Avant Garde Fashion–Beauty Through Reduction

We live in a world of excess. No matter what it is, it is always better when there is more of it. Consider something simple like your wardrobe. Chances are, you have loads of clothing that you no longer wear. Why?

At one time, you thought you needed more. You probably didn’t actually need more, but you wanted more. More shirts, more ties, more pants, etc. Maybe you were convinced that owning all the clothing would enhance your personal style.

On one hand, it can, but just owning ALL the clothes does not make a fashion icon. In fact, a newer fashion movement is upon us, and its main focus is on reduction. Avant garde fashion is slowly gaining traction while targeting the idea of minimizing.


What is Avant Garde Fashion?

Avant garde fashion is, as its name would allude, a style movement that pushes the boundaries of traditional fashion. The avant garde fashion term is taken from the French word vanguard, and it can refer to anything that is radically different from the perceived “norm.”

The avant garde movement in fashion is based on fresh, forward-thinking and is generally unorthodox and experimental in concept. Mixed into this new and often considered unusual style movement is the desire for minimalism.

You see, avant garde fashion has little regard for things like over-the-top accoutrements, societal norms or the status quo. Instead, you will find monochromatic aesthetcis, asymmetrical patterns, and thoughtful silhouettes.


Avant Garde Fashion Designers

Avant garde designers are not necessarily ahead of fashion trends; instead, they reject them. It isn’t about fitting in with the crowd, but more along the lines of standing out. Avant garde is elegant but futuristic, bold but edgy, and minimal but extreme. It definitely has a functional concept that is similar to techwear. And, in most collections, the trend is that less is proverbially more.

Some of the top avant garde designers include Yohji Yamamoto, Boris Bidjan Saberi  (BBS), Rick Owens and Rei Kawakubo. Yamamoto felt that streetwear was too dirty and wanted to clean it up. He wanted to bring elegance into casual wear. Many of his designs are in black as he feels black is not only modest, lazy and easy, but also arrogant and intriguing all at once.

Comme des garçons, established in 1969 by Rei Kawakubo, is an avant garde movement that has stood the test of time. It remains relevant in fashion and is ever-evolving to adapt to changing fashion tastes. Boasting Japanese practicality, the utilitarian pieces still present as just off-kilter enough. Because of this, many Comme des garçons garments can be worn season after season.


There are no rules with avant garde clothing and designers run with it. As such, many develop strong fan followings who rarely stray from their preferred designer. This is not to say that you cannot combine different avant garde designer clothing into the same ensemble, but you have to be careful when creating complete outfits.

Because each designer creates pieces to complement other pieces within their own collections, it is harder to build cohesiveness between designers. You can easily compare it to orchestra music, for example. Each and every person or piece is necessary to create a beautiful flow, whether it is a song or an outfit. Picking one or two artists (or garments) out and placing them in another ensemble just doesn’t always sound as harmonious.

Likewise, mixing shapes, material and silhouettes of various designers’ pieces can leave you with an outfit lacking in cohesiveness.

How is Avant Garde Style Different from Traditional?

There are many ways in which avant garde fashion is different from conventional runway fashion. Like runway styles, it is elegant and luxurious. It differs in that it has the potential to be chaotic at the same time. Some typical aspects of avant garde style are described in further detail below.



Color is key in avant garde fashion. It doesn’t have to be black, but you will find most of it is. Generally, colors consist of black, grey or white. In adhering to monochromatic color schemes, other aspects of style come into play including texture, shape, volume and silhouette.



A variety of materials can be used in an avant garde collection. Layering different materials or modified versions of the same materials creates this texture not often found in traditional styles. It is not uncommon to see warped, distressed, or shiny leather and cotton dipped in rubber featured in avant garde styles.



In a similar way to creating volume in hairstyles, designers add volume to pieces by incorporating the extraordinary into the ordinary. For example, a basic t-shirt can be considered ordinary. However, attaching decor, curving hemlines, and making asymmetrical cuts to the garment take this basic t-shirt to an avant garde level.


Shape and volume go hand in hand. Avant garde shapes know no bounds. As you’ve probably noticed, asymmetry is key. Shorts, pants or shirts that are cut to unnecessary lengths add interesting sculptural aesthetics to pieces. Additionally, you may find items like zippers in abnormal places or doubled up.



Unlike traditional fashion, which is focused on the silhouette of the human body, avant garde fashion focuses more on the silhouettes of the garments. Your attention is drawn to the clothing and not the person wearing it. Avant garde challenges the conventional idea of sexy clothing and stokes the imagination.

Avant Garde Fashion is Gaining Momentum

Avant garde fashion cannot be ignored. Even if it isn’t quite your thing, your brain cannot miss it. We are automatically programmed to tune into things that are not symmetrical. We expect symmetry and when it is gone, we notice.

Avant garde has also been dubbed “techwear” for its sometimes technical look and material used. The avant garde movement has slipped into modern fashion trends. This is evident when we look at avant garde fashions worn by the likes of hip hop music artists like Kanye West and Rihanna with little notice. Even Yamamoto has teamed with adidas to bring avant garde to footwear.

Avant Garde Style for Everyone

Haute couture, including avant garde clothing, certainly isn’t cheap. Many will scoff at the cost of a single item of clothing, while standing in line for their daily (sometimes twice daily) five-dollar latte. Additionally, there are those who may drop a few hundred dollars on a night out but never consider purchasing designer shoes for the same price.

Unfortunately, we’ve become conditioned by the likes of retail stores like Zara or H&M who mass-produce cheap clothing. In all actuality, these clothes often do not last long and soon make their way into the garbage.


When considering the quality and craftsmanship of designer fashion, prices tend to be fair. Garments are not mass-produced, and their designs can be compared to artwork.

They also last longer than your typical inexpensive garments, actually saving money in the long run. Spending $100-$200 on a shirt that will last for years makes much more sense than purchasing a $25 shirt over and over that will only make it through a few weeks. Though most people seem to expect their clothing to be disposable rubbish rather than priceless works of art.

When considering how much money is wasted on non-essentials or cheap clothing that needs to be replaced often, you can see how haute couture can fit into more budgets than one would expect.


Finding your own Avant Garde Style

It may not be for everyone, but if avant garde fashion intrigues you, it isn’t difficult to cultivate your own style. If money is an issue, it is often possible to find pre-worn pieces on sites like eBay. You can also check out some of our favorite midpoint price range designers including:

  • Julius 7
  • First Aid to the Injured
  • Artefact
  • Army of Me
  • Masahiko Maruyama

Additionally, inspiration is to be found with some of the top avant garde designers including the aforementioned Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens and Rei Kawakubo. A few other brands and artists that showcase the true world of avant garde couture include:

  • Comme des garçons
  • Carol Christian Poell
  • Thierry Mugler

Additionally, inspiration is to be found with some of the top avant garde designers including the aforementioned Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens, and Boris Bidjan Saberi. A few other brands and artists that showcase the true world of avant garde couture include:

  • Thom Krom
  • Carol Christian Poell
  • Thierry Mugler

Rejecting fashion’s mainstream trends and encompassing slower, more thoughtful style is what avant garde is truly about. It’s time to ditch the fast, cheap and overtly sexy for something a little more mysterious and indistinct. Let your experimental artist side create new silhouettes and sculpture.

Let us know your thoughts and ideas about avant garde fashion and its experimental clothing and unassuming sexiness!

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