No Time for the Runway
AVAVAV’s fashion exhibition at Milan Fashion Week was far from ordinary; incomplete and eccentric looks took to the runway to share a bold message about the industry.
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Known for featuring lavish looks, Milan Fashion Week for Spring/Summer 2024 (SS24) concluded its showcasing on September 25. Since its inception in 1958, Milan Fashion Week has garnered thousands of international viewers each year through its semi-annual showcasing of remarkable prêt-à-porter collections. The week aims to highlight the intricate craftsmanship of several contemporary Italian brands and designers, including the renowned Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace. Among the assortment of ultramodern labels is the Florence-based brand AVAVAV, which fuses traditional Italian craftsmanship with affordable luxury. AVAVAV aims to promote sustainable fashion through a novel approach, assembling collections using recycled waste fabric from other high-end companies. The collection on display at the AVAVAV SS24 runway presented several quirky looks that focused on sustainability while remaining stylish.
Known for her unusual runway shows, designer and creative director of AVAVAV Beate Karlsson organized this presentation with the intent to present utter madness. In Karlsson’s reappearance for Milan’s Fashion Week SS24 collection, she asserted several messages through her design and creative choices. Her combination of chic/modern streetwear and casual comfort clothes with the models’ hastened, tense struts on the runway revealed the general theme of tension that Karlsson aimed to convey. The deliberate delivery of AVAVAV was a commentary on the stressful environment Karlsson and other designers face, including the “anxiety caused by the fashion industry’s dizzying pace through this collection, which condemns lack of time, as well as the attendant stress and frustration,” Karlsson said in an interview with FashionNetwork.com.
A total of 26 looks were featured in AVAVAV’s peculiar showcase. The looks drew attention to the impractical deadlines and creative blocks designers faced. The intricate layering in some outfits hinted at the chaos behind the scenes, and the messy make-up added to the distressed tone. Dramatized dark eyes, streaks of mascara, and strands of hair slicked onto the model’s faces underscored the anxiety that results from disorderly work conditions.
AVAVAV’s runway show was unique, to say the least. Right before the start of the show, a member of the backstage crew scrambled onstage, aligning four yellow pages with the scribbled letters “AV” together on the back wall before dashing into the wings. A few seconds later, the crew member rushed back, realizing his spelling error and removing the extra “AV.”
In a critique of the tedious process behind designing, models intentionally donned incomplete looks and kitsch appearances on the runway. Some even hastily completed their looks in front of the audience before briskly walking the runway. One male model walked out in a plain black tee with the sleeves haplessly attached and the words “ADD BACK?!”—the entire shirt’s back was missing. A baseball cap also covered half of his face, with two holes unevenly cut out for his eyes. A female model walked out wearing two white, bulky boxes with “ADD SHAPE” written on them in black marker. These particular looks challenged the conventional aesthetic appeal seen in fashion; these were not outfits designed for casual wear, but to convey a larger message. The scrawled-on words distinctly indicated the fatiguing time crunches designers face and the immense pressure to invent avante-garde looks nonetheless.
The idea of a “normal” fashion show is polished and formal—flattering models exhibiting glamorous looks. In this vision, the models themselves are ethereal; everything about their presentation is deemed perfect. On the contrary, AVAVAV’s display was far from idealized. Unlike conventional shows, the first model barely walked halfway down the runway before turning around and hurrying backstage. As models continued to pour out from the wings, they lacked the tense professionalism normally observed in fashion shows. Model Alphons Amuri slid out shirtless, then turned back in clear frustration as a shirt was thrown at him to put on. Immediately following this model, another one dressed in an elaborate black leather look bolted out, posed momentarily at the end of the walkway, and then ran back. The model who showed the final look wore an oversized tuxedo fully covered in bright yellow sticky notes. The overall environment was immensely tumultuous and borderline chaotic. This bizarre display of this season’s collection successfully emphasized Karlsson’s larger theme: the fashion industry behind the scenes is mayhem.
AVAVAV brought forth a stress-inducing yet comical showcase. This step toward unconventionality in the realm of fashion draws attention both to the message and the brand. While Karlsson approached this runway show in an ironic sense, some audience members viewed the AVAVAV presentation differently. Some expressed their frustration in the absence of design and regarded the show as “silly” and tasteless. Other views of the show reflected awe and interest in Karlsson’s unique approach, believing that the concept and its execution were unforgettable and striking. Breaking the mold of a generic fashion show with its half-baked clothing ensembles and distraught tone, Karlsson and AVAVAV truly took the world of contemporary vogue to the next level.