Tigran Avetisyan isn’t your run-of-the-mill designer. The Moscow-based, Central Saint Martins graduate has established himself as a unique visionary voice within menswear — while adamantly remaining on the outskirts of the fashion system — by consistently challenging the very existence of an arguably flawed modus operandi. By continuously producing collections that aim to define and redefine the notion of dressing, in and of itself, Tigran Avetisyan wants you to question everything. We had the pleasure of chatting with Tigran over the phone from his studio in Moscow, and discussed the challenges of London life, his drink of choice, and why he isn’t necessarily pining for a fashion revolution.
Tigran, you previously lived in London for 5 years, and studied at Central Saint Martins. What made you decide to move back to Moscow in the end?
I graduated from CSM in 2012. At that time I just got a bit tired of London — feeling homesick and wanting to be with my family. I’ll definitely stay here in Moscow for a while. I really enjoy it, it’s a good vibe.
How do you feel about the differences between London and Moscow? Of course, London can be such a struggle…
It’s a huge struggle in London. Housing, weather… everything is difficult unless you’re rich. I just got tired of the rat race. It’s also a very cold city in terms of human relations, so that was difficult. It sucks a lot of energy out of you when you’re there all the time, because it’s so fast paced. You have to get away from all of it sometimes, I think. They say that about New York: you can live there as long as you can leave. I think that applies to London too, for sure.
And then there’s the industry in London, everyone’s fighting so hard to get ahead…
It’s so competitive. My girlfriend is a stylist and she had such a hard time getting paid for her work in London, but here in Moscow it’s much easier, because the competition isn’t as high. You actually get paid. I think in some instances it doesn’t make much sense to be in London, when the world is so international now.
“You shouldn’t stick to one thing. If you want to change something, then you should alway be asking questions.”
I read somewhere that you kind of got frustrated initially with moving back to Moscow — not knowing who to identify with, as fashion isn’t really a mainstream idea there… Do you still have these feelings?
I still think about that daily.
It’s needless to say that ex-Soviet designers, namely Gosha Rubchinskiy and Demna Gvasalia, have garnered a lot of attention in the last few years. You do still seem quite outside of that though, stylistically.
I really respect what each of those designers are doing respectively. It’s incredibly refreshing to see someone who’s not from Paris or Western countries just completely putting the system on its head.
Do you feel a sense of patriotism in your work at all?
Not when it comes to my work. I just really like Russia and the people, they are very different to people elsewhere. On the surface it’s cold, but it’s so welcoming and the people are very generous. It’s a nice atmosphere. I’m not one of those people inspired by a specific city or an era in time. In my work, I’m way more inspired by the fashion system itself and the ways you can interact with it.
You didn’t initially pursue fashion, but actually chose to go in the product design direction in the beginning. What eventually led you to do menswear?
It was all because of my best friend, actually. He was having such a great time on the menswear program, so I just decided I wanted to try it as well. It was a bit scary at first, because I really didn’t have any knowledge or interest in fashion before the program.
“Everything will have to end at some point. But it’s exactly like asking when the world will end — of course it will, but no one can say when.”
Your work tends to seem quite purposefully political. What is your process when determining the direction for each collection?
Every season is different, but the underlying theme is always about questioning the status quo. I think this is what every thinking person or designer should do. You shouldn’t stick to one thing. If you want to change something, then you should alway be asking questions.
I think your messages are so well done, but I find that sometimes when fashion tries to be too political, it can just be so bad. Like that Givenchy Spring/Summer 2016 collection during New York Fashion Week on 9/11 and it was this whole spectacle. I just thought to myself… this is wrong.
Yeah exactly, like what’s the real connection? I’m always suspicious of big companies putting on these kind of things, because at the end of the day they have to make money, and you don’t see sincerity or authenticity in these gestures, in my opinion. Because they are huge corporations, and I don’t trust those guys.
You’ve spoken openly about your opinions on the fashion system, and I know there are a lot of designers who feel the same way. What are your hopes for changes to the system?
I get asked this a lot. I always say I wouldn’t change anything, because without the system’s flaws, there would be nothing for me to work on — nothing to try to change. There are so many issues — no shortage of topics or material in fashion — but this is why I like it. There is still something to talk about. Fashion is everywhere, it’s omnipresent, you see it everyday. Everyone has some sort of encounter with it daily or has some interest in it. That’s what makes it the ideal medium to work in today’s world.
I know it’s like asking when the sky is going to fall, but do you ever think that eventually it’ll all just crash and burn?
Well, it’s only getting faster and faster… Everything will have to end at some point. But it’s exactly like asking when the world will end — of course it will, but no one can say when.
“I’m really not this crazy fashion person who’s gonna stick to my label no matter what and kill for it. I just go with the flow.”
In past collections, you’ve used a lot of slogans, and in your latest “Best Hits” collection you’ve stated, “The World is Flat Again”. What is the significance of this particular message?
That specific slogan came to me as I was reflecting on how we, as a society, interact with the world and how we communicate. Now it’s mainly through flat screens and touch screens. We see the world through them now. At the same time, we communicate with emojis, images, and gifs. We use these forms of drawings instead of words… I found this so interesting, because this modern technology has now taken us back to a time before we learned to fully communicate using language, when cavemen used to draw on walls.
Top-stitching seems to be a mainstay detail in many of your collections. Is there a reason why you keep returning to this?
I really like this kind of flux-state with that stitch, it looks like its coming undone. Just between being made and falling apart.
Where do you see the label going or evolving in the next couple of years?
I don’t really have any hopes for it, I just want to keep doing what I like. I don’t plan ahead, but for me it’s just all about communication and satisfying my need for expression. Hopefully I can make some money and if not, then I’ll close the brand and do something else. I’m really not this crazy fashion person who’s gonna stick to my label no matter what and kill for it. I just go with the flow.
What are your interests outside of fashion?
Music, I love Leonard Cohen especially. And drinking. Tequila is great, you don’t get headaches. Working while drunk on tequila, so inspiring. That’s where the top stitch really comes from, haha.
Words by Katrice Dustin
Photography by Nadya Filatova
Styling by Emelie Hultqvist
Model: Gennadiy Grigorov @ Lumpen