What is avant-garde fashion? Brands, designers, outfit ideas

What is avant-garde fashion? Brands, designers, outfit ideas

While artists challenged and redefined how everyone thought about art, a group of designers has been progressively pushing the boundaries of current fashion. These are the forbears of the groundbreaking avant-garde fashion progression. How well do you know this contemporary fashion?

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avant-garde fashion
Documental by Bethany Cordwell of Australia is modelled after winning the Avant-garde Section and the Residency Experience Award at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Hagen Hopkins
Source: Getty Images

Avant-garde is a French term that refers to individuals or works that are innovative or experimental, challenging what is considered the norm. Designing unexpected clothing on purpose aids in developing brand awareness, which frequently percolates from the internet to purchasers.

What is avant-garde fashion?

It is a forward-thinking movement fuelled by creative designers and artists who dare to challenge the status quo and propose unconventional ideas. Through continuous dissection and redefinition, avant-garde clothes reshape the human body and suggest new ways of relating it to its surroundings.

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Fashion aesthetics of the avant-garde

Whereas most avant-garde designers create widely differing works, there are some broad aesthetic and ideological threads that connect them.

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Avant-garde looks

When comprehending the avant-garde movement, perhaps nothing is more significant than that a lot of it is envisioned and depicted in terms of full looks instead of personal outfits.

Although the outfits are sold independently, the avant-garde movement emphasises the holistic perspective more than any other sub-genre. It does not suggest that an appropriate avant-garde look comprises solely of dressing in the same brand or collection from head to toe.

Rather, avant-garde garments, more than others, are usually designed with a designer's specific aesthetic direction in mind. That isn't to say that the items aren't meant to bring out the best in other pieces, but as with most items in life, dimensional clothing packs a stronger aesthetic smash when paired correctly.

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Avant-garde clothing
Resilience by Monica Ivena of Indonesia is modelled in the Avant-garde Section during the 2022 World of WearableArt Awards at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Hagen Hopkins
Source: Getty Images

Some avant-garde garments are crafted with layering in mind, and it's an important part of the overall aesthetic. Pieces are cut to unveil what's worn beneath or poke out from beneath an outer layer.

Consider the T-shirt as an instance of how the avant-garde movement used volume to its advantage. Many individuals view the T-shirt to be a flat garment. However, avant-garde designers give the T-shirt depth and character by making it asymmetric or overly long, with bunched fabric and curved hems, or with appended accoutrements. Combined, it transforms a flat garment into one that enhances the volume of the body.


The use of disparate textiles to create textured garments corresponds to the avant-garde movement's emphasis on volume. The designers don't just mix and match cotton, leather, wool, and any other material you can use to design clothes, but they do so in unusual ways.

Pieces of cotton are occasionally immersed in rubber, and leathers are ruptured and warped. Then there's the use of various materials to construct layers and shells.

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Avant-garde clothing

Most clothes are practical, but avant-garde style is much more artistic and frequently strives to push the boundaries of what people consider clothes to be.

The avant-garde clothing is voluminous and textured, more motivated by sculpture than practical theory, a wearable work of art that utilises the human body as a vessel but does not strive to draw attention to the body.

Instead, the viewer's focus is entirely on the clothing. As a result, avant-garde female fashion is frequently described as concealing the body or even modifying the human silhouette.

Monochromatic palette

Avant-garde collections are typically designed with stringent colour guidelines, with a single colour used across to accent the earth tones.

On the other hand, those who wear avant-garde clothing tend to put garments together monochromatically, a trend that began on the runway and has since spread to the streets.

How to produce an avant-garde design

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Avant-garde style
Frida Day of the Dead by Leung Wing Tung of Hong Kong Design Institute, Hong Kong is modelled in the Avant-garde Section during the 2022 World of WearableArt Preview Show. Photo: Hagen Hopkins
Source: Getty Images

As you create your avant-garde catalogue, you will explore new and unusual ways to style your preferred pieces of clothing. Depending on how you tie them together, you can turn avant-garde dresses into skirts and cardigans into tops. Below are avant-garde outfit ideas to help you out. You can find other ways to mix and match the items listed below.

Layering T-shirts

T-shirts should be cut longer or shorter than your classic crewneck T-shirt and made of lighter-weight cotton in a neutral colour.

Occasionally, these shirts should have lower hem sections or a thinner fabric; these details lend a handmade quality to even the most basic T-shirt, contributing to the overall craft narrative that almost all avant-garde designers take pride in.

Leather footwear

While avant-garde designers' styles differ, they are unified by a love of leather footwear. Other than that, the offerings are difficult to categorise; they alternate between boots, sneakers, and proper shoes, with equal parts familiar and strange details.

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Sometimes they are completely impractical, and other times they appear to be designed in ways that disobey both reasoning and physics.


Jackets are another essential component of any avant-garde wardrobe. They frequently use unique asymmetrical zippers, unusual button placement, or unconventional pockets. Avant-garde outer layers are among the best examples of the aesthetic on their own.

They're cut in unusual ways that lend the garments a sculptural look, whether on a hanger or worn, and they frequently use materials that highlight texture, such as rigid, sparkly leather or pre-wrinkled cotton.

Leather jackets, including motorcycle jackets, blazers, and bomber jackets, form the foundation of the avant-garde outerwear offering, and most canonical avant-garde designers have at least one standout piece.

Avant-garde fashion designers and brands

Avant-garde mens fashion
Artemia by Ian Bernhard of New Zealand is modelled in the Avant-garde Section during the 2022 World of WearableArt Preview Show at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Hagen Hopkins
Source: Getty Images

Avant-garde designers or brands are those who defy conventional fashion rules. They throw out their design publications and set out to revolutionise the industry. Check out the list of avant-garde designers below.

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1. Yohji Yamamoto

Few designers have had as much influence on this style as Yohji Yamamoto, and even fewer have achieved widespread commercial accomplishments in the same way.

Yamamoto's designs appear simple at first glance, but when combined, they generate complex, multi-layered looks that demonstrate how clothing can be used to create a story.

2. Comme des Garçons

While not all Comme des Garçons brands are avant-garde, Comme des Garçons Homme Plus is undoubtedly one of the most exploratory brands in avant-garde men's fashion.

For decades, Rei Kawakubo and the Comme des Garçons design team have stood at the forefront of fashion, creating perplexing and hypnotising garments.

3. Walter Van Beirendonck

Even though his contemporary collections may be less recognised, Walter Van Beirendonck has been a powerful voice in fashion and the avant-garde movement for decades.

Van Beirendonck's creations, as a member of the Antwerp Six, are unquestionably the most colourful of the avant-garde guard.

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4. Ann Demeulemeester

Ann Demeulemeester is another influential Antwerp Six member who has turned down offers to run major labels to maintain her independence. It enabled her eponymous label to exist independently in the industry.

The Belgian designer left her label in 2013, but her archived designs still carry significant weight in the avant-garde community.

5. Julius

Julius, founded in 2001 by Tatsuro Horikawa, is sometimes referred to as the Japanese Rick Owens. The brand's collections are brimming with the avant-garde, from leather jackets to leather boots and flowing, draping T-shirts to textured pants.

Few brands do it better than Julius when it comes to disguising the body and generating volume and texture with cotton and leather.

6. Craig Green

Avant-garde dress
Cai Min Yan & Liu Yan-Ling of Shih Chien University, Kaohsiung campus, Taiwan is modelled in the Avant-garde Section during the 2022 World of WearableArt Preview Show. Photo: Hagen Hopkins
Source: Getty Images

Green, only 33 years old, interned for Walter Van Beirendonck before introducing his eponymous label, which has received widespread acclaim over the years. Green's designs are distinctive and fascinating, with sculptural structures.

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He is renowned for his bondage jackets and dangling straps. Green reworks workwear silhouettes, whereas other avant-gardists have chosen to take a dark or drapey strategy to design.

7. Boris Bidjan Saberi

Boris Bidjan Saberi's catalogue may appear monotonous to the casual onlooker. Still, each garment, no matter how similar it appears to one from previous seasons, is packed with small, unique details.

Saberi's focus on detail and thirst for advancement has made him a well-known designer. His partnership with Salomon helped the French outdoor brand reach new heights in fashion.

8. Carol Christian Poell

Carol Christian Poell is perhaps the most fetishised avant-garde designer. Poell has been operative since the mid-'90s. While he's better known for his complicated leather garments and mind-bending drip boots, the Austrian designer's cult following can be attributed to his never-ending experimentation.

His designs are the reason the avant-garde movement exists as a genre. Poell's work is so unique in the fashion world that he cannot be classified into any other category.

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9. Rick Owens

Rick Owens, widely regarded as the king of draping and layering, has evolved into one of the most well-known avant-garde designers. Rick Owens, a foundational label for those seeking to enlarge their sartorial choices into a more obscure territory, is worn by rappers, basketball players, industry insiders, and ordinary people.

Owens' runway shows may be more avant-garde than his clothing, demonstrating yet another way in which the movement sees things wholistically rather than on a garment-by-garment justification.

10. m.a+

m.a+ was founded shortly after Carpe Diem's demise, out of the wider reach of the Carpe Diem collective of designers, and is led by Maurizio Amadei.

While m.a+ has created a wide range of products, leather is the brand's speciality. Leather belts with a metal + appearing at some point on the belt are a key signature of m.a+.

Avant-garde fashion is one-of-a-kind. Each person takes a different approach to revealing personal perspectives. Avant-garde fashion comprises various perspectives on fashion, and several characteristics distinguish them from other fashion designers.

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Mercy Mbuthia (Lifestyle writer) Mercy Mbuthia is a content writer with five years of experience writing on various topics, including biographies, entertainment, and lifestyle. She joined the Legit team in 2019. Mercy earned a Master of Science (Food, Nutrition & Dietetics) from Dedan Kimathi University in 2022. Her articles have appeared on several media sites such as The Health Channel, The Nation, Tekrati, ValiantCEO and Celebrity Leader. In 2023, Mercy finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. Email: mercymmbuthia18@gmail.com

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