Which designers/collections should we say are ''avant garde''

Discussion in 'Designers and Collections' started by Tentacl Ventricl, Nov 3, 2009.

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  1. Tentacl Ventricl

    Tentacl Ventricl New Member

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    If I have this in the wrong place mods do of course move it.

    When I conducted a search of ''avante garde'' in 'designers and collections' the first 7 pages contained threads who's titles included reference to all the designers/houses mentioned below.

    I would like to ask 'Which designers do we think ''should'' be correctly seen as avante garde? Of course the question begs the further question of what we mean by avante garde, what qualifies a designer to be given the tag.

    Designers arising on the search whom I felt probably would be generally accepted as ''avante garde'' included Rei Kawakubo (Comme); Viktor&Rolf; Prada; Threeasfour; Margiela; Chalayan - speaking of old of those last two at least.

    I think I would include McQueen (perhaps some might disagree) and probably Rick Owens and Gareth Pugh. I think Westwood too (although maybe a place in fashion history as punk prototypist and now eco campaigning isn't quite enough?) And the Antwerp 6.

    What of Rodarte, Ghesquiere, Tisci, Theyskeens, Schwab, Bruno Pieters etc?

    I think perhaps not Marc Jacobs. Nor Descarnin. Nor Karl, nor John (Galliano). Fabulous as their contribution may have been. Although accepting 'fans' might find that controversial.

    Of course I've not raised these names: the search has. I'm wholly willing to accept that my tentative propositions as to who is 'AG' and who isn't might be wrong. I seek to learn.

    It may well be that the search drew up some figures merely because of a remark in a thread that the designer in question was hardly avante garde or somesuch. How else would the search have thrown up Victoria Beckham :) Love to you Posh. Of course not all should be AG. That would be bland.

    Anyway - I'm interested to learn where people feel the line in the sand is drawn?; Who counts as 'avante garde'?
     
  2. Scott

    Scott Stitch:the Hand

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    personally,i find such terminology irrelevant,especially these days. no designer that i know or knew of has ever deemed themselves as such. avant garde to me was more a media attachment to those defied convention or had a very radical vision. of course,you bring up posh spice and that to me confirms my feeling that the term has lost its meaning totally anyway. when over-stylised figures are being dubbed avant garde it's obviously lost its substance. it's useless.
     
  3. Spike413

    Spike413 barcode

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    I think the title of Avant Garde is something that has become subjective, and as a result is a broad term. I mean to me the phrase connotes someone or something that bucks convention in some way, that challenges what's acceptable, and in that sense there are a lot of designers who do that, even if they don't fit the commonly accepted "avant garde" mold.

    To pull one name out of those you mentioned that illustrates my point, I actually would say that John Galliano could be called avant garde. Though his work and aesthetic can't be simply labelled that way, some of the things he's done can; for example the deconstructed homeless collection. That was challenging in that it made people question what is acceptable in the realm of art, what is beautiful in the realm of fashion, and what is respectable in the realm of haute couture. There was also his phase of oversized 3-D volume and cutting that was anything but mainstream.

    Then with someone like Alexander McQueen. Though he would probably be considered "avant garde" in the general sense, his work also appeals to a very wide audience, and something that was truly strange or unusual simply wouldn't be very popular. Sure, a lot of what he's done would deserve the AG title, but there is also plenty he's done that wouldn't.

    Of the names you mentioned, I think that pretty much all of them can be described as avant garde to some degree because none of them seem to settle for doing the expected or the accepted. They all push themselves to do new things, to change the eye and to challenge the viewer's perceptions of fashion and beauty. At the end of the day though I just don't think that avant garde works very well as a way of labelling an aesthetic or an entire body of work, because the title is both too broad and too limiting. It's better used on a smaller scale to describe a collection, or an idea, or a garment itself.
     
  4. Tentacl Ventricl

    Tentacl Ventricl New Member

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    You may be right. My question is motivated by something Susannah Frankel infers in her 'Decade in Style' Article in Another 17. She describes how in the 00s a grande bourgeoise elegance overthrew the twin citadels of Tom Fordian high octane and the '...styles of the fashion avante garde'. She goes on to describe a fashion 'coming full circle' away from sincere chic and that with 'capitalism under threat' there is a rethinking of values, and a call for fashion which is 'creatively pioneering'. I read her to be saying that the time and conditions are right for fashion which attempts at some meaningful significance, some uncovering of the root of things, that there might be found a new avant-gardism for the coming decade.

    As I hazard an answer to my question, I think that 'Avant Garde' infers some connection, some claim, to fashion as oppositional art. That it changes our perception of sartorial rules or taste in a fundamental way. That it's directional.

    You may be right that at the micro level every new collection slightly alters our scopic reality a fraction - one has to design something 'new', otherwise it's not design. But I think the avant garde in fashion is about sigificance of newness, weight of message, that some profound oppositional stance (to the foregoing orthodoxy) is being communicated by the work in question.

    I (just about) roll with the whole 'meaning is there to be ''found'' by the audience of the work' thing. It's true, I think, that a designer might be 'avant garde' at one point then, latterly, not. I'm grateful for your contribution that Galliano might be seen as AG. Formerly maybe. I think not for SS10 though. He hasn't changed his tune and now his work starts to look like the tired retro orthodoxy of the past 5 to 10 years, an aesthetic in the process of being challenged, dismantled, overthrown. By? The new avant garde of course.

    Perhaps one might reframe the question and ask - Is this a time of fundamental change in fashion aesthetics and if so who is/ has, led our eye? For would that not be our meeting with - The Avant Garde?

    I think constructing the answer is at one point wholly subjective but there's simultaneously a right thinking objectivity. One of those double binds that fashion delivers so cunningly.

    At present I don't know the answer for who/what might count as refreshingly directional, where the line in the sand might be drawn between those who lead change and those who are either stuck in an off groove or just plain followers. I'm keeping an open mind and inviting claims.

    I don't mind at all questions of relevance or the squeezing of terminology like zits. But it might be more fun to talk about who is producing the AG, the radical, aptly positioned, directional stuff.
     
  5. Squizree

    Squizree Looking Up

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    There is absolutely no way you could just categorize designers in an "Avant Garde Pile" and a "Non Avant Garde Pile". Simply because most of the names you mentioned have been AG at some point and not AG at another point. Alexander McQueen, Ghesquire and Tisci in particular have undergone this kind of phasing.
    For example Balenciaga S/S 07, to me at least, was avant garde. It was very original to me. But then there was Balenciaga Fall 2007, which happened to be absolutely outdated in my eyes.
     
  6. Tentacl Ventricl

    Tentacl Ventricl New Member

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    So in any given season some collections read as avant garde whilst others don't. I don't have a problem with that. I agree. The question really is, for SS10 (or any given season), which should be seen as which? It may be that some such collections might be from designers who are consistently avant garde, always directional in what they produce but that others are having an avant garde 'moment', that their message, either new or old, has a resonance for the times.
     
  7. rlynne

    rlynne New Member

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    i think gareth pugh could be classed as avant garde..

    here are some examples...

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    flickr.com, forum.lookbook.nu, maricazottino.com
     
  8. Tentacl Ventricl

    Tentacl Ventricl New Member

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    I think I tend to agree with you Rlynne. But for me the interesting question is why?

    Do you say that he is so because his work is different, out-there, challenging, outlandish?

    I definitely think that can be part of it. But some graduate work can have that off-the-wall, out-there quality no? And we probably wouldn't say such work is avant garde - just obscure perhaps.

    My sense is that counting as truly avant garde has something to do with the message the designer communicates about fashion and, perhaps, how that is received and followed by other designers. Of course that message might alter, shift, develop from season to season.

    I don't think you provided a visual example from SS10? Is your point better made by reference to his earlier work? Did he stop being avant garde this season?

    Who might we say he has influenced? Perhaps he has influenced the whole of fashion in some way? Is he relevant as a leader, an opinion former - or is he just out-there? Perhaps his influence has yet to be felt: a man ahead of his time?
     
  9. Crying Diamonds

    Crying Diamonds Geometric Discharge

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    ^ But avant garde is about pushing fashion forward - being one step ahead of everyone else - being the leader and not the follower.
    Gareth Pugh only has the spectacle factor.
    I'd say Ghesquire for Balenciaga is pretty avant garde with his metal trousers and neoprene or glass dresses. Plus he leads trends and people tend to mimic him - that's one sign of being on the ball.
    These days there aren't many ways to be avant garde. Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein is innovative in his ways of using completely unusual and modern fabrics but he doesn't influence trends or other people, probably because his clothes can often be unflattering or appeal to a limited customer. Ghesquire has the nack of pushing boundaries but keeping at least some of his clothes within the wearability circle - that's avant garde - like Cristobal Balenciaga himself.
     
  10. Scott

    Scott Stitch:the Hand

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    see,what i felt we perceived as avant garde in the 80's,90's and early 00's...i think of kawakubo,tatsuno,westwood,Margiela,yohji,chalayan and early viktor & rolf.....they defined avant garde design to me. and not so much the status,show or necessarily the surface style but the ideas and the methods in which they pushed things forward,completely and wholeheartedly against the grain of standard ideals. for me,to be truly avant garde was to be truly revolutionary,almost radical.

    the reason i question the relevance of such a term is because following the attacks in new york,things began to get a bit watered down in design and the media started to use the term very loosely. it had transformed into something very vague without any kind of real meaning.
     
  11. Spike413

    Spike413 barcode

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    I think that's probably the most pure definition of of the phrase. When I think of something avant garde, I tend to think of it as something that's so against the grain that it's threatening. Something avant garde threatens whatever limits or guidelines that are already established.
     
  12. Pastry

    Pastry Active Member

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    Tentacl Ventricl,

    Thank you for starting this thread and thank you for raising such a relevant question.
    If I may put in my two cents...
    Avant garde, as a term, refers to someone who is ahead of the pack. In a creative context, and particularly that of fashion, the terms pertains to individuals (designers or everyday people), who are able to think of an alternative to current styles ahead of everyone else.

    Certainly, it's well-established that the Japanese in the early 1980's changed fashion forever. And it was good of you to mention that the 00's brought a really grotesque capitalist element to apparel design.

    In fact, I've been mulling this issue over, and it would seem that RIGHT NOW is a particularly good time for a visionary to be born. And to be pessimistic, I certainly think that nothing really is avant-garde at the moment. The Japanese have laid the foundation and fashion has been rather stagnant since. Art, for example, has evolved quite a bit more.

    This of course raises the question, "Is fashion an art?" No, it's a craft with the creative capabilities of art. It's point, much like that of art is that it's a creative individual's answer to current times and his/her attempt to return our capacity for imagination to where it should be. What does not make it art, is a rather mysterious, frivolous, for-no-reason reasonign behind its life.

    But really fashion works simiar to visual art, performance art, music...I've always been able to relate fashion to those and most other professional practices. Much like music has forms: sonata form, or concerto grosso form, or what have you. Fashion has jackets, pants, tops. The avant-garde challenge for both disciples is to destroy them, and build something new of the remains. In that respect, I suppose it's clear why Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto were so crucial to modern fashion.

    Has there been a Yohji or a Rei since? Not quite.
    What does that mean for modern fashion. I don't know, but I think it won't be until we see something we don't understand that fashion will start changing. Garments being made right now are much too familiar, they are no challenge to our mind. And it really all starts with the individual. Why one person wants to wear something and another one doesn't. The notion of "individual style" if you will.

    I completely understand that was is generally acceptable right now as being on the cusp of trendieness is the dark side, leather, black. Those are VERY generic terms, but think of the people photographed outside the Paris shows in the Tulieres and one gets the picture. That sort of style is certainly considerdd to be in good taste, and innovative. Is it? I'd certainly argue that it's actually very accessible, quite easy to digest. Personality, it would seem, takes a step back. It's an army of Sprocket-like young men and women.
    Who, would probably argue that their "dark" appearance is a direct by-product or "current times".

    I think Dior (well Chanel, perhaps, was thinking of the sihouette even before the war) was being avant-garde with his new look. It was escapist and it even had humour. Cristobal Balenciaga, to this day in my opinion, remains the Bach of fashion.

    What we might do well with now, is by nurturing individuals who think of fashion in all the right ways. Because it is emotional, it is subconcious, it is full of potential. Add the issues of sustainablity, corporate responsibility, technology..Which are should be nothing to dismiss in HIGH fashion, and you've got some sort of super power who can, once again, change things for a while. Where is this person?
    :lol:
     
    #12 Pastry, Nov 7, 2009
    Last edited by moderator : Nov 7, 2009
  13. Tentacl Ventricl

    Tentacl Ventricl New Member

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    Perhaps Francisco Costa has been/is, if not avant garde, then at least directional. Wasn't he one of the first, if not the first, in recent seasons to develop a 'new minimalism'? The new minimalism seems to me to be a significant part of why anything chintzily embellished or ladyish frou, anything pre-90's retro, now looks so awful. Costa as part of the dethroning of Galliano?

    I think Ghesquiere raises a lot of interesting questions. I think those who commented in the Balenciaga SS10 thread that Balenciaga had this season moved in a 'Rodarte' direction might have had a point. And perhaps a wider point arises too - with designers like Ghesquiere and Marc Jacobs, perhaps Miuccha Prada too, who seem to so rapidly flit from one aesthetic to another from one season to the next, it's hard to get a take on what, if anything, they might stand for over a period of several seasons? And if you're 'flitting' in whose direction are you flitting this season. For instance if Balenciaga has moved 'toward Rodarte' for SS10 then there's some, perhaps secondary, influence in moving fashion in that direction, but, for that season at least, the directional label must be not in fact Balenciaga but Rodarte?

    I read in the Cathy Horyn New York Times article about McQueen that he, Ghesquiere and Raf Simons are very much exploring future fabric technologies. I think it's interesting that inventiveness in fashion design might now be wedded to fabric technology advancements because that sort of reflects the fact that the lion's share of social change over the last 20 years has been rooted in the world of technology rather than the world of ideas. The technological imperative has absorbed everything, science defeated art. But with a future fabric one still has to decide what to do with it, what to say with it.
     
  14. rlynne

    rlynne New Member

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    tentacl ventrici, you raised some very relevant questions which has got me thinking..

    not all of the pictures were from the same collection, but to me they all seem new and exciting today, im not tired of the designs or think they are now too overdone.. which makes me consider them 'avant garde'...

    to me being 'avant garde' doesn't neccesarily mean that you start a trend to be copied, or you become a leader design wise in any way... to me it's just pure creativity, almost like not having "fashion" in mind when your creating it, more like art and expression.. designers moving to the beat of their own drum

    too mindblowingly outrageous to be imitated..
     
  15. Tentacl Ventricl

    Tentacl Ventricl New Member

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    I wouldn't disagree with that.

    I note, Spike, that you signature quote Rick Owens. Tim Blanks in his Style.com video report on Rick Owens SS10 said that it's a Rick Owens moment in fashion. Being relatively new to an appreciation of Rick's work myself I wasn't entirely sure what Blanks was meaning. What would you say, Spike, is Rick Owens' claim to radical influence either generally and/or for SS10 specifically?

    If we think Pugh might be seen as avant garde then, in that Owens has been his mentor (of sorts), we might expect to be able to honour the influence of the master?

    Unless of course the pupil usurped the influence of the master?
    Because we might expect to find that occuring mightn't we - an avant garde designer's work redefining the prevailing mode of dress of a new generation as one set of cultural norms usurps that of the old world of the fathers and mothers. Avant garde designer as midwife of the cultural forms of the new generation.

    That I'm more familiar with the work of Pugh than Owens might say more about my slightly Londoncentric learning over the last 6 seasons than anything about the designers themselves, but I should like to learn more about why we might say, with Blanks, that we are experiencing an Owens (not a Pugh) fashion moment...
     
  16. Tentacl Ventricl

    Tentacl Ventricl New Member

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    Thank you Pastry for your valuable contribution. The part quoted above particularly struck me as poignant. I think I read Susannah Frankel in her AW09/10 Another article to be intimating the same thing - that the conditions now ought to be right for a new avant garde to emerge. In a way that's what motivates this thread - can we find such a new avant garde emerging? Or not.

    The reason I think the times 'ought' to be ripe for a new radical movement in fashion/culture is related to a view of recent history in fashion/culture. In short, that socio-cultural renewal has tended to happen in times of recession.

    There's also a related insight that an avant garde designer tends to have an avant garde social movement that they hook up to, key into, help to create and define. The prime example might be Westwood's association with Punk.

    It might be said that since the early 90's we haven't experienced anything particularly new in fashion or in culture because the recessionary conditions for oppositional movements simply haven't been there. When capitalism delivers a boom there's a tendancy toward backward looking conservatism socially hence a succession of insipid retroisms.

    The last recession (early 90's) can be seen as the backdrop to grundge, goth, minimalism and new-age eco-warriors. Perhaps also the emergence of the fetish scene. But what, really, since then, has there been?

    If there are to be no new oppositional cultural/fashion movements emerging (probably for the first time ever) in this recession then why not, what happened?

    With the banking system on the floor (along with the twin towers) we can't really say that capitalism won. Surely the conditions for the emergence of a new avant garde exist, don't they?

    My tentative view of SS10 (I'm looking to be persuaded otherwise) is that what we're in fact experiencing is just the committing of some of the themes of the early 90's to the next chapter of retroism. Whilst I see the relevance of such a move, I'd rather be able to form an understanding of the season, the new decade, that it contains something rather more forward looking, rather more avant garde.

    If we, in this thread, could collectively identify, delineate, name even, such a new movement then that would be excellent work.

    With you though, Pastry, I suspect that we might be looking for something which just isn't there. If that is the case then we might lament an opportunity in cultural history lost, a fashion moment which was ultimately devoid of content, a time which would leave no lasting imprint. Leaving us only with the somewhat fraught question - why?
     
  17. Scott

    Scott Stitch:the Hand

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    although not directed at me,i will respond nonetheless.

    with rick its because of his defining aesthetic. nobody is doing what he's doing right now....it's distinct...boundry-less...

    and i also feel with regards to tim's comment,is that rick is coming into his own more so now than a couple years ago and before. people would often lump him together with demeulemeester and the like,and i think now he's really developed a strong,dynamic aesthetic.
     
  18. Crimson C.C

    Crimson C.C New Member

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    i like to call our period as "Reckless Elegance", do you agree???

    Maybe we should distinguish what is Zeitgeist and Avant Garde, in terms of design?

    Thinking one step ahead of the design, wouldnt you think that Avant Garde should also encompass, how big of an influence the idea has on thought in society?

    So there is the whole concept of an Avant Garde commercial and Avant Garde noncommercial.

    As an Avant Garde designer, would you want to design clothes that change peoples perception on Art but also wearability? The more people you influence, the more of an avant garde designer you are?

    Each season, what an Avant Garde designer should do, is try give a direct representation of what they feel society is leading to?

    Making something new, is fantastic. But how people perceive that innovation is where people might distinguish what is avant garde?

    Or you could just negate everything by saying nothing is new but that just defeats what trying to be avant garde is about. Does that mean that designers dont even try to be avant garde? For some reason i doubt that.

    Sorry, there probably is relevance somewhere in that. But in the end maybe it is all about "feeling", and the more you know about fashion(Society) the more your "feel" of avant garde decreases about designers.
     
  19. Scott

    Scott Stitch:the Hand

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    well for me the entire meaning of avant garde in fashion was in creating something incredibly unorthodox within a single garment. the question of wearability,however,has always been subject for debate but imo it was never just about not being able to wear it. i mean when i look back....MMM,Demeulemeester and Yohji were all deemed avant garde in nature,but much of their work was still quite transitional and accessible.

    you see,there were always different layers and elements to that approach anyway. i mean you had the kawakubo stuff in the 80's and many of the things chalayan did,such as the coffee table skirt and those mechanical dresses,but then you had the margiela's,lang's and yamamoto's who did things with more of a balance. as well as the newcomers like cianciolo,adrover,as four....all still radical and esoteric in spirt but unconventionally wearable.
     
    #19 Scott, Nov 8, 2009
    Last edited by moderator cin: Nov 8, 2009
  20. BerlinRocks

    BerlinRocks New Member

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    be avant-garde is be radical !
     

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