Is "Avant-Bland" Fashion Actually Anything New? – GQ Magazine (blog)
According to Alexander Fury at The Independent, a new trend, dubbed “Avant-Bland” is a cousin of minimalism. It’s also having a moment in fashion on the biggest stages, although he stresses the difference between Avant-Bland and 2014 Internet-buzzword “Normcore”. Where Normcore is intentionally basic in the worst sense of the word, Avant-Bland implies a deeper sophistication, often in craftsmanship, in clothing that looks simple at first glance, or are re-interpretations of rudimentary pieces and thus runway-ready. He heralds this movement because of the implications it has for what we as consumers value in a garment. If we appreciate something because it’s made with better fabrics and by a more reputable designer, then in theory, it cannot be replicated or “knocked-off” and sold back as low-hanging fruit to consumers desperate to feel like they’re up on the latest trends.
This may seem nice for, say, Louis Vuitton and its customers who are sick of 99 percenters in knock-off monogram bags, but if this trend continues, then whatever small piece of high-fashion mass market consumers could buy into—a graphic, a pattern—will go away. All that will be left are quality, exensive basics and cheap, inexpensive basics. This serves to drive a wedge between those who can afford high-fashion and those who can’t (even as aesthetically they become more alike), because it puts even more importance on the tag on in the inside of the garment, not what is seen on the outside. Minimalism, and by default Avant-Bland, are ideas that can often only be literally bought into, self-fulfilling prophecies that make the buyer feel good about their own tastes because they’re the only ones who know what they have is better. But a lot of what is being sold is hot air and has mostly to do with the way in which garments are packaged. Take a $500 cotton sweater out of the high-end boutique and place it in Walmart, and see if snobs covet it for its “chic simplicity”.
That’s not to say the idea of “taking elements from the everyday and making them extraordinary,” as Fury puts it, doesn’t have artistic merit. Raf Simons’ colorblocked trainers are meant to emulate the kind of modern day running shoes one will find at any mall and succeed in honoring their inspiration. But they’re clearly something that are more form than function, and work because its avant-garde ideas are communicated with the eyes, not the hand as Fury suggests. No one is picking up a Raf Simons trainer and saying, “I can tell these sneakers are nice because the rubber is better.” And if this is the case, then these shoes are not “Avant-Bland,” they’re just plain old, surface-level fashion. Because if we’re talking about taking everyday inspirations and making them more extraordinary, then this certainly is nothing new. In fact, that’s mostly what designers do. They take a coat, a shirt, a shoe, a dress, and they make it something more than just that. But calling it something different for the sake of argument or trend-watching doesn’t mean it is.