PLAIN SPEAK

Mod­ern sil­hou­ettes, nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als and above all au­then­tic­ity: wel­come to an ageg of more ac­ces­si­ble min­i­mal­ism,

VOGUE Australia - - News - writes Alice Bir­rell.

Wel­come to an age of more ac­ces­si­ble min­i­mal­ism.

“WE’VE MOVED ON FROM THE REDUCTIVE 90S WOMAN”

Ask a fash­ion editor who she most en­vies and you might be sur­prised. His­tor­i­cal icons aside, names such as Is­abelle Koun­toure and Jes­sica Diehl, fash­ion di­rec­tors at Wall­pa­per* and Van­ity Fair re­spec­tively, crop up along­side the sub­dued Scandi-chic Elin Kling, as does Is­abel Marant (“She’s the mod­ern Chanel,” one tells me). A fel­low Vogue staffer re­vers the sul­try but rig­or­ously dressed Bar­bara Martelo, whose wardrobe bedrock is 51 shades of black and denim. “It’s be­cause she’s a jeans and T-shirt woman,” she says sim­ply.

But where are the avant-garde rule break­ers? Where are the It girls and style sa­vants, in their trippy Gucci-laden get ups, or the Demna Gvasalia-de­signed Balenciaga fetish boots? In all the head-turn­ing hub­bub of fash­ion weeks and the en­su­ing street style there slinks by, of­ten un­recog­nised, the fash­ion min­i­mal­ist.

Swing­ing in strong in the late noughties to early aughts, min­i­mal­ism en­tered as a trend that per­me­ated ev­ery­thing from the high-fash­ion rungs to the chain store main­stream. It did not bow to trends, it was anti-fash­ion in its com­mit­ment to re­straint and lack of adorn­ment, and be­cause we can­not talk about this de­lib­er­ately eva­sive fac­tion with­out Phoebe Philo, it was prop­erly born of Cé­line, in a sparse Chelsea loft, for re­sort 2010.

There she showed stripped back, ul­tra-re­fined clothes set against a back­drop of eco­nomic down­turn. Her col­lec­tion – util­i­tar­ian khaki dresses, but­ter­milk and buff silk sep­a­rates, tai­lored trousers, and camel car coats – was re­spect­ful and prophetic. Her orac­u­lar knack, her “less but ex­cel­lent” ap­proach, con­tin­ued since then un­abated.

But sud­denly we stopped talk­ing about it, or at least tired of it. Philo her­self re­jected the min­i­mal­ist la­bel, say­ing: “What does that mean?” to the In­de­pen­dent in 2011. On the sur­face we reached max­i­mum min­i­mal-fa­tigue, ex­cept that be­neath it all, we didn’t. As we buzzed about the new name at X house, the un­der­stated among us were hov­er­ing in the back­ground, dress­ing the way count­less real women did ev­ery morn­ing.

“It hasn’t re­ally evolved much and that’s the beauty of it,” says Laura Tay­lor, co-founder of So­lace London, a la­bel that builds from a base of re­fined sil­hou­ettes. “When you look at the artist Frank Stella, de­signer Cristóbal Balenciaga or the prin­ci­ples of the Bauhaus, you can see the time­less moder­nity and it hasn’t dated. What has evolved in the fash­ion world is how peo­ple have em­braced the aes­thetic.”

The evo­lu­tion Tay­lor speaks of might be sub­tle, but it’s been def­i­nite. We’ve moved on from the reductive 90s Calvin Klein woman, in her svelte all-white looks, the “lines-not-the-la­bel” se­vere Hel­mut Lang types in all black. No longer re­served for those con­fi­dently strip­ping away any ob­vi­ous vis­ual cod­i­fiers, time has made a new breed of min­i­mal­ism: the ac­ces­si­ble.

“It’s what [women] feel the best in,” says Ge­or­gia Martin, who along with the con­sis­tently un­der­stated Sara Don­ald­son of Harper and Har­ley founded The Undone, an e-bou­tique known for its tight edit of el­e­vated sta­ples. “It’s no-fuss, chic and sim­ple. When you know what works, what you feel con­fi­dent in, it means get­ting dressed can be an easy and en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Min­i­mal­ism in 2017 has mel­lowed out. Over the years strict lines and rigid codes have faded in age. “The con­cept can be done with a cooler twist,” says Ida Peters­son, wom­enswear buy­ing di­rec­tor at Browns. She says min­i­mal­ist pieces aren’t a cen­tre-stage trend but the per­fect base to in­vite in­di­vid­u­al­ism. “Peo­ple are not go­ing to throw on a full Gucci look, but will in­stead tone it down us­ing a core ba­sic, be it a cash­mere sweater, a pair of jeans or a sim­ple white tee.” It’s the same con­cept that gave rise to Paris Ge­or­gia Ba­sics, a la­bel Paris Mitchell and Ge­or­gia Cher­rie for­mu­lated to be paired with tro­phy vin­tage pieces. “That was the whole idea; pair­ing it with some­thing re­ally new and crisp,” ex­plains Cher­rie. Don’t be fooled, though, into think­ing min­i­mal­ism can be re­duced to a col­lec­tion of ba­sics. The Cé­line/Philo legacy has opened the door to smaller sub­cat­e­gories of the aes­thetic, giv­ing rise to ex­cit­ing la­bels led by smart young de­sign­ers who think and de­sign for them­selves. La­bels such as Loq and In­ten­tion­ally Blank are rooted in louche sun-drenched SoCal style, while lo­cally, Aus­tralian la­bels Matin and Al­bus Lu­men, both less than five years old, re­flect the demo­cratic DNA of Aus­tralian style.

North­ern Beaches-raised Michelle and Lucy Per­rett an­chor their la­bel Matin in life lived by the sea. “That sense of ground­ing nat­u­rally be­comes a part of the de­sign process,” Per­rett says. Like Ma­rina Afon­ina’s grown-up, beach-in­flected Al­bus Lu­men, this means nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als like linen, silk and cot­ton fea­ture heav­ily.

What min­i­mal­ism’s lost this time around is its uni­fy­ing aes­thetic. Don’t ex­pect snap-iden­ti­fiers or co­her­ent vis­ual cues; you’ll have to work hard to fig­ure this out. No­ticed Manolo Blah­nik’s clas­sic Carolyne sling­backs, a style that turned 30 last year, crop­ping up? Or the hordes of young things get­ting around in pared-back re­thinks of grandma’s ba­sic leather pumps from la­bels like Maryam Nas­sir Zadeh and Mar­tini­ano? It’s a post-norm­core han­gover that means in­stead of stand­ing out, women ev­ery­where are look­ing for their au­then­tic self – no mat­ter that we might be like many oth­ers. In fact, all the bet­ter for it, as the cur­rent political cli­mate unites us.

The idea now is that in­stead of throw­ing it out next sea­son, or wear­ing it again ex­actly the same way, it’s up­dated and adapted to dif­fer­ent tastes, giv­ing it multi-gen­er­a­tional ap­peal. Emily An­drews, founder of cult blog and In­sta­gram “Bi­toth­is­bitothat”, amal­ga­mates im­agery from the likes of Cé­line and Acne with new­com­ers Ellery, Ge­or­gia Alice and Cana­dian la­bel Beau­fille. It’s a mish­mash that has gar­nered close to 100,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, and res­onates with Gen Y and Z, who un­til now have been boxed into pop-y Ken­dall Jen­ner-ap­proved la­bels and sock boots. “I think the clean and min­i­mal aes­thetic has re­ally shifted from the clas­sic sneak­ers, plain tee and black trousers into a much more ma­ture and edgy way of dress­ing,” she says.

The suc­cess of buzzy la­bels like J.W. An­der­son and Jac­que­mus, who work in­ven­tively with colour and cut, hint at what’s to come. Tea dresses with a twist, jeans with a roomy cut, or un­rav­elled tai­lor­ing are be­com­ing sig­na­tures of next-gen la­bels like Gabriela Hearst, Khaite, and Rosetta Getty. Net-A-Porter’s fash­ion di­rec­tor Lisa Aiken sees the fu­ture min­i­mal­ist’s wardrobe based on in­ge­nu­ity. “Pieces like blaz­ers, mas­cu­line shirt­ing and trench coats,” she says, ex­plain­ing min­i­mal­ism and trends aren’t mu­tu­ally exclusive. “Each has been rein­vented with ei­ther over­sized sil­hou­ettes, de­con­structed el­e­ments or cut-outs. It al­lows us to in­vest in clas­sic items with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the fash­ion fac­tor.”

At Cé­line, Philo will no longer talk about her col­lec­tions, pre­fer­ring viewer in­ter­pre­ta­tion. It’s the ul­ti­mate in al­low­ing room for the in­di­vid­ual, keep­ing mys­tery and imag­i­na­tion alive, and a com­pelling propo­si­tion for mod­ern cloth­ing. Strip­ping back to the pieces them­selves gives us room to write our own sto­ries. Once we’ve found such a gen­uine way to get dressed, it’s dif­fi­cult to un-know it. When the art critic Peter Sch­jel­dahl wrote of min­i­mal­ism in art, he could have been speak­ing of fash­ion. “[It] ends where it be­gins, at the edge of a cliff. Any re­ac­tion against it can only be a turn­ing-back.” On­wards then, in the most hon­est and any­thing-but-ba­sic way pos­si­ble.

Ellery dress, $870, and Proenza Schouler bag, $1,100, both from David Jones. Ey­tys sneak­ers, $270, from www.my­chameleon.com.au.

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