Every day, the fashion industry welcomes different brands and designers. Some are more special and others less so. Unfortunately, not all of them succeed in making a name for themselves. It is a complicated field and one has to arrive with a clear objective, depending on ambition.

The person who has managed to stay, to surprise the press (as incredible as it may seem), and to fill social media with content about her proposals and the garments and accessories she designs, is Beate Karlsson, creative director and owner, together with Johanna Blom, of the fashion brand AVAVAV.

We had the pleasure of talking to her, after having conquered Milan (Italy) with her long-awaited debut at fashion week and having once again revolutionised the business by expressing her discontent with it through her latest work, which if you continue reading you will discover much more about, as well as what the Swedish designer thinks about different unfair situations, among other things.

Beate, every time there is a fashion week and an AVAVAV show, the specialised media are full of headlines echoing your proposal. Nowadays, despite the popularity of the brand, it is still considered by many as a niche one, and some may still not know it and not know about you. These first two questions are dedicated to them: Who is Beate Karlsson and how would you define AVAVAV?

The first question is one of the most difficult for me to answer (laughs). If I had to define myself, I would say I am a normal person, who loves humour, entertainment, and challenging the way fashion is seen. As a designer, I have fun and am driven to make something new or reimagine what already exists.

AVAVAV is a creative playhouse, where we try to have fun, always in an intelligent way since it is a business created to last over time; and whose three fundamental pillars are: humour, entertainment, and the evolution of design. Combining these, we obtain as a result our vision and way of presenting.

You joined AVAVAV in 2020 as Creative Director and partner, and in January 2023 you acquired the company together with your new partner. Were you clear from the beginning about the direction you wanted to take the brand?

I think the source of the direction has always been there, but it definitely took a while to give it the shape we wanted and that’s still going on. We’re a very young brand driven by evolution, so I hope AVAVAV will be a brand that develops and keeps changing while staying true to our core.

Related to the question we started the interview with, how do you feel when the press or critics sometimes don’t understand what you tell through your fashion shows or collections?

It’s okay for that to happen. I’m not trying to change everyone’s mind, I’m just offering my vision. Whoever wants to take it, great, and whoever doesn’t, that’s fine. It’s not something I’m particularly worried about, actually, I’d be more outraged if when we launched a collection there wasn’t someone who expressed love or hate for it. If that ever happens, it’s because it’s not an interesting idea.

Let’s talk now about your latest work “No Time to Design”, presented in Milan, which marked your debut on the official Milan Fashion Week calendar. Do you think your idea/vision was well received/understood?

I think many people could identify with the message we conveyed, which is quite profound and not only applicable to the fashion industry but to the time we live in. Everything is against the clock.

I try not to read the reviews and criticisms. I appreciate people who write about my work, but I don’t want it to influence me and occupy a place in my mind. From what I hear through my friends and colleagues, people seem to like what we’ve done in the past collections. And, of course, some people don’t love, but, as I said, I try not to think about it.

Why Milan?

Italy has always been a country with which we have been closely linked. For two years and a half, we were based in Florence, that’s where AVAVAV was born. We also have our showroom in Milan (Riccardo Grassi), so we ended up showing our collections during Milan Fashion Week.

I’m really happy we joined Milan Fashion Week, we have great support from Camera Moda and it’s less crowded than Paris, which is quite good for a young brand like AVAVAV.

Many designers comment that Italy is a bit of a difficult market. Is it? As far as sales and connection are concerned.

As far as sales are concerned, I can’t tell you, because we are not that involved in it. It’s not our main market, although we do sell in some stores in the country.

If you ask me about the connection with the Italian public, we’re very happy. It has been surprising to notice the big community we have in Milan, made up mostly of young people, many of whom are fashion students. Some attended the last show and it was very gratifying to see how interested they were in the brand. I remember having a look at the guests from backstage, it was quite funny, as it looked like we had done a casting in the street. I appreciate everyone’s attendance, they were very kind.

Since we mentioned sales and clothes, one of the looks that promises to be a hit and that attracted the most attention is the yellow post-it suit. The readers of F.Y! will surely be very interested to know how the construction process went…

I was browsing online for “post-it suits” to see if there were any references out there. Surprisingly we found all of these old DIY Halloween costumes from like 2003. It’s been a big trend to wear suits made out of posts-its styled with ties and office attire. I thought it looked funny slash ugly, and very on theme for the last collection.

Of all the looks you designed, which was the one you were most excited to present?

I have a few in mind, but one of the looks I was most excited about was this green shoulderless hoodie. I love it because of its silhouette and the collapse sensation it evokes.

The Spring/Summer 2024 line, as well as standing out for the garments that make it up, also does so for the message that accompanies them, which is the stress and pressure that designers are subjected to. Can you tell us about it? Do you remember any tough moments that you would like to share?

Since I started studying fashion, it’s been a bit like that, crazy and always busy, feeling that all the time I had was for work. The last three years were very stressful, especially the last one when my partner and I finally took over the company.

When the new era of AVAVAV began to unfold, my stress level increased considerably. I had to be putting out fires at all hours and there were new things to think about, whether it was contracts and lawyers or wanting to be part of the fashion cycle and the seasonality of the industry.

Poor salaries of employees in the sector, especially for young people, and sexism in the occupation of power positions, are two particular issues that are of concern. It seems that this will never change!

Sure, these two very interesting topics should receive more attention than they do.

When I was living in New York, I worked completely for free for a few big brands. At the time, I was thrilled to work for them, but a bit surprising that companies that are well established with good cashflow don’t pay some of their workers.

On the second issue, it’s curious that it happens. When I was in fashion school the classes were always made up of around 28 women and two men, there was always a majority of women. Also, the industry is still focused on womens clothing – of course, it’s a bit awkward that so many of the high positions in the industry are filled by men. Many of the old legacy fashion houses have never had a female creative director for example. I do believe it’s odd that we haven’t seen more change in these regards, especially for the past ten years.

Don’t you think that the fashion world is a bit hypocritical? We ask you this question because it is true that the news spreads but then nothing is done to change or evolve towards a more favourable situation.

Of course, I think about it a lot.

I think you need to respect how hard it is to change a system that has been built a long time ago. Most of the long-time established big brands are founded and systemised in such a way that makes it hard and slow to make changes. However, these companies, because of their size and therefore impact on the industry, are the ones who can achieve the most change. Smaller slash newer brands have an easier time changing, and in this way, it’s a bit contradictory. It can feel like the smaller brands are doing the heavy lifting in advocating important change for the industry.

Will this ever end and the industry become more flexible?

Yes, I’m sure it will happen eventually but it will take some time. I think the change is already in the works, but it’s happening very slowly. My advice is not to focus on the calendar and not to do everything based on the rules of seasons. It is good to adapt a bit to it because you have to show up at a determined moment for stores to buy your clothes, but you shouldn’t stick with it. Thankfully, there are more and more brands that mark their tempos and decide not to be part of that circus.

As an anecdote, I will say that when I was younger, I remember how my friends and I were shocked about Alexander McQueen’s capacity to design more than 10 collections per year. We would always ask ourselves how was that possible. Now that doesn’t happen anymore, it’s practically impossible. I can’t think of any designer who does that.

Flexibility and freedom are what predominate when it comes to working for an independent brand. Is that right? AVAVAV is such a company. What is the best and the worst thing about it?


The best thing about an independent brand is the freedom to create and express one’s vision, as well as the freedom to decide how to form and manage teams. For me, it is very important to work as a team, so I want everyone to be in it because they feel it and they share ideals and principles, not because of a position in society. Unfortunately, there are many such cases in the fashion industry. I don’t like people who act like divas, they bore me.

And the worst part is having to survive and run a business, especially during the first years; and also the issue of production. It’s very difficult to have a good production chain because there are several factors involved, like the period in which payments are made, creating a cash flow problem. For a big brand or company, this does not affect them, but for a small one, it does.

Karlsson, imagine that a large group wants to acquire AVAVAV and you have to work under its guidelines. Would you accept or not?

It would depend on the moment I was in. Right now I would say no because it wouldn’t make sense to accept at the moment the company is in and, if I did, I would have to give up a lot of my creative freedom.

In the future, if something stable is built and the opportunity arises, I might, but without giving up all the authority. Doing so would cost me a lot and I wouldn’t feel comfortable working. It would depend a lot on the power I had to create and communicate my vision. I would not want the brand to become something it is not.

Continue this sentence: if I could change anything in fashion, it would be…

It would be to change everything related to production and make it more accessible, especially for young people. That would open many more doors and everything would be easier and quicker, in terms of finding factories, because sometimes that’s a big obstacle. And also to eliminate all kinds of injustices, like the cases we were talking about before.

Ultimately, part of the attention AVAVAV receives comes from young people. What advice would you give them to keep their enthusiasm alive?

To all of them, I would tell to look at their favourite brands and designers, those that inspire and have a story to tell, that is real and they feel connected to and good about. I think this will help them, especially when it comes to creating, where from my point of view, one’s roots always have to be present, otherwise, no matter how beautiful it looks, it will end up generating some anxiety.

Letting go of all insecurities is also something I recommend, as difficult as it may be, but you have to try.