Maryam Nassir Zadeh autumn/winter 2022, Ottolinger fall 2021 couture, Rick Owens spring/summer 2022. Photo / Supplied

Till The World Ends: A Deep Dive Into Dystopian Couture

The renaissance of deconstruction in fashion lends itself to a new wave of trends defined by a dark sense of humour

Avant-apocalypse. Dystopia-core. Pandemic punk. Call it what you will but there’s a new trend of deconstructed disaster dressing on the red carpet, TikTok and in living rooms near you.

Avant-apocalypse, a term coined by trend forecaster Mandy Lee, refers to distressed and deconstructed garments, creative layering and neutral colours. Dystopia-core takes a more utilitarian approach to getting dressed, drawing inspiration from dark science-fiction films such as Dune and The Matrix Resurrections in its continuation of the grunge and goth revival.

“These aesthetics overlap in terms of deconstruction and a DIY approach, and they both seem to use clothing as some sort of armour,” says Zoia Murzova, the creator of the @Everythingdesigner account on TikTok.

Both avant-apocalypse and dystopia-core have emerged as we move into the third year of living through a pandemic.

“You can link the resurgence of deconstruction in fashion to the post-apocalyptic atmosphere and the many challenges the world is facing at the moment,” says Zoia. “This notion to protect ourselves from a dangerous and deceiving world translates into adapting utilitarian and military styling elements and might signify the pessimism fuelled by yet another wave of Covid.”

Deconstruction was first popularised by Martin Margiela and Rick Owens, while layering and wrapping the body was pioneered by Japanese brands such as Comme des Garcons and Issey Miyake in the 80s.

This time around its pioneers include Australian designer Jordan Gogos and New Zealand brands Karaoke Superstars, Crappy Lovely and Sleeping Profit.

While Crappy Lovely specialises in handmade crochet knitwear, legwarmers and accessories, a strong seller for Karaoke Superstars is its T-shirts made from re-worked scraps and deadstock that feature patch-work, exposed overlocking and raw edges.

“I am physically deconstructing a garment and turning it into something new with a grungy textural element,” says Karaoke Superstars designer Rosette Hailes-Paku. “The DIY trends that have surfaced through TikTok, as well as the popularity of upcycling and thrifting, are also driving these trends.”

READ: Take It Away, Tailoring: The Changing Role Of The Striking Silhouette

Sleeping Profit creates thinly textured T-shirts and tops for layering that feature dystopian prints in bleached-out hues, while Jordan creates his garments that wrap the body from deadstock which he picks apart then reimagines in new ways.

“There is a big freedom in the ability to deconstruct something because it sets up a blank slate to remake it as your own,” says Jordan, who designs under the brand Iordanes Spyridon Gogos.

“That is happening politically and socially, as people pull systems apart to create new ones, and when it comes to garments people also want to express their individuality. They want to feel their personal narrative is something of substance and there is so much storytelling in deconstruction that allows you to do that.”

The deconstruction of avant-apocalypse has evolved from the recent subversive basics movement in fashion, which saw minimal wardrobe staples, such as tank tops, skirts and jackets, updated with asymmetric cuts, slashes of exposed skin, profuse layering and cut-outs.

“Subversive basics is all about basics that rebel up to the point of using their utility by featuring keyholes, sheer fabrics and deconstruction,” says trend forecaster Agustina Panzoni, who runs the TikTok account @Thealgorythm.

“It originated as a response to last year’s pains and its futuristic undertones speak to our need for escapism and our move towards increasingly virtual lifestyles.”

READ: The 7 Secrets To New Yorkers’ Perennially Chic, Pared-Back Wardrobes

Dystopia-core emerged in direct opposition to the recent trend of “dopamine dressing” — wearing bright colours and bold prints to lift the spirits — and can also be seen on TikTok, where the subversive basics trend is showcased by users wearing as little as a mesh bodysuit.

“What I love the most about this trend is that you can choose how disruptive you’d like to go,” says Agustina. “You can wear a sheer bodysuit by itself for a nude look, or you can combine it through layering to create a more intricate and modest outfit.

In a virtual world one can Photoshop a nipple if necessary, however IRL lifestyles are unfortunately not as permissive.” 

This story was originally published in volume seven of Viva Magazine.

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