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Graduate Shows

Central Saint Martins MA Fashion 2016

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Words Reva Ochuba
Images courtesy of Tigran Avetisyan

Tigran Avetisyan’s Dreamless Ambition

2019
21st April

2019 is the year of balance. Taking a step back, aligning your chakras, and cocooning strategically is en vogue. A social and political awareness has awakened the deepest, and sometimes darkest, corners of humanity. More and more, humans are placing greater value in closeness, IRL companionship, and our internal worlds—tuning out and logging out to look up for a second, a minute, at what is around us.

We need to learn how to step back from this and think outside of the confines of social media. You can define success on your own terms. After all, being popular and having followers aren’t the basis of having a good life.

When journeying through that vast, spiritual landscape, some may find the experience difficult to articulate. The lessons learned from such ordeals seep between the cracks in our personal constitutions, exciting our deepest fashion fantasies. This broad deluge of experiences can send you driving down the coast of Los Angeles one week, relishing in the hidden jewels of West Africa the next. But sometimes what is new is not always enjoyable. Success, fame, and fortune within themselves can spawn stress, pain, and fear.

For Tigran Avetisyan, the luxury of success brought a personal defeat from which he chose to take refuge. Too many orders, too much responsibility, and not enough… fun. Isn’t that what fashion is supposed to be? Running a business is tough and without the right preparation or support, failure emanates. Fatigued by expectation, he opted instead to spend time focusing his energy on the brighter, lighter facets of life. The finer things, some would say. It’s been over a year-and-a-half since that 6-month sabbatical rattling away the furies of personal victory and Avetisyan’s namesake label is back up and running. It is full speed though he, himself, is taking things slow.

Here, in discussion with Tigran, we consider the importance of slowing down, finding stability, and defining your own place in the world.

In a 2015 interview with Berlin Art Link you mentioned a mass of unmarked territory within conceptual arenas of fashion. Do you still believe there is more room to flesh out ideas, stories, and experiences within that expanse?

This is what turns me on when I get to work. I definitely believe that. I don’t think I’m a great fashion designer in the traditional sense of the word because I do not work so much with silhouettes or cut. My practice is about adding that extra layer of meanings and ideas. If brands didn’t produce “classical” fashion, I’m sure my work would lose meaning. It’s about options and having a choice.

Fashion is art, but it is even cooler than art because fashion designers are open about themselves being a bit superficial, but in a very serious, sincere and truthful way.

Do you find creating difficult with the standards set by social media? It’s pressed upon you to work toward and expect certain outcomes. It can be quite pressurising.

There are these standards that you are supposed to live by and some expectations that you need to meet: it’s taking a toll on people, for sure. We need to learn how to step back from this and think outside of the confines of social media. You can define success on your own terms. After all, being popular and having followers aren’t the basis of having a good life.

Have you ever experienced setbacks which overshadowed the integrity of your designs?

I did have a difficult moment in my career, but it wasn’t so much because I was out of work, or didn’t have orders. In fact, I had too many orders and overwhelmed myself with work—things became too much and the collections I was working on at the time suffered. It was growing too fast and I couldn’t cope with the quantity of work. The clothes lost all meaning and I found myself really unhappy. I was not pleasing myself; I was trying to please buyers and in the end, no one won.

When you have no limitations, it is like a sort of death to a creative person: creative people thrive when confronted with challenges, walls, and borders.  

Thinking about other forms of media, do you believe fashion is always standing between itself and art because it’s constantly trying to prove itself?

I’m not in favour of defining fashion, but I am in favour of different interpretations of fashion. Fashion is art, but it is even cooler than art because fashion designers are open about themselves being a bit superficial, but in a very serious, sincere and truthful way. It is about commerce, so you don’t need to pretend you aren’t going to sell it at the end. With art you have to pretend that you’re doing it for a higher form or for some sort of beautiful goal or concept, but fashion is much more instant and tangible than art. It is mass art, which is what our culture is about; being seen everywhere, being seen at all times, and being available at all times and acquiring as many likes as possible.

Is that what led you to fashion in the first place?

I had the choice to study art, but what I like about fashion is that you have to be creative on demand. For a person like me, I need a push so it is great to have deadlines. In art, though there are fairs and exhibitions like Art Basel and the Venice Biennale, the timeline for those participating is quite abstract. I really like the structure—the seasonality—of fashion and the constraints of it as well. When you have no limitations, it is like a sort of death to a creative person: creative people thrive when confronted with challenges, walls, and borders.  

That’s very true. Fashion is essentially built within 4 tight walls of price, functionality, fit, and form.

And especially in menswear. Being that it is extremely conservative, it is exciting to propose ideas which move things just a little bit further or forward. Doing something outrageous is very easy, but it takes great effort to create something different that is simultaneously believable. Walking that tightrope can be very rewarding.

How do you maintain a sense of what makes Tigran Avetisyan self-defining when balancing the commercial with the creative?

It’s about taking processes that are very difficult to replicate commercially, and placing them in a commercial environment. My painting technique was one of the things that I was discussing with this Italian factory; whether they could replicate the work done by hand, but on a large scale. We managed to find a solution, so it’s about merging those two worlds of business and artistry.

You seem quite comfortable batting within this arena.

Previously my work was mostly about fashion, and purposely, so it was fashion about fashion. Everything was new to me, and I wanted to explore topics within fashion first without taking too much unnecessary work upon myself. But it is really difficult to escape politics: everything is political. Fashion especially has its own system of politics to abide by.

What type of politics do you think fashion engages with most?

Designers, in a way, are politicians. Whenever I start a new collection I consider which kind of platform I want my work to stand on and the impact it will carry on those who follow it. These sanctions do not have to centre around current affairs specifically, but you, through your work, are definitely promoting not only a point of view, but a dialogue and rhetoric as well.