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In conversation with AVAVAV's creative director: Beate Karlsson

Glamcult Store’s AVAVAV Weekender is around the corner!

Connoisseurs of irony, AVAVAV brings the humour to fashion week. Creating collections that remind us to take life a little less seriously, creative director Beate Karlsson is pioneering a new way to dress – A.K.A totally 21st century. AVAVAV is the IT-brand of the decade, pushing the boundaries of fashion through the lens of entertainment – and finger shoes, IYKYK. Glamcult is proud to introduce AVAVAV into the Glamcult Store and to celebrate we spoke to creative mastermind Karlsson about her story, not following trends, and what it’s like working at a young brand. We will also be welcoming AVAVAV to Amsterdam, in the Glamcult Store 8-10th December, Dollebegijnensteeg 5, see ya’ there!

Tell us about your motivation as creative director of AVAVAV! What journey has the brand taken since you joined the team?
When I started, it was a completely different brand… I actually came in as we were relaunching it. It was an interesting transition for me because I was coming out of a very free period in my career where I was able to design things that didn’t have to be wearable; my work was really approaching sculpture and art. 

So when I started AVAVAV (and I was thinking about the customer as well), I really had to think about whether someone would want to wear these clothes, which is such a different mindset from a purely artistic one. And so, I think trying to balance the artistic and the wearability has been the most important thing that has happened in my journey for the past few years. 

Described as an ‘independent fashion house striving for creative freedom’. How does the brand embody this philosophy? Particularly when entering traditional fashion environments – such as fashion week.
I would say that we’re not a brand that is at Fashion Week for the sake of being at Fashion Week… Nor would we do a show because we feel like we need to do a fashion show. We try to stay very true to who we are and so internally we are always analysing both ourselves and the industry a lot. Something we have to think about is what makes sense for us as a brand that has started in today’s world, because what is right for us may no longer be what was once right for a fashion house that was founded in the ‘60s, for example.

We always try to pick and choose where we want to be part of the industry. And we’re also aware of the things that we might not love about the industry but we need to be a part of or at least understand to bring the brand to another level in the future. 

Humour and entertainment are key elements of AVAVAV’s identity. How do these aspects influence the storytelling of the brand? Can you share some examples?
I think humour is evident in both the designs and the collections as a whole, but probably where most people have seen our sense of humour is  during our runway shows. For example our SS23 collection Filthy Rich was about flexing being rich and how we filter ourselves online and, essentially, can pretend to be whatever you want to be.

At that moment in fashion the opposite was the ‘trend’; flexing being poor almost. So we wanted to reverse of that narrative into something more fresh. 

Within this, how did the title for the collection Filthy Rich come about?
I had it on some of the graphics in the collection alongside other ironic quotes like ‘business of gold digging.’ We thought these sayings were funny and as the collection developed Filthy Rich proved to really embody the story we were telling; pretending to be filthy rich when you’re actually not. So it came naturally.

Your work still very much combines the practices of art and design — despite this conscious effort to consider the audience —do you see yourself as a multi-disciplinarian? Or inspired by different artistic mediums?
Definitely! I’m not the kind of designer where you always know what you’re going to get, andI very much look up to the creatives who are always looking to create change and development. Making collections from start to finish is still quite new for me. Even though I studied fashion, as I said earlier, I was on another path before starting at AVAVAV. I think I’m still changing a lot alongside the brand. We really only recently began to feel like we’ve found the voice for the brand AVAVAV. 

What is your perspective on fashion trends? Does AVAVAV actively engage with trends, strive to set its own trends, or maintain a deliberate distance from the concept of trends?
For me,The most fun things to design are the garments that feel so new they are not subject to trends. That being said, I do think combining that ‘new’ feeling with trendy elements can be a good thing as it’s a bit easier for people to understand what you’re making. I think trends in this sense can be used like an ingredient to make new things easier for people to digest. 

Would you therefore describe yourself as someone influenced by the Zeitgeist of fashion?
I’m sure I’m influenced by trends all the time without realising it! It’s like being micro-brainwashed to like a certain thing, so when I realise this happening, I normally try to take that idea away. However, sometimes there’s a trend we really like at that moment so we try and do our own version of it. It really just depends…

Trends have A degree of virality to them online, something you are also very familiar with. How do you describe the brand’s relationship with Internet culture and online spaces?
That’s a super important part for AVAVAV. I mean, we started in Florence, which is a super small city and now we’re in Stockholm which – although a bit bigger than Florance – is still also not a super big city. We’ve always wanted to work more globally because if we focused locally our brand would be niche forever. Also, because AVAVAV started during COVID, there was no chance to travel. So from the brand’s creation, the internet and social media has been super important for us to communicate and gain an audience. 

Being a small, up-coming, brand to being propelled into virality through fashion week is not something you can plan! Are there specific challenges you have faced so far as a Creative Director, and how do you overcome them in the context of a relatively young and dynamic brand like AVAVAV?
Because we are such a small team, yes, I’m the creative director, but I also design everything we do. I’m not a creative director that simply makes yes/no decisions. in the past it’s been very mentally frustrating to work on an entire collection alone. I start to question myself and my gut feeling. So, I’m excited to have more creative collaboration this upcoming season (as we have hired an assistant designer) and have another perspective working with me on the project. 

From the outside, brands, magazines, creative institutions in general often appear much bigger to the people than they actually are. If you were to take a peek into them, I think people would be surprised to find it’s like four people running the show.
One hundred percent. There’s a lot of brands like that. That’s why I can’t help but love everyone on the AVAVAV team. Every person who joins ends up lifting a heavy weight and has to be a leader. Whenever we bring someone new it’s like ‘wow, this is what we really needed.’ I’m always glad to see people who are better than me at doing something joining the team. 

AVAVAV will soon be available at Glamcult Store. Why do you think this is a nice match?
We met Glamcult in Paris and we realised ‘oh’ there’s not many stores like this in Amsterdam. So we instantly thought that this was a great opportunity to do together. It’s really a collaboration which I think is really important for us. As a small brand we have limited time and money to spend on pop-ups. But by working together we’ve been able to make it possible. It’s gonna be really exciting!

Images courtesy of AVAVAV 

Available at Glamcult Store 8-10th December!

Dollebegijnensteeg 5A, 1012 HD Amsterdam

Words by Ella Paritsky