The Enduring Appeal of Minimalism in a Maximalist World
The Enduring Appeal of Minimalism in a Maximalist World
- Words Javin Busby
- Date January 31, 2017
The theme for this year’s Met Gala Ball is a celebration of famed Comme des Garçons designer, Rei Kawakubo. With such an audacious central focus, this year’s gathering is sure to be nothing short of a spectacle in flamboyance as our favorite red carpet regulars leave us in awe, for better or for worse, as they pose for the clamoring paparazzi in abstract wears playing to the theme of the night.
It is almost their duty as the centers of media attention to pull out all of the stops, pushing preconceived limits in an effort to maintain their larger than life status. On that note, it should also be no wonder that what may be coined as the “Alessandro Effect” has washed over the industry, pushing brands to adopt the Gucci creative head’s penchant for over the top embellishments, intricate detailing and bright color palettes.
As such, it appears as though brands are now in a fight for the consumer’s coin as attentions shift toward the maximalist, exaggerated and over-the-top. While this may reign true for those constantly vying for the public’s affection and cultural relevance, does this sort of product resonate with the everyday men and women who are on the other side of the screen? Though it can be said that we have, at least in partial, taken to the trendy logo mania and detail heavy admiration offered up by fashion’s current frontrunners, there will always remain a place for the subdued and classic. Despite the presence and prominence of the outlandish and in-your-face, minimalism will never die, for as there is no color wheel without our basic red, blue, and yellow, there is no wardrobe without foundational, nondescript essentials.
Possibly in response to the brash and intensely colorful trends that dominated the late 2000s, even the most high-profile influencers ditched their all-over print hoodies and gaudy eyewear in favor of stark overcoats and minimally-branded sweaters. Even the often flamboyant, in-your-face personalities of the hip-hop community toned it down a notch or two, hanging up their pendants, chains and links in favor of smaller, more understated pieces, occasionally even wearing them tucked away from the public’s view altogether, as they peaked from underneath shirt collars. In this instance, what could be seen as a mere trend or change of pace was nothing more than a page out of the common man's sartorial playbook.
In 2012, Hedi Slimane took over as head of a waning Yves Saint Laurent, transforming the brand in nearly every way, from its name down to a skewed design language reflected in his initial runway collections and revamped physical retail spaces. Slimane’s initial collection under the new Saint Laurent Paris moniker saw a number of pared-down basics including shirts, sweaters, suits and overcoats in blacks and deep blues with a focus on fit and tailoring in lieu of a YSL logo celebration. The brand’s accessories and leather goods also received a Le Corbusier-esque reduction in excess detailing, stripping away superfluous frippery, leaving only fine leathers, furs and canvases with minute branding. Saint Laurent’s SL/06 and SL/10 minimalist sneaker models, as well as the brand's sleek, pared-down Jodhpur, Chelsea and harness boot iterations became as equally popular with consumers in the limelight as with those with no interest in the such. This aesthetic that catapulted Saint Laurent into the fashion forefront—doubling the brand’s revenue in Slimane's three years at the reigns—was one that was as applicable as it was appealing.
Brands like Common Projects have also done well to capitalize on the mass’ thirst for the classic and quintessential, turning out crisp sneakers with a lesser focus on extraneous embellishments, in favor of silhouette, construction, fabrication and agreeable colorways that easily mesh into most wardrobes.
Unlike celebrities who make money from their appearance, most people, even the most stylish among us, simply want to look and feel good. While a glossy red leather rain jacket from Prada may look cool on the runway, and sound like a fun wear in theory, it is far less practical when compared to a well-constructed navy wool mac from the likes of Vince or A.P.C.
Speaking of A.P.C., Jean Touitou’s Parisian stalwart, revered for its consistent minimalist turnout, has long since understood the necessity of solid, everyday garments, and the accentuation of their beauty, carving out a lane that he and his label have sustained over the past 30 years.
Swedish label, Acne Studios, headed by Jonny Johansson, has also done well to offer exciting product season after season without the presence of obvious branding and applied logo dependence. They have, however, managed to brand themselves aesthetically, by establishing a consistent and recognizable design language. Acne’s strength seems to lie in their play on silhouette and experimentation, with a tendency to focus on garments with one exploratory twist at a time, with even their more avant-garde creations retaining a measure of their minimalist ethos.
Also hailing from Sweden, relative newcomer Our Legacy has emerged as another genre defining player on the minimalist front, bypassing the excessive in favor of garments crafted from meshes of new, experimental and synthetic fabrics. Though they may not offer up pieces with their name plastered all over them, standard oxford shirts in raw silks with front zippers replacing button plackets has all but become their calling card.
It is the efforts of brands like these that will continue to intertwine the necessity for product that is applicable for a mass majority with an experimental freshness that maintains our excitement and interest, whetting our appetites for the new and intriguing without completely alienating.
Though it may seem as consumers have their hearts set on an affiliation with various brands by way of logos emblazoned across their chests, or banal embroidery on their sleeve hems, there will always be a need for a void of such panache. This is not at all to take away viability for the desire to own such articles, however. In fact, a heavy rotation of garments lacking such extravagance without the inclusion of the former can become mundane and uninspiring, as the two aesthetics seem to work best when supporting and interplaying with one another. So next time you grab for your embellished bomber, notice your inclination to pair it with a simple T-shirt or denim, and know that no matter the trend forecast, unassuming garments will always have appropriate inclusion, for minimalism is always and everlasting.
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