On April 28, a true Midwestern spring Sunday, with the temperature peaking as the sun showed its face and falling as the shade took over, tens on tens of community members, professors and students alike made their way to the Kent Stage to pay witness to AVANT DEUX. The show was a collective and collaborative showcase of art and fashion curated solely by an eclectic and passionate grouping of creative individuals, almost entirely students, based in Kent, Ohio.
Beginning only the year prior, at the hand of now Kent State University fashion design alumna, Dani Bennett, AVANT’s mission exists as a “platform for experimental, original and conceptual design.”
The barriers placed on students through the rigorous format of the Fashion School and guidelines insinuated through a traditional structure have been virtually removed in the environment AVANT has developed for those involved. Since its start, they have worked to allow for an entirely inclusive climate, imposing no rules or regulations on designers, models, photographers or artists involved, allowing them to freely express what they wish in whatever format that may fall within.
As the clock moved closer to 2 p.m., the time of which the show was intended to begin, people continued to pour through the doors, slowly settling in. Those already awaiting sat in their red, velvet backed seats high strung with anticipation; a viable feeling of excitement moving through the room.
Coordinators and designers mingled about ensuring all was flowing smoothly, hugging loved ones, speaking with friends, providing a merging and a connectivity with the attendees and those who had organized the event; something classically unknown to the world of elitist runway shows.
Anyone with a hand in the show had a sort of pride coursing through their veins, a visceral eagerness to finally have what they had been working so hard on coming to fruition.
The show began with a verbalized countdown from 99, a live band began to play a rhythmic set, simplistic ghost lights were turned to the outer edges of the room and models began to walk. The movement was brisk and continuous, spanning every stretch of the room, allowing for pieces to be viewed fully and completely.
Single submission pieces came first, all existing independently in terms of concept and originality, while collections followed, a cohesiveness seen through silhouette, pattern and color play and uniqueness in material and fabric finishes. Models wore these pieces courageously, with honor, exhibiting the work in the best way they were able for the sake of the hands who had crafted them so carefully. Witnesses were drawn in, watching all 140 looks pass with intrigue and interest.
Toying with identity and silhouette, designer Cooper Robar shows an extensive collection with boxy form and androgyny as a main focus, with Kassidy Brillhart juxtaposing with a grouping of pieces more rooted in celebration of femininity, accentuated with neutral tones and visibly soft and environmentally responsible fabrics and detailings.
Cierra Boyd adds to the mix with pieces made of recycled materials, one of which is reminiscent of a kid’s bedroom; a three piece number constructed from a Nascar sheet set.
The presentation came to a close with a final walk, applause and remarks from the AVANT team, personally thanking those in attendance for their support and attention.
The meticulous efforts put forth to make AVANT a reality were recognizable and made known through the consciously personable experience that was actively presented to every attendee until they exited the double glass doors of the venue.
Rooted in the diversification of ideas and representation, AVANT shares a true depiction of what is happening in Kent; one of which stands for inclusivity and creativity, with belief in taking risks and a visceral cultivation of community above all.