The brand is on a mission to prove you can combine sustainability with showstopping creations.

By Marissa Lee.

There are a number of prerequisites for success in today’s fashion environment—a social media presence, showstopping content, and an element of “sustainability” being of the utmost importance. Many young brands, try as they might, struggle to check all three boxes (think sustainable “basics” brands broadcasting image after image of white cotton T-shirts and khakis to their tens of thousands of followers).

Every so often, however, a brand comes along that fulfills all three requirements and then some, a fashion unicorn of sorts. The most recent exception comes in the form of Avavav, a surrealist, sustainable Scandinavian fashion brand based out of Florence. Known for its anatomically-incorrect upcycled Feet boots (which were the talk of the town in the fashion world this spring), the brand is shocking the sustainability conversation with a welcome dose of phantasmagoric luxury.

“My pieces have long been a product of trying to liberate myself from known shapes,” explains Beate Karlsson, creative designer at Avavav. The uncanny Feet Boots, featuring four nubby toes on each shoe, are constructed using deadstock fabrics from other fashion houses in the surrounding Florence area. The brand combines monogram Gucci and Burberry plaid prints with deadstock Rick Owens and Jacquemus fabrics for a stylistic chemical reaction that explodes across Avavav’s Instagram.

“The idea to use leftover fabric originally came from the founders, Linda and Adam Friberg. They wanted to utilize Florence as an important production hub and the fact that it’s a great source for luxury deadstock,” explains Karlsson. “We are so lucky that we have access to one of the greatest locations for leftover luxury fabric here in Italy.”

The prowess involved in the brand’s mixing of sustainability and novelty is no mistake: Karlsson has a history of boundary-testing creations that have solidified her as a fashion renegade. “As a designer I try to redefine my personal preconceptions of clothing, accessories, and products,” she explains, noting that she understands that not all reactions will be positive. “The boots have generally been well received but there are also some strong negative reactions from people being disgusted by them—it’s these turbulent reactions that makes me sure I’ve gone in the right direction.”

These reactions, she explains, are what helps us consumers “move further away from narrow-mindedness,” a key factor in moving the sustainability conversation forward. “I think it’s this phenomenon [of shopping sustainably] growing stronger, mostly because of Gen Zs, that will push the industry forward the most.” Karlsson has some ideas about where we’re headed, which starts with producing and buying sustainably. However, she notes that it’s not only up to the little guys: “I think one of the most important parts is putting pressure on the industry to take bigger responsibility. Although we are still very small, we are hoping to contribute to this.”

The unorthodox marriage between sustainability and inventive designs gives Avavav its unique status, which Karlsson will use to her advantage going forward. “I’ve felt that approaching otherness in the contemporary fashion landscape has been an effective vehicle to change some of the most pressing errors of the industry, while still being just about fruition of innovation.” Hopefully, before long, the rest of the industry will fall in with this ideology, following in Avavav’s eight-toed footsteps.

Image credit: Avavav