What is avant-basic? Brands like Lisa Says Gah popularize funky patterns
Have you started to notice the same funky patterns all over Instagram and TikTok? Bright colors and bold fabrics have been featured all over the place so often, they’re hardly unique anymore.
Back in December, writer Emma Hope Allwood sagely named this style “avant-basic.”
“It’s algorithm fashion…. quirkiness in the age of mechanical reproduction… vintage without the effort… if summer from 500 days of summer was an insta gal with a mullet,” she said.
“Avant,” of course, comes from the term “avant-garde,” which denotes unusual or experimental ideas, like the funky patterns rampant within this trend cycle. Basic means seemingly the opposite — it’s something unoriginal or mainstream. Pairing these words together in one term describes an unorthodox style that’s been adopted by so many people, it’s no longer radical.
“Avant-garde patterns are paired with not-so-avant-garde styling. The clothes are different, but so many people wear them, and they all look the same,” a TikTok from fashion blog @rag.reporrt explained.
Avant-basic patterns are “reminiscent of the psychedelic fashion of the 1960s and the bold colors and patterns of the 1970s,” according to digital magazine Clothes and Water.
Those decades were well-known for geometric, floral and other optic prints that took inspiration from abstract art. You’ll notice a lot of bright pink, green and orange, as well as deeper purple, red and green for contrast.
One shop is almost entirely responsible for this entire aesthetic — Lisa Says Gah. Home to Paloma Wool, House of Sunny, dozens of other similar collections and an in-house line, Lisa Says Gah is the it-brand of the moment.
“I hadn’t seen a single brand adored so vehemently by so many wealthy white women since I was a middle schooler walking among a sea of Abercrombie,” Abby Jones wrote on the blog TrueSelf.com.
New collections are typically released seasonally with a focus on putting an end to the fast fashion cycle. The Lisa Says Gah website boasts ethical practices — from packaging to factories and the sourcing of materials — and the brand stands out in the sustainable fashion space with funky patterns that allow for more self-expression than what we’ve come to accept.
“In contrast to the Everlane-core blandness that has become associated with ‘sustainable fashion’ — earth tones, wardrobe staples, an overall air of minimalism — the clothes sold by Lisa Says Gah are anything but boring,” Jones wrote.
Though avant-basic is now one of the most mainstream aesthetics among influencers, not everyone can wear it. In a common fashion world paradox, ethical sourcing means steeper prices.
For instance, Lisa Says Gah’s iconic straight-legged cow pants cost a cool $140. Meanwhile, you can choose from any number of similar styles on fast fashion site Shein for one-tenth of the price.
Because of this, avant-basic is extremely popular among influencers with millions of followers and even micro-influencers with thousands, but onlookers don’t have access to the status symbols. When fashion lovers on a budget do splurge on these statement pieces, they fade out within a season as new funky patterns emerge.
Additionally, the fact that this style is already considered “basic” has drawn ire on social media, especially since these brands are purportedly fighting against the principles that enable fast fashion.
“This is why it’s so important not to fall into the trend cycle and just wear what you like,” one TikTok user said. “This creates so much wasted clothing.”
“I’m so tired of walking outside and seeing this,” another wrote.
“I’ve never seen anyone dress like this in public, but I see it all over Instagram,” a third commented.
Another instance of avant-basic style is the much-maligned (though award-nominated) Netflix show Emily in Paris, written and executive produced by Sex and the City creator Darren Star. The two shows also share a costume designer. That’s about as fashion-forward as a show can get, right?
In Emily in Paris, the audience is introduced to Emily Cooper — a new marketing executive in France who doesn’t actually know much about marketing or France.
We are made to believe that she achieves viral fame due to her whimsical and aspirational social media posts, driven in part by her avant-basic style, which distracts from her general lack of knowledge about everything she’s built her new life around.
She’s basic enough to convince the world her style isn’t entirely out-of-reach for the mere mortal, while quirky enough for the audience to infer she’s something special. That’s the crux of avant-basic.
Avant-basic leaves us with a few daunting questions — is it possible to achieve whimsical style with iconic statement pieces while many of the people in power on social media are wearing the same things? If the trends trickling down from on-high in the fashion world quickly dissipate, is it possible to defeat fast fashion?
Hopefully we’ll find out before avant-basic becomes cheugy.
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