It’s often said that there’s nothing new left in fashion; that everything we see is just a recycling of the creativity of days past. And though there's certainly some truth there, the Gen Z trendsetters flourishing on TikTok have managed to convince us otherwise. Their latest prediction for 2022's fashion direction? The rise of Avant Apocalypse.
As trend forecaster Mandy Lee (@oldloserinbrooklyn) recently spotlighted in a TikTok, the Avant Apocalypse aesthetic is a slightly garish look characterised by “neutral maximalism, lots of deconstructed pieces and asymmetry, wearing clothes the ‘wrong’ way, and knits in neutral tones.” The styling doesn't even have to make sense. Innovation is the name of the game and layering is unique and unformulaic.
As Lee postulates, the look feels like a natural evolution of the subversive basics trend that, as fashion forecaster Agustina Panzoni (@thealgorythm) noted, saw us swapping out our t-shirts and tanks for strappier silhouettes with unexpected cutouts and mesh fabrics, and gave rise to Gen Z’s DIY craze.
It’s come up with the rise of archive collecting, where TikTokers have successfully resurrected the Y2K archives of long-forgotten collections and deadstock from niche designers of the time; even rendering their pieces highly covetable once again.
But it's not just runway archives and the latest designer collections we're taking cues from. If the aesthetic feels a little cinematic, that's because it's also heavily inspired by the fantastical wardrobes of movies like Mad Max, Star Wars, Dune and, well, any other desert-y, action/sci-fi production.
And it makes sense that in our third year of a global pandemic, years that have been characterised by thoughtless governance, climate inaction, racial injustice and economic collapse, that fashion's response would lean to these sources of inspiration. After all, the major theme these movies share is rebellion. In our never-ending pursuit of individualism and exclusivity, sculptural styling allows people to take hyper-manufactured, cookie-cutter designs and distort them using pieces of thread, pins, belts and miscellaneous scraps of fabrics to create something original.
As pointed out by Panzoni, sculptural styling has been booming amongst Gen Zs, with TikTikors like Nora Gallagher (@n0rab0ra) garnering millions of views by sharing how they take lacklustre second-hand pieces and style them into looks worthy of a George Miller heroin.
Personally, come the end of the world, you’ll find me in sweats, but I digress. To anyone else that feels hesitant about the (fairly impractical) products of the Avant Apocalypse trend, and wonders about its longevity and sustainability, it actually seems surprisingly promising.
Sure, on the one hand, we may become easily bored by these shapes, and they're not exactly timeless outfits to wear again and again. But, on the other, at the heart of the aesthetic is a movement towards taking unloved clothes and repurposing them into something exciting.
TiktTokers all over the world are sharing how, with a simple twist, a random slash, and some tactical snips here and there, thrift store leftovers and wardrobe scraps are given new life. And because the look encourages unique styling and the ditching of traditional ways of wearing pieces, the possibilities of a single wardrobe item expand tenfold, only limited by your own imagination. In a time when the fashion industry is producing more waste than ever, a trend that promotes reuse is certainly something we can get behind.
We may be taking inspiration from the end of the world, but it's creative movements like this that prove fashion is far from a barren wasteland.