Minimalist Fashion

Every term, I get to meet lots of new students.  One of the things I enjoy about teaching is the exchange of ideas.  Many of my students have an enthusiasm for learning and sharing their views.  Clemence, one of my students, is writing her thesis on minimalism and fashion.

As a blogger, I love interviewing other people.  Gaining a new perspective on a favorite topic excites me.  But this time, I’m the interviewee.  Clemence interviewed me for part of her primary source research.   I thought the results were worthy of sharing.  (And feel free to leave commentary, it will help with her research!)


Clemence: Could you define in 3 words what represents minimalism?

Me: Removing the superfluous.

Swedish minimalist fashion. Image courtesy of

Clémence: Could you quote 3 designers that represent the minimalism movement for you? (Either in the past or in the present)

Me:  It is difficult to limit this movement to 3 designers!  There were so many great minimalist designers during the 1990s.  And I suppose you could call Coco Chanel the first minimalist designer, since she removed all of the artifice from her clothes.  But the 3 designers that come to my mind first when I think of minimalism are Calvin Klein,  Yohji Yamamoto, and Helmut Lang

Calvin Klein really captured the minimalist movement in America during the 1990s.  While the clothes were simple and had a reduced color pallet, there was a very sexual and grunge feel to his designs.  He was brilliant and incorporating androgyny and street culture into his advertising.  Now, Francisco Costa designs for the label.  I think he does a great job of continuing the minimalist feel, but keeping it updated for a modern aesthetic.

Calvin Klein designs in 1993. Image courtesy of

Calvin Klein, c. 1996.


Calvin Klein, c. 1993.

Calvin Klein, c. 1991.


Calvin Klein, 2010. Image courtesy of

Calvin Klein, 2010. Image courtesy of


Yohji Yamamoto is really avant-garde with his draping, oversized silhouettes and use of textures.  The way he constructs clothing is poetic.  Some designs are clearly influenced by architecture, and others seem so fluid and diaphanous that they could move on their own.

Designs by Yohji Yamamoto. Exhibited at the V&A in 2011. Image courtesy of


Design by Yohji Yamamoto. Exhibited at the V&A in 2011. Image courtesy of


Design by Yohji Yamamoto, 2008. Image courtesy of


Design by Yohji Yamamoto, 2007. Image courtesy of


Design by Yohji Yamamoto, 2001. Image courtesy of

Helmut Lang has a tradition of using a minimalist pallet, but keeping the silhouettes very feminine.  I think Helmut Lang’s clothing is just timeless and elegant.  Even though Lang has not been associated with the label for years, the company has continued to produce amazing designs that execute his vision.


Helmut Lang Spring 2011.

Clemence: Why do you think this look can be seen again on the catwalks and on the magazines?

Me:  Minimalism is timeless.  A great silhouette is the basic building block for any wardrobe.  And when it is in black, gray, or white it can never really go out of style.  You can update a minimalist outfit by adding new accessories.

Clemence: Why do people want to purchase more “timeless items”?

Me:  Well, I think people are interested in having better quality items.  If a garment is versatile and well-made, people will spend a little more money on it.  To me, it also seems like people are gaining an interest in purchasing garments made in their own countries to boost the local economy.  The aftermath of fast-fashion is becoming apparent – it’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for the local economy, and your wardrobe doesn’t really benefit from it, either.

Clemence: Do you think this fashion trend is fitting with the current recession? Do you personally think there is a link?

Me:  Sure.  I think it’s for the reasons I already touched on.  People have a renewed interested in creating jobs at the local level.  They are also interested in products that are environmentally friendly.  This can’t really happen when you are shipping products around the globe for production and distribution.  Trends become less important.  The focus shifts on better quality, versatile products that can be used long-term.

Clemence: Do you personally like the minimalism style?

Me: Of course!  What I love about minimalism is that I can adapt it to my mood.  Some days, I may be fine not wearing color.  But if I want to add a bold accessory, like a red shoe or belt, it changes the look.  I also love that minimalist looks can be adapted for warm or cold weather – simply add or subtract a layer.

Clemence: Do you own some minimalism clothes or some accessories? If yes, could you tell me what colors do you have?

Me:  Yes!  One of my favorites is a black Costume National dress.  It’s timeless, and has the best stitching I’ve ever seen.  The fit is also impeccable.  Most of my minimalist clothing is pretty standard – a black skirt, a while silk shirt.  But I do have a very interesting black trench coat with white piping.  I bought it years ago and always get compliments on it.

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