Avant Coureur at the crossroads of art and fashion – WWD
PARIS – To ride on the current revival of the Parisian shopping scene, Mourad Behlouli settles in Aubervilliers, a northern suburb of the French capital, with a new retail concept that straddles the border between art and fashion.
“I didn’t want to open another street art gallery – there are already several,” said Behlouli, describing his new retail space, called L’Avant Coureur, a French term that relays the notion of forerunner.
Located in a 650 square foot space, the concrete space will feature men’s and women’s clothing and sneakers, with private sales several days a month. The store lists brands like Yeezy, Enfants Riches Déprimés, Supreme, Ami, Takashi Murakami and Maison Margiela, while the featured artists will include Quentin Veron, Jadore Tong and Ckeja.
“I wanted to show that street art – I saw it in terms of creativity – inspires great designers; street art and fashion go well together, and I wanted to add to that state of mind, ”Behlouli added.
The former merchant navy officer, who traces his interest in fashion back to a Versace store in France, said his travels around the world have helped cultivate an interest in crafts. On his long breaks at sea, he would head inland, return to Paris, and experience the local fashion scene, hitting every fashionable spot.
“In fashion, we create and recreate, constantly drawing inspiration from past years, while with street art, there is a complete renewal. I’m not talking about simple graffiti on walls or tags. I’m talking about the creativity that comes from the streets but that settles in the biggest galleries in the world… it inspires fashion, ”Behlouli said.
“My idea is to offer products that are very avant-garde in terms of fashion, but which are also works of art,” adds the entrepreneur.
Behlouli explained that he wanted to push his idea beyond personalization or personalization of things, which have become buzzwords in the industry.
“We’re not talking about personalization – it’s a form of subculture, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but what I want to do is create works of art that are at the same time a very refined haute couture work, ”he added.
Behlouli explained that he focuses on limited series in collaboration with artists. He buys clothes, including runway pieces, from big fashion houses – he cites Balenciaga as an example – or in outlets or showrooms, then works with artists to design original pieces that cannot be found. nowhere else on the market.
“I really want to emphasize the artisan side of things – I’m not interested in large-scale production,” he added. “You have to start working with your hands again, not with machines. Manual work is more skillful than machine work, in my eyes, ”he insisted.
Behlouli, who worked in the oil industry – then in aquaculture to help African countries, he said, describing the latter activity as his “mea culpa” for early jobs – noted an interest in fight against overconsumption.
He enlisted a craftsman who works with existing furs – those that languish in the back of a closet – to give them new life.
“He recycles them, he deconstructs them and rebuilds them according to his design,” notes Behlouli, who also says he is motivated by the concern to preserve the craftsman’s know-how.
When asked if his travels influenced his aesthetic, he responded enthusiastically. “I didn’t go to design or fashion school but I have a certain sensibility that stylists don’t have – and that’s thanks to my travels,” he said.
Behlouli cited Africa in particular. “When I see what artists are doing and what they are capable of creating, my travels have completely changed my life in that regard,” he added.