Ava Nirui: Turning High Fashion on it’s Head

By: Diana Soto

Digital influencer and sought-after designer [slash] artist Ava Nirui takes the concept of personal “handmade art’” to another level. Her field of expertise? Instagram. For her it is a blank canvas that exceeds expectations, where striking creation and transformation harmoniously coexist. 

A self proclaimed “logo maniac” who adds her personal touch in every single customized element she posts on the Internet. Nirui is keen on luxury brands and also has a fondness for sportswear labels too. She sees no creative boundaries and is here to stay. This is good news for an industry that is always in need of new creative blood to keep fashion’s heart pumping. 

In this exclusive interview, which first appeared in the pages of the 12th issue of ODDA Magazine, Nirui talks about why custom fake is now cool and how social media is a double-edged sword. A tool that can be a  wonderful way to discover new talent but also is damaging our evolution as human beings.

One of the “Not-Barbies” created by Ava Nirui & Alex Lee, shot exclusively for Dazed by Regine David

One of the “Not-Barbies” created by Ava Nirui & Alex Lee, shot exclusively for Dazed by Regine David

Q: Your personal way of re-interpreting high fashion has gained followers in digital media by leaps and bounds. What was the starting point of everything?

A: I grew up in Australia with my mom who was obsessed with luxury brands. She had an impressive collection of designer handbags, including a bunch of fake LV and Chanel’s she had bought while living in Japan. She really never gave a shit if something was fake which was such a sick attitude to have at a time where bootlegs were pretty much unacceptable. My formative years really shaped my opinion of high-end fashion and style.

As soon as I graduated University, I moved to NYC and started working at Opening Ceremony in their web department. I felt like I was thrust into the fashion scene in New York and was fed so much info about designers and cultural scenes that are not spoken about in Australia. After moving to New York, I was introduced to one of my best friends, Alex, who has really unique and inspiring personal style. I gained so much knowledge from him and expanded my creativity after meeting him. He has a very interesting and unique point of view. We started this art project where we made alternative designer Barbie clothes inspired by gender fluid designers. I guess this project formally kicked off my obsession with creating fakes artistically, and I’ve been doing it for the last (almost) two years.

Q: A new fashion dialogue is conveyed by your unique savoir faire. What is Ava Nirui’s scope? Who and what do you create for?

A: I create only for myself and for those who think the way I do. If you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re probably going to hate my work.

Q: How is the creative process developed for your designs?

A: I just think of things randomly. I’ll be watching a movie or listening to music or walking down the street or reading or daydreaming and an idea will come to me. 90% of those ideas are trash and scrapped and 10% are executed.

Q: Is there a specific kind of guiding thread in your way of creating? And a reference point?

Bestseller: Ava Nirui’s Champi'(n)on Gucci Hoodie

Bestseller: Ava Nirui’s Champi'(n)on Gucci Hoodie

A: I am inspired by so many different things: Chanel sport, Lad culture, Australia’s Paddy’s Markets, Soulja Boy, Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, Helmut Lang, Rei Kawakubo, Helmut Newton, Vivienne Westwood, and my mom just to name a few.

Q: Is there a hidden purpose behind your work? Does @avanope want to change the way we conceive the fashion business?

A: I don’t think about what I’m making in terms of a message, really. But, I do think that myself, amongst other artists who engage in repurposing, are changing/manipulating what’s seen as acceptable in fashion. 10 years ago, wearing “fakes” was embarrassing. Now, a custom item is just as cool/ coveted as an original.

Q: What does the concept of luxury mean to you?

A: Luxury is a state of mind! It can mean Louis Vuitton grosgrain bags but it can also mean lying on the beach in Tahiti. If whatever the external factor may be is making you feel “luxurious,” then it’s luxury!

Q: How does your particular view of luxury fashion influence your way of creating such a visually striking art?

A: I think that consumers and brands should take themselves less seriously. Obviously, this view translates into my humour-driven work. I think that fashion is like a blank canvas and there are no boundaries. If you can mess around with it, why not?

The 90s biggest fan

The 90s biggest fan

Q: In the current digital era, what do you think of this tool as a way of communicating? Is it an advantage or disadvantage at times?

A: I love social media but also think it’s the most damaging thing to our evolution as human beings. Trends become way more momentary, you’re able to formulate ideas on people you don’t know and it aggressively drives narcissism. Although I hate it at times, especially when I witness or am a victim of online bullying, I think it’s amazing in terms of exploration. You can find really talented artists and people on social media, and it makes instant communication convenient and efficient.

“Logomaniac” luxury pieces from @Avanope Instagram feed

“Logomaniac” luxury pieces from @Avanope Instagram feed

Q: Taking a look at @avanope Instagram profile, it may suggest a delicate control over the elements disposition of what we can somehow call ‘luxury-fashion-still-life.’ Do you specifically play with the colour palette and have a fixed idea on the final layout or you just let it flow?

A: I definitely don’t have a plan. When I first started gaining popularity on Instagram, I felt weirdly pressured to maintain this super blown out, highgloss aesthetic, but recently I’ve become way less controlled. I feel like your online presence should be true to who you as a person, and I felt like my page was becoming so far removed from who I am in real life. No one knows, based on looking at my page that I am super interested in punk culture or 70’s erotica magazines or that I even am a writer – I don’t always think it’s the most accurate reflection of me.

Ava Nirui for Assembly New York

Ava Nirui for Assembly New York

Q: Big logos, kind of addictive excess and glamorous, sporty essence… we can deduce that the 2000’s are closely back by having a look at your site. What is your favourite age in terms of fashion?

A: This is a difficult question because I research and reference so many periods in fashion. I guess the obvious answer would be the 90’s or early 2000’s because most of my work is visibly inspired by the sportswear and “logomania” trends of that decade.Photography and fashion had this wonderfully tacky gloss that I think about and channel a lot. That being said, I am a huge fan of the 1970’s (that’s when Comme des Garçons was founded!!!) and the 1950’s because people were so obsessed with their appearance.