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‘Avant Basic’ Style is All Over Instagram—But Is It Sustainable?


There is currently a pair of $170 printed flares in my online cart. And while I haven’t committed to buying them just yet, I like to stare at them and pretend I own a mid-century modern apartment to match the vibe of their psychedelic print. Escapism is in the pattern, so much so that I even know the exact shoe I’d pair with the pants if they were mine (Jeffrey Campbell’s Concert Platform Mules). OK, I’ll admit it: I’ve fully fallen victim to the “Avant Basic” trend.

If you haven’t heard the term “Avant Basic” just yet, chances are you’ve seen it. These pieces are all over Instagram—think cow-printed flares and pastel cardigans with fluffy faux fur collars—and the Explore Page-friendly designs are usually worn by influencers and the loyal followers that look to emulate their wardrobes. It’s a playful aesthetic, one full of optical patterns, vibrant colors and funky designs (Think: Lisa Says Gah, House of Sunny, Paloma Wool). The trend is maximalism at it’s finest and has quickly become mainstream—it’s truly doing the most. 

Coined by writer Emma Hope Allwood on Twitter, the term “Avant Basic” came to be in January of this year, meaning that the trend’s popularity is fairly current—to clarify the timeline, let’s say it’s as recent as Kendall Jenner’s debut in House of Sunny’s ubiquitous Hockney Dress.

“It’s algorithm fashion…quirkiness in the age of mechanical reproduction… vintage without the effort,” Allwood writes in a follow-up tweet. But while it may be all the rage right now, many are questioning how long “Avant Basic” will stick around. 

It’s algorithm fashion…quirkiness in the age of mechanical reproduction… vintage without the effort.

Allwood makes a strong point in referring to the look as algorithmic. “Avant Basic” is hardly unique anymore, thanks to social media platforms speeding up the rate at which trends fly by. “It’s not the brands’ fault,”  TikTok user @thethriftythinker explains in a video on the subject. “It’s actually the toxic nature of Instagram, making people think that they can’t wear items over and over again.”

While the aesthetic is full of whimsical silhouettes and unconventional pattern mixing and pairings (Ying-yang sandals with a pixel-printed sweater vest, anyone?) its over-saturation in the trend cycle can ultimately makes even the most eclectic pieces feel repetitive. Hence my hesitancy to invest in those loudly-printed—and steeply-priced—flares I mentioned earlier. 

The trend’s most unusual pairing, though, comes via it’s own name. “Avant” is taken from avant-garde, meaning experimental, while “basic” holds the same weight as Miranda Priestly’s sarcastic “Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.” Both the word and the iconic The Devil Wears Prada quote point to the idea of an overdone trend. With this in mind, one could argue that the name “Avant Basic” foreshadows the aesthetic’s eventual burnout from the get-go.

I think the trend is named accurately, but not in the way you might think. “Avant Basic” has been done before. Most of its staple pieces are derived from 1960s geo-prints and vibrant colorways. It’s an aesthetic that feels retro, with some new colors added to the palette (Have we always loved sage green this much?). While buying ethically-sourced clothing can be pricy, the perfect “Avant Basic” outfit can still be achieved with vintage and secondhand pieces.

Personally, this is how I choose to incorporate these looks into my wardrobe and enjoy the aesthetic without the commitment of dropping $200 on a single dress. Not to mention, it’s a great way to shop sustainably without giving in to every microtrend I scroll by.

Courtesy of Paloma Wool, House of Sunny, SHEIN; Adobe.

That said, if you want to invest in the trend, shopping with conviction is the way to go. “We should be intentional with what we’re buying,” Sam, a fashion student at Thomas Jefferson University, tells StyleCaster. “Maybe you’re not someone who buys into trends that are ‘cool’ anymore, but you purchase something because you enjoy wearing it. That’s sustainable. If it’s worthwhile to you and is a good, quality piece, it’ll be great forever.” 

It’s easy to get swept up in overconsumption with a fad like this. Even as I write this article, an “Avant Basic” offshoot has already appeared on my For You Page. The “Coconut Girl” aesthetic is rising in popularity and looks to be Avant’s beachy little cousin, equipped with hibiscus prints, crochet cover-ups, pastel pinks and yellows.

Still, I’ll be keeping my eyes on those Paloma Wool flares for now, as they fit my style more than pastels and tropical prints. And while “Avant Basic” might not be for everyone, I like to think of buying trendier items like investing in a new relationship that might not last: As long as I’m having fun with it now and (hopefully) won’t be embarrassed by it in the future, that’s all that matters.

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