The Avant Basic Trend: How Shein, House of Sunny, and Zara Have Made High Fashion Accessible, Yet Cheaply Made and Disposable

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Bright colors, wacky patterns, statement silhouettes, pieces normally worn once by the owner because of their difficulty to pair with other items in their closet — this is “Avant Basic.”

T.J. Manfuso, Contributor

You’ve just watched the 2022 Moschino Runway show; bright pastels, childish designs, a sort of whimsy to the patterns; you want to throw away your entire closet and model your wardrobe after New York Fashion Week’s latest designs and couture. Rampaging and rummaging through your drawers you find argyle sweater vests, swirly patterned dresses, and even ski boots.

You reason that each article only costs about $20, so what’s the harm? I’ll just donate it to Goodwill or Savers and do the world a favor, right? Well, sort of. Companies like Shein and Zara capitalize on their cheap prices and uber trendy items knowing that you’ll be back for more, with many of these items falling under the category of “Avant Basic.” 

Bright colors, wacky patterns, statement silhouettes, pieces normally worn once by the owner because of their difficulty to pair with other items in their closet — this is “Avant Basic.”

Take the House of Sunny sage dress with its beautiful hue, interesting fabric, and slimming silhouette. However, there’s a problem: it’s bright, the pattern doesn’t work well with other colors and pieces, and the overall style is likely to fall out of favor within the next year. This is even more evident in House of Sunny’s more recent collections, as the colors become more contrasting, and the fabric choices become more textured.

Is this to say that one shouldn’t have a statement piece or two in their collection? Of course not. Statement pieces help to brighten our outfits. The problem arises, however, when they are bought in such excess and thrown away with such nonchalance.

Currently 85% of all textiles are thrown away and go into a landfill, making up more than 10% of all of humanity’s carbon emissions. Not only does this affect the overall atmosphere with its carbon footprint, it causes extreme harm to surrounding environments. And with a rise in polyester-made textiles, this waste is now unable to biodegrade.

Currently 85% of all textiles are thrown away and go into a landfill, making up more than 10% of all of humanity’s carbon emissions. Not only does this affect the overall atmosphere with its carbon footprint, it causes extreme harm to surrounding environments. And with a rise in polyester-made textiles, this waste is now unable to biodegrade.

This is not to tell you to stop buying clothes completely; this is more to inform you of the consequences of buying grotesque amounts of clothing for the sake of a trip or TikTok haul. This is definitely not directed towards people with lower incomes who buy perhaps a few nicer items on Shein once in a while for the sake of being fashionable; rather those who choose to buy 300 items at a time with the intent of only wearing a few. As well, one must take into account the fact that Goodwill won’t accept all your items, and will likely throw them away if they do not sell.

With this, the question begs to be asked: How do I shop more sustainably while simultaneously keeping up with the latest fashion trends? While in a normal year, Haute couture houses and luxury brands release a new line twice a year, fast fashion brands create a new line roughly twenty times a year.

No longer do we feel obligated to buy something new once in a while to feel fashionable; instead, these “micro trends” and influencers pressure us into buying unnecessary, and quite frankly, unappealing clothing items. Follow who you like and wear what you want, but do not let the latest micro-influencer affect your fashion decisions.

Find pieces that speak to your interests and your lifestyle, and try to keep a few statement pieces mixed in with a basic, sturdy, and easily synonymous capsule wardrobe. A white polo — timeless, interchangeable; a good one will last you a few years — and a good stiff collar can make any statement piece pop.

By all means, purchase that Avant Basic statement piece — it is your decision and your decision alone. Do not let someone who wore Shein to New York Fashion Week dictate your opinion on clothing and how to “live your best Cher from Clueless life.”