Now more than ever, the fashion industry is defined by binaries. On the one hand, you have the throw-everything-at-it maximalists, many of whom only exist on our Instagram feeds or are immortalised on the pavements of fashion week. On the other hand, you have a fashion tribe who are rejecting the noise and clamour of clashing prints and accessory overload and instead embracing a more contemplative approach to dressing. Yes, this is minimalism, but perhaps not as you know it.
An aesthetic that has simmered beneath the cultural surface for decades, minimalism has occasionally bubbled up and made its presence felt, but it never really disappeared entirely. It has presented itself in a variety of guises. Think Coco Chanel's sporty separates, Calvin Klein's '90s greyscale and Phoebe Philo's austere post-financial-crash stylings at Celine. It's one of the few fashion movements that has transcended multiple generations.
Photo:Courtesy of Jil Sander
Over the last few seasons, it has become clear that simplicity is having another moment in the spotlight, in no small part thanks to the designs of cult brands such as The Row, Jil Sander, Lemaire and Gabriela Hearst, who are fronting minimalism 2.0. Add to this the fact that shoppers are wanting to invest in pieces that last for budgetary, ethical, and sustainable purposes, and you've got the perfect storm for purists.
"As we approach each season, we look to our six muses: the fashion pioneer, the warrior, the free spirit, the curator, the romantic and the purist," explains Natalie Kingham, a fashion consultant and the former buying director at MatchesFashion. "The Purist opts for a minimalist style with a sleek, functional edge, and this season, we noticed a new mood for clean, monochromatic elegance on the runway. This back-to-basics approach to wardrobing reinforces the pieces that matter—the clean, modern staple items that become the building blocks for the ultimate wardrobe."
Photo:Courtesy of Lemaire
This emphasis on creating an effective and long-lasting backbone of basics in your wardrobe was not, perhaps, so prevalent in previous manifestations of minimalism. With sustainability becoming an increasingly pressing consideration, people are wanting pieces that will stand the test of time but also feel versatile enough to work in multiple settings. Also, when it comes to design, 2023's contribution to the minimalist cause is unlike the sombre simplicity of the '90s or the sharp-edged appeal of Philo's first Céline (note the accent on the 'e') collection. We might want longevity from our clothes, but we also want personality.
Minimalism now comes in many forms, including tonal outfits, draped silk dresses, voluminous tulle creations, classic tops and basic blazers. This is good news, as it means we can all inject a little chic minimalism into our lives, even if we haven't considered it before.
Photo:Courtesy of Gabriela Hearst
Need a little more inspiration? Keep scrolling to see the minimalist-loving fashion people acting as our muses this year. You can also shop the key pieces in their wardrobes.
1. THE LOOSE-FITTING SUIT
Style Notes: Sylvie knows the power of an amazing suit. A relaxed fit adds an extra chic touch, and opting for a neutral like navy, camel or black will ensure it remains a wardrobe hero for years to come.
2. A SIMPLE-BUT-FUN TOP
Style Notes: A great top will never go out of style. Whether you pair it with jeans, leggings or wide leg trousers, it's a versatile piece that will work hard in your capsule wardrobe. Plus, it can easily be dressed up or down with a simple swap of footwear and accessories.
3. GOLD EARRINGS
Style Notes: A smattering of gold jewellery instantly elevates a simple look. From plain hoops to embellished pairs and huggies to studs, the choice is endless!
4. A WHITE SHIRT
Style Notes: We could go on for hours about just how versatile a white shirt is. Some of our favourite looks include wearing it over a roll-neck, under a blazer or just as with jeans and boots.
5. THE STRAIGHT-LEG JEANS
Style Notes: Sure, there are tons of denim styles that are worthy of a place in your wardrobe, but true minimalists know that you can't go wrong with a classic straight-leg pair.
6. THE SMART TROUSERS
Style Notes: Smart trousers work with so many other wardrobe heroes and for so many occasions. From the office to dinner and weekend outings to drinks, they've got you covered.
7. THE RACER-FRONT VEST
Style Notes: Pair with jeans or trousers and you have yourself a failsafe outfit.
8. THE OVERSIZED WHITE DRESS
Style Notes: As Alexis proves, an oversized white dress can be your best friend. She's paired hers with fisherman sandals but you could also wear with flip flops, boots and trainers.
9. A STRIPED JUMPER
Style Notes: Regular readers will know that we have a fondness for striped knitwear over here... Make like Grece and style yours with stirrup leggings and chunky loafers for a twist on the Parisian classic.
10. THE SPLIT-HEM LEGGINGS
Style Notes: Another wardrobe hero we can't get enough of is leggings. Dress them up with heels and a blazer or down with trainers and a knit. The choice is yours.
11. SIMPLE SHADES
Style Notes: Sunnies aren't reserved just for summer. When we get those beautiful bright winter days adding sunglasses to your cold-weather look is not only practical but chic, too.
12. A KNIT DRESS
Style Notes: The knitted dress knows no limits. Want to wear her in winter? Add knee-high boots and a blazer. Temperature going up? Swap in sandals and raffia accessories.
13. THE BASIC BLACK BAG
Style Notes: We firmly believe a great black bag you love is such a wise investment. Pick your player from a top-handle style, cross-body or shoulder bag.
14. THE COOL JUMPSUIT
Style Notes: For those days when you don't know how to dress, reach for a jumpsuit. Keep it monochrome for extra minimalist style points.
15. THE OVERSIZED BLACK BLAZER
Style Notes: Ah, the humble black blazer. Will you ever let us down? The answer is no. Always a firm favourite in our capsule wardrobe, it can go with just about everything else on this list to make a winning outfit.
16. KNEE-HIGH BOOTS
Style Notes: This list wouldn't be complete without a great pair of boots, preferably knee-highs!