Say the word "minimalism" and most fashion lovers immediately conjure images of Jil Sander, Calvin Klein & co. But the minimalist movement harkens back to the Swinging Sixties, when it was ushered in by André Courreges, Rudi Gernreich and Paco Rabanne in reaction to the overwrought, overtly frilly styles that came before.
In her intelligently written, exhaustively researched book, Minimalism and Fashion: Reduction in the Postmodern Era, Elyssa Dimant traces the history of fashion's pared-down style from its Go-Go Era genesis to the present, as filtered through the prism of art, design and architecture.
"In many ways, minimalism transitioned from a 1960s high art movement to a persisting presence in contemporary artistic vernacular due to its appropriation within the field of fashion, and to the many fashion designers who have equated reduction and abstraction with beauty and progress," says Dimant, a fashion historian and former research associate at the Costume Institute the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Loosely organized by decade, the book opens with "Primary Structures," which examines key minimalist artists in New York (Barbara Ross, Frank Stella, Donald Judd) and the corresponding styles from Courreges, Balenciaga and Cardin. This exploration continues in "Ready Made" (focusing on the commercial implications of minimalism as championed by the pop art movement) before segueing to the post-minimalism of the late 1960s and 1970s (Halston, Yves Saint Laurent, etc.). This gives way to the work of Geoffrey Beene, Giorgio Armani, Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto a decade later (in "The Minimal Body"), followed by Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang, Azzedine Alaia, Miuccia Prada and Donna Karan in the 1990s, in the chapter titled "Building 'Basics.'"
"Real-ism: Designing the White Cube," meanwhile, centers around key photographers who helped introduce minimalism to the masses (Nan Goldin, Juergen Teller, Deborah Turbeville, Corinne Day, David Sims) and the final chapter, "The New Minimalism" gives props to the 21st century purveyors of the trend in fashion, art and beyond (think: Francisco Costa, Yeohlee Teng, Raf Simons and Hussein Chalayan, along with artists and architects such as Damien Hirst, Richard Serra, John Pawson and Zaha Hadid).
While the tone occasionally veers into overly scholarly/textbook territory, Minimalism and Fashion is a thought-provoking and insightful look at one of fashion's most fascinating genres.
images courtesy "Minimalism and Fashion" (Collins Design)