Comme Des Garçons Spring/Summer 2019 Fashion ShowYoutube/FF Channel

The recent Met Gala has exhibited to the world some of the most outrageous and inspiring outfits, ranging from optical illusions to hybrid gendered silhouettes. A lesson that can be taken from this seemingly intangible fashion spectacle is that there is no sartorial rule book: fashion has no limitations

But where does the notion of boundless fashion stem from? The place where artisanal fashion contests mainstream, trend culture? The answer is the avant-garde art movement, which commenced as early as the 19th century. This movement ushered in the unorthodox, the forward thinking, and the limitless, permeating all aspects of art, whether through literature, music or fashion. 

This movement ushered in the unorthodox, the forward thinking, and the limitless

This nonconformist approach manifests itself perfectly within garments originating from this concept. It feels almost impossible to describe through words the overwhelming complexity, intricacy and dexterity with which these pieces are produced, and the final outcome is consistently shocking and unexpected.

A brand that has unfailingly left me in awe for the years that I have followed fashion has been Comme des Garçons (the logo incorporates an asterisk underneath the ‘c’ of Garçons, rather than the accent represented). Followers of trend culture will have noticed the simultaneously cute and menacing heart logo with two staring eyes, whether embroidered onto the corner of a t-shirt, or printed onto Converse trainers. This is Comme des Garçons, one of the pioneers of the avant-garde movement.

CDG advocates wearing the avant-garde in real life, with architectural cuts and theatrical designs breaking from trend-led regularity. Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo launched CDG in 1973, blowing other designers away with her innovative creations, unmatched and unseen. To this day, the brand’s legacy continues, inspiring people, through seasonal catwalks, to defy set convention. CDG even had a Met Gala in their honour, displaying how pivotal the avant-garde is.

Avant-garde fashion isn’t solely restricted to runway shows and designers: interestingly, it has found its revival in mainstream culture

Avant-garde fashion is becoming increasingly relevant, and not only at events like the Met Gala. Fashion houses are experimenting more and more as each season passes – we recently saw Gucci’s Severed Head Autumn/Winter 2018 show, where fashion met the phantasmagorical. Avant-garde fashion isn’t solely restricted to runway shows and designers: interestingly, it has found its revival in mainstream culture.

Rappers like Kanye West and A$AP Rocky have departed from the more standardised clothing associated with rappers, and have instead pursued the avant-garde. In fact, Kanye was a vocal proponent in Virgil Abloh’s career, taking him to Comme des Garçons shows in Paris, and as a result the entire Louis Vuitton brand has been revolutionised under his creative direction. Who would have predicted that bejewelled harnesses would be a key staple?

Comme Des Garçons Spring/Summer 2019 Fashion ShowYoutube/FF Channel

Talking of A$AP Rocky, in his song ‘Excuse Me’, taken from the album ‘At.Long.Last.A$AP’, he says, ‘I spent 20 thousand dollars with my partners in Bahamas/Another 20 thousand dollars on Rick Owens out in Barneys’. A$AP Rocky casts the spotlight on pioneering designer Rick Owens. Owens is an American fashion designer from California, who has been labelled the ‘Master of Avant-Garde’. With a cult-like following, Owens has combined fashion designing with furniture designing, refusing to follow any sartorial rules. His clothes are gothic, oversized, deconstructed, seemingly everything fashion shouldn’t be, and yet he makes it work seamlessly.


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Another avant-garde designer who has broken into mainstream attention is Yoghi Yamamoto. Yamamoto is a Japanese fashion designer, based in Paris and Tokyo. He has been recognised as the ‘Master of Avant-Garde Tailoring’, and is known for weaving traditional Japanese design aesthetics into Western silhouettes. His line Y-3, in collaboration with Adidas, has produced a popular selection of trainers. Whilst the monochromatic and somewhat understated design of these trainers perhaps veers from Yamamoto’s usual method of design, his creative input has alerted more people to the importance of experimental design and production.

The avant-garde movement may feel alienating, or suitable only for a certain type of fashion fan. After all, are people really expected to dress up in museum worthy pieces on the daily? However, it’s important to remember that avant-garde is not fast fashion. It is not designed to be worn casually, to be encountered on the street as often as you would a garment from Topshop. The avant-garde movement was the catalyst for boundary-defying fashion, fashion that no longer accounted for the implications of gender, or of convention. Refusing to adhere to pre-conceived stereotypes is an act of defiance in itself.

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