MOSCOW, Russia — For fashion designers, it’s standard practice to use other garments and images as inspiration for collections. Due to the fear of being labeled unoriginal, many try hard to conceal their references, however. Not so for Tigran Avetisyan. For the 26-year-old, Russian-Armenian designer — who launched his eponymous label five seasons ago — revealing his aesthetic sources is the foundation of a menswear mashup that’s both directional and of-the-moment.
“I think there is nothing shameful in borrowing someone else's ideas,” says Avetisyan, who discovered fashion late, at 21, while studying product design at London’s Central Saint Martins, where he graduated on a scholarship sponsored by French luxury conglomerate LVMH. “At the end of the day, it's not about where you take your inspiration from, but where you take it to.”
Like citations in a Wikipedia entry, Avetisyan’s sources are essential to his output. But in the Internet age, there’s also a pragmatic reason for his approach. “When you're surrounded by so many new things, it is essential to show something familiar, something people can instantly recognise,” says Avetisyan.
The designer considers his work as “tautological.” Cut-and-pasting from Wikipedia, which seems entirely appropriate here, a tautology is defined as “a logical argument constructed in such a way, generally by repeating the same concept or assertion, using different phrasing or terminology that the proposition as stated is logically irrefutable, while obscuring the lack of evidence or valid reasoning supporting the stated conclusion.” Inspired by rhetorical tautology, for Spring/Summer 2016, Avetisyan reinforced the ubiquity of familiar fashion references by repeating them. There was Old English typography à la Galliano, spelling out Avetisyan. There were outfits unmistakably inspired by Juicy Couture’s pink TMZ-friendly tracksuits. And there was the influence of those skin-tight bodycon dresses that Hervé Léger brought to the masses. But instead of constructing a semblance of truth with his use of repetition, Avetisyan is going for something more tangible, yet often elusive, in menswear: newness.
When Avetisyan graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2012, he and his classmates had trouble finding work in a tepid economic environment. Although his full graduate collection was bought by Machine-A, a progressive store in London’s Soho, without adequate contacts amongst press and buyers, the designer faced an uphill battle. But instead of feeling defeated, Avetisyan created a DIY film of himself slipping ads for his label into magazines all over Moscow newsstands. Nick Knight’s Showstudio ran the film, giving the label the boost it needed to move forward. “[Without the film] I almost certainly would've closed my studio after my very first collection,” recalls Avetisyan. “No one wanted to buy it. I wasn't getting any press coverage either.”
But behind the incipient label is raw design talent. A hands-on craftsman with a flair for manual experimentation, Avetisyan has brought several non-traditional design innovations to his work. For example, he has experimented with a butt- seaming machine — normally used for joining bolts of fabric — to bind fabric panels and give his clothes a hand-sewn effect.
For this month’s Spotlight, Avetisyan has designed a custom BoF logo with this leopard print pattern. “The logo was inspired by my latest Spring/Summer 2016 collection,” says the designer, referring to the leopard print effect that appears on some of his Spring/Summer 2016 garments. Applied using a manually “collaged” heat transfer process, the print is composed of a series of “No!”s cleverly arranged in random patterns of varying sizes.
Today, with accolades from VFiles and Whoopi Goldberg as a fan, Avetisyan has attracted 20 wholesale stockists, including some of the world’s most influential retailers, such as Opening Ceremony (New York, Tokyo and London), Comme des Garçons in Tokyo, 10 Corso Como (Milan and Shanghai) and Joyce (Hong Kong).
All of his clothes are currently produced in a five-person atelier in Moscow. “Each piece is unique,” says Avetisyan. But the designer knows that to grow his business, he needs to outsource production and has begun discussions with potential investors to raise the money he needs to take his fledgling label to the next level.