A strong contender to every seasonal trend, lurking behind-the-scenes, minimalism is hard to pin down, but fashion journalist, Harriet Walker, is here to lend a hand in her very first book, Less Is More.
In different guises, it is the stripped down, bare-but-brave look that is both timeless and constantly evolving as a fresh yet subtle direction of dressing. A mantra adopted by many, the pared-down aesthetic favoured by designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Hussein Chalayan and high street stores including COS has been subjected to scrutiny in Walker’s exhaustive offering. Illustrated with specially commissioned photography and archive imagery, Less is More documents the history of minimalism in fashion from its inception through to its place in style today. i-D Online spoke to Harriet about her decision and the difficulties of combining familiarity with the shock of the new.
How did you arrive at the idea? I first wrote an article for the Independent on Sunday magazine about the return of minimalism for spring/summer 10 – when I came to write it up, I realised no-one had charted the ebbs and flows of a movement that I consider crucial in the modernisation and evolution of fashion. Seeing as so many designers – Hannah MacGibbon, Phoebe Philo, Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang, Heikki Salonen, COS – had turned to minimalism at the same time, it seemed the right time to start looking into where it had come from.
Do you believe that ‘less is more’? It depends on your starting point, doesn’t it? I’m someone who would always rather look under-dressed than over-dressed, so I suppose it’s partly a facet of not wanting to stand out. That said, I’m convinced it’s easier to look chic if you aren’t covered in frills and ruffles and bows – my mother told me never to gild the lily.
In the book you mix commissioned photos and included archive images, was it difficult choosing what to include? It was difficult sourcing images, of course, because many of them are from the very early twentieth century. But more generally, it was difficult choosing images because so many of the pieces are so recognisable – or you know them in your mind already, because they have since become fairly iconic – Roland Mouret’s Galaxy dress, for example, or Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress. I wanted to convey the familiarity, as well as the shock of the new, as the combination of these themes is so key to minimalism.
How would you describe the discipline this season? Minimalism at this point has become something slightly different – it still informs, by way for silhouette and shape, but it has developed into something that includes softer, more feminine and more romantic styles. This season’s ambassadors for minimalism include Raf Simons at Jil Sander, Damir Doma, Haider Ackermann and Thomas Tait.
What do you think about high street adaptations of the minimalism trend? I think they have been very important in the development of the trend. One of the reasons minimalism became so relevant and ubiquitous was because of shops like COS, which takes minimalism as its directive, and Uniqlo, which offers a collaboration with one of the original Purist designers Jil Sander. Both were key to the universal recognition, interest in and acceptance of New Minimalism in recent seasons.
How do you predict it will it manifest itself in our summer wardrobes? In every white T-shirt, every structured but unfussy shirt, shift dresses and bright but plain pantone pieces, such as the shades as Jil Sander S/S 11.
Less is More: Minimalism in Fashion by Harriet Walker, published by Merrell is available now.