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Death of the Avant-Garde

Like other artistic media, fashion is engaged in a constant struggle between the creative and the commercial -- and lately it seems that the commercial is winning.  While Damien Hirst isn't painting pastel seascapes for Florida hotel rooms and Philip Glass isn't composing advertising jingles, avant-garde fashion designers are under pressure to make their work merely pretty and wearable, in part because of the difficulty of maintaining exclusivity.

In a recent article, the Dutch design duo Viktor & Rolf note, "In our information society, mystery is very hard to maintain, and what is avant-garde today is mainstream tomorrow.  It can be copied and marginalized very easily."  

The upside?  Viktor & Rolf exploiting their name recognition to knock themselves off for H&M.  The downside?  A design duo that once showed high-concept atomic bomb silhouette couture instead offering frilly blouses and beaded dresses for Spring 2009.  Intricate and beautiful, yes; progressive, no.

 Viktor & Rolf Fall 2008