Magnified: Avant


Posted 8 months ago in Magazine

Celebrating the past of heritage clothing and inspiring the future of authentic menswear, AVANT believes that every garment has a story to tell. Its founder Eric Maggiori tells us about his biannual magazine.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to form AVANT?

My name is Eric Maggiori, I’m 38 and I live in Paris. I’m a journalist by profession, I’m editor-in-chief for the So Press press group in Paris, and I’ve been specializing in soccer for almost 20 years. In 2003, during a trip to Tokyo, I discovered vintage clothing, and it became a real passion for me, so I started looking in all the thrift shops in Paris. Then, in 2010, this time on a trip to Los Angeles, I discovered workwear. It was a revelation. It fascinated me, and I wanted to know everything about it. But I was often frustrated because there weren’t many sources of knowledge on the subject. Most specialized magazines are in Japanese, so they’re impossible to decipher. So, for several years, the idea of creating a magazine dedicated to the world of vintage clothing grew in my mind. And in 2018, I took the plunge. I said to myself: “I’m a journalist, I love vintage… Why not found a magazine about vintage?“. And that’s how it all began.

You have examined Untold Stories of Rare Workwear Brands, anthologies of American and French workwear, American Militaria and now Western Wear. How do you map out each edition and what do you aim to achieve? 

For each issue, I like to dwell on a theme and explore it in depth and breadth. That’s why I call my books “anthologies”, because I really try to be as complete as possible. You can never be exhaustive on such subjects, but I want the reader to come away with a real knowledge of the subject. For the first issue, I did American Workwear because it was the theme I knew best. After that, I went with the flow. American Militaria because it’s the logical sequel to Workwear. Then French Workwear, because it’s still about workwear, but this time in my own country. And with Western Wear, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and I have to admit it was very exciting!

Your covers are quite striking, making each edition feel like a collector’s item, how important is this and can you talk about the current one by your brother Mark Maggiori?

Yes, it’s a bias. Japanese magazines always feature clothes or silhouettes. So I wanted something different. At first, I thought of putting a historical photo, a period photo, but I felt I wasn’t sending the right message. It wasn’t very modern. So I said to myself, “If not a photo, why not a drawing or a painting? And just as well, I think my older brother is one of the best painters in the world (laughs). So I asked him to do a painting for the first issue, and he drew “The Stifel Suit“. It turned out really well, so I thought I should do it every time, as it gave the book a very ‘collectible’ feel. The following covers were painted by Brett Allen Johnson (issue 2) and Greg Newbold (issues 3 and 4) . And when I decided to do a book on Western wear (issue 5), I turned to Mark again, since Western Art is his specialty. So we decided to use his Electric Desert painting for the cover. And the result is just sublime.

All people featured share a passion whether this is from a collector, dealer or knowledge perspective – how do you go about finding them or does one lead from another?

I’ve been in the vintage business for nearly 20 years, even though I still feel like I’m 25. I’ve had the time to meet a lot of people, sellers, dealers, buyers, collectors and historians. In the first issue, I interviewed all the people I’ve met over the years. And as you say, yesterday’s encounters lead to tomorrow’s encounters. The issues of AVANT have enabled me to meet new people, whom I have in turn been able to interview. AVANT is also a generator of incredible encounters.

Can you talk about some of the design considerations and the balance between the visual and literal? 

As a journalist by profession, I love writing. In fact, I write almost 90% of the magazine myself. As a result, I set no limits in terms of text length. If a text has to be 18 pages long, it will be 18 pages long. If an interview can be done in four pages, it will be four pages. That’s the advantage of having your own magazine: my project, my desires, my rules (laughs). So that the articles aren’t too indigestible, I try to alternate with beautiful visuals. My art director, Camille Gressier, is the opposite of me: for her, visuals come first. As a result, her desires combined with mine create a perfect balance between text and image.

Sergio Guardi, from clothing brand Barbanera, says “Style is not what you have: style is what you know…it is not what we wear that defines who we are as a person, but rather, it is who we are that defines how we dress. People are not what they wear; they wear what they are.” This stopped us in our tracks. Do you adhere to this philosophy also?

I agree with Sergio, who by the way is a very good friend I met through my brother. A true Sicilian. Sergio is right, for me, knowledge is very important. And that’s one of the reasons why I decided to make AVANT. Isn’t it rewarding to know? When you wear jeans in everyday life, isn’t it important to know their history, their background? That applies to everything. Cooking, art, cinema… Knowledge is everything.

What advice would you give someone looking too pursue their passion in print?

Printing is far from dead. But I think the way we consume paper has changed. Print media are no longer consumed in the same way as in the past, and the sales figures for traditional magazines, and even dailies, bear this out. On the other hand, I think people are increasingly looking for niche content. The more niche, the better, because niches bring people together, they allow people to connect with people who are like them. In a world – that of social networks – where content is ultra-vulgarized and above all extremely ephemeral, people need to be able to find concrete objects that go against that. I was editor-in-chief of sofoot.com, a soccer news website, for eight years, so digital is my life too. But I’ll say it, at the risk of sounding like an old fool: nothing can replace a book and the smell of paper. Nothing.

Artists such as Lil Nas X and Orville Peck have popularised the Western look again. How important is it to have cultural figureheads embrace a style?

That’s what makes it survive the ages. It’s extremely important. If Western style had only been worn by cowboys at the end of the 19th century, it would mean nothing to today’s generations. It would be forgotten. What makes a fashion strong is when it is readapted, revisited. When today’s personalities, with their knowledge, bring it up to date, while respecting its history and heritage – that’s how it’s passed from hand to hand with each new generation.

Does the world of fast fashion and Met Galas mean much to you?

Honestly? I’m not even paying attention. To tell the truth, I’m more interested in the history of clothing than in fashion with a capital “F”.

What did you learn in the process of creating the latest anthology?

I learned a lot about American history and Americans. When I worked on the themes of workwear or militaria, I really got in touch with the ‘geeks’ of the subject. And I include myself in that. But this time, with Western Wear, I was able to see just how deeply Americans were affected by the subject. The cowboy is America. When I went to present the book in California, Arizona and New York, I was extremely touched by the testimony of the people who came to buy the book. They all had an anecdote to tell me. “My grandfather was a cowboy” / “the shirts I see in your book, my grandmother used to wear them when I was a child” / “I grew up on a ranch“, etc… Western Wear, Western culture, is really a big part of American history. And I think the Americans appreciated the fact that it was a Frenchman who wrote the book. Because I was interested in their culture, I did a lot of research, I interviewed leading figures in the field so as not to write nonsense on a subject that’s close to their hearts.

What are your own most treasured items of clothing?

I’d say all my Stifel pieces, because it’s a brand I love (and it’ll be the theme of my next book), my denim jackets that belonged to miners (and were found in old abandoned mines), and my World War 1 denim pull-over shirts. But in fact, every piece in my collection has an important place in my heart. It’s like my children, I can’t prefer one to another (laughs).

Issue no. 5: Avant: An Anthology of Western Wear, $35

theavantmag.com

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