Minimalism is Dead: Long Live Avant Basic

In a now iconic viral tweet, writer Emma Hope Allwood named the style that has taken Instagram by storm: Avant Basic. Even if you’re not familiar with the term, if you’re active on social media you’ve definitely seen the style. It’s a youthful look with bright colors and all-over graphic patterns (particularly checkerboard, and warped checkerboard variations) on simple silhouettes. They’re clothes that are easy to understand and easy to wear. The boldness of the prints and candy colors is a stark contrast to the neutral hues of the minimalist trend that has been popular for the last decade. They are tailor made for a platform like Instagram and TikTok. They’re instantly sharable hits of visual dopamine, pure sugar. “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,” Allwood said. 

The name Avant Basic is meant to point out the juxtaposition of wild “avant garde” surface patterns on basic, easy to wear shapes. These garments tap into nostalgia for the simplicity of childhood with accessories inspired by friendship bracelets, bandanas, and bead art. And thanks to the power of the algorithm, they’re everywhere. It’s knits from House of Sunny, puffy sleeved dresses from GANNI, and quirky patterned pants from Paloma Wool, basically anything carried by Lisa Says Gah.

But what if you do want to put in the effort? Avant Basic is an ideal trend for makers who want to DIY their own versions of these looks. Campy handmade sweaters are a key part of the look, as are crocheted vests, and lettuce hems. The lack of trims and simple shapes mean woven items can be replicated by home sewists relatively easily, even if you’re just starting your journey into garment making. Young crochet enthusiasts have been particularly quick to pick up on the trend, which was partially kicked off by the popularity of Harry Styles’ JW Anderson sweater on TikTok in early 2020. Anderson eventually responded to the trend by releasing a free .pdf for fans to create their own.

Instagram is full of young designers starting their own handmade slow fashion businesses. Brands like Lilliez, Skein Studios, and Fancy Nancy create original designs for themselves and then take on commissions from fans to recreate the garments in custom sizes and colors. Some, like Fancy Nancy, release DIY patterns too so makers can create their own. Even designers like Erika Maish, who primarily focus on selling finished garments at more traditional multi-brand boutiques like Tyler Mcgillivary have incorporated DIY patterns into their product mix. A move reminiscent of the partnership between Wendy Mullins of Built By Wendy and Simplicity, or Twinkle by Wenlan in the mid 2000’s.

Avant Basic relies heavily on graphic patterns and color blocking. Creative takes on gingham, checkerboard prints, stripes, and all-over prints inspired by nature (like cow print, fruits and vegetables) are all key surface designs. Home sewists can get the look by incorporating these prints into patterns like Corrie Beth Hogg’s Anjou Pants, puffy sleeve dresses like Papercut’s Aura, or Natalie Ebaugh’s Solee Top. And if you’re ready to go full capsule wardrobe take a peek at the forthcoming Basque Dress and Top pattern from Stitch Witch Patterns (testing call out now).

So much of the dominant sustainable fashion and capsule wardrobe aesthetic has revolved around neutral colors and an air of seriousness. Avant Basic is a look that challenges what sustainable fashion can look like. Dressing sustainably doesn’t have to mean wearing beige.

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