and enthusiasts were moved. Models clad in formless black garments and flat shoes shook the runway. The collection was an ode to “deconstructivism”, an opposition to fitted “constructed” garments that accentuated the female form- a huge trend of the era. Kawakubo, together with her contemporaries, led a revolution of unorthodox reasoning.
Avant-Garde is the French word for vanguard. Vanguards, in militaristic sense, are individuals who take on the front positions in battles. Lifting it on to fashion, Avant -Gardes are individuals who, like Kawakubo, take on unorthodox approaches to style. They’re bold visionaries who patronize unconventional textures, colors, forms, and wear them all together in one single outfit. Avant-Garde is basically pairing say a velvet blazer with denim bellbottoms and a sheer top. Even match it with a pair of Birkenstocks and a woven handbag. In a brief sense, individuals who take on Avant-Garde are at the forefront of the trends sphere and see fashion in a whole new perspective, something that’s definitely different from the norm.
The Avant-Garde designers would include Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Yohji Yamammoto.
I think above all, Alexander Mcqueen is one of the most talented avante-garde designers of all time. I can’t even begin to summarize briefly his works because truthfully, every single garment of every single collection is an emotional ride. Every single one is an illumination of his ideas and I think his designs perfectly conveyed his individuality as a person with both perfections and imperfections.
Galliano’s ingenuity applied theatrics with fashion, and this lovely incorporation did turn out to be a wonder. As a student, he would usually have frequent visits to museums showcasing Madeleine Vionnet’s designs. His collections are in itself works of art that were ahead of his time.
Dark deconstructed garments are basically synonymous to Yohji Yamamoto and his designs insistently carry a certain appeal to it. Albeit his collections hold an ‘unfinished’ look to it, Yamamoto is skilled in tailoring - asserting that “men’s clothing looks as good on women as [my] women’s clothing.”
On a last note, I think what's really fascinating about Avant-Garde is that it’s the most tangible thing we have to fantasy, may it be mythology or fairy tales. It holds no prejudice over a certain ideal and it permits freedom of expression. And in that, I say Avant-Garde is the most noble force of fashion.
- Bea Ticsay
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Fashion: The 50 most influential designers of all time by Bonnie English