Less is more, a refined uniform, a refined simplicity… There are several ways of talking about minimalism in fashion. Although no one has said it better recently than Miuccia Prada, after her Spring / Summer 2021 men’s show last July: “The clothes are simple – but with the concept of simplicity as an antidote to unnecessary complications.” Prada’s sentiment for clothes that are explicitly reduced to basic wardrobe pieces not only reflects the pandemic frame, but also an overall vibe in menswear for precision. The resulting collection was mostly rendered in black, white and gray and ranged from clean-cut suits and coats to recycled nylon parkas, neat zippers and stylish sweatpants.
Minimalism for some – see The Row, Steve Jobs, Jil Sander, Agnes Martin, Donald Judd – is a lifestyle, a visual belief system. It’s also, especially in fashion circles, the ultimate non-trending trend. As in, it’s still considered chic, but every once in a while, when designers collectively feel the urge to clean up the palate, the catwalks start to fill with clothes where the hustle and bustle and hype are removed.
This is present in many collections for men right now – from the black Louis Vuitton military jacket with just a fabulous notch of contrasting yellow on the collar, or the clean cut in the ongoing reboot of Bottega Veneta by Daniel Lee. Lee argued for compelling architectural silhouettes that offer restraint without being boring. An equally successful reinvention also takes place at Jil Sander, where co-creative directors Luke and Lucie Meier infuse the brand’s clean aesthetic with craft flourishes that add a tactile element.
“I design by subtraction,” says Giorgio Armani, a designer who has been exploring his own riff on minimal since his beginnings in the mid-1970s. “I take things away to leave the essential. It goes back to the advice my mom gave me: she said if you want to create beauty, only do what is necessary, and no more. This is an excellent lesson. For his spring / summer collection, this meant a tone-on-tone fit, made softer with the removal of the traditional collar and lapel on a number of jackets. “By trying to get to the very essence of things, by removing the excesses, you end up with something that is timeless. The perfect pantsuit. The basic jacket or coat. The ultimate black dress. These are clothes that can be worn for many years without looking – or, perhaps more importantly, feeling – dated, ”says Armani.
Under Mark Weston, British mainstay Dunhill has undergone a thorough modernization towards sophisticated simplicity. “Creating for this season has definitely sparked a change for me; stripping away metaphorically and physically to focus on substance and purpose, ”Weston explains of his spring / summer ’21 collection. “Now is the right time to take a more sober approach, as the ongoing pandemic requires us to assess and clarify what we stand for and what matters to us, our public and our customers,” he adds. This type of reasoning has led to easy tailoring in black, white or beige knits, simple knits, and shirts that invitingly envelop the body. There are also brands based in Paris The mayor and WHICH, which offer a distinctly French bias to the theme with wearable clothing that feels both current and timeless. “What defines French minimalism is that effortless sophistication that Parisians achieve so easily, and that I look for in every AMI collection,” explains designer Alexandre Mattiussi. What is at the heart of his approach to AMI clothing is “honest and authentic style, never forced or overdone” – which sounds like another winning mantra for minimalism.
In the past, the term minimalism may have been equated with a certain crispness – harsh lines, black-and-white pretense, and somewhat stiff sass. But not anymore. The approach to this season is still a matter of purity and reason, but it is softened slightly to suit the times. We haven’t quite reached a point where the word “comfort” could be seen as an acceptable prefix for the word “minimal,” but the edges between the two are definitely blurry.
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