How to Master Minimalist Fashion in a Material World

Who knew downsizing could be so liberating?

By: Julia Guerra

In terms of style, I’m not even sure I have one. My closet looks like the panicky end of a Tetris screen, piling on colorful pieces and shapes in an attempt to make it all fit. I was spoiled with the biggest closet in my childhood home, but when I moved into my husband’s tiny one-bedroom apartment, it was time to scale back and home in on my look.

A co-worker of mine told me all about the genius that is Marie Kondo and her method of material detoxing. Standing smack-dab in the middle of a monstrous tornado that emerged from my dresser into an explosion of blouses, athleisure, and denim that’s either too small or too large, I assessed each piece of clothing one by one. The key was to pay close attention to whether or not they brought me joy. Those that did were folded neatly and put back in my drawer. Those that did not were tucked away into a donation pile. Downsizing was not demolishing. In fact, it was liberating.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily have to fill a walk-in closet in order to be considered fashionable. Minimalist fashion icons like Victoria Beckham and Isabelle Fuhrman are walking examples that less really is more.

There used to be a stigma around the minimalist style, but a minimized wardrobe doesn’t imply we ditch our favorite pieces for basic staples lacking in personality. I sat down with Carl MH Barenbrug of Minimalissimo and Alberto Negro of 5 STYLE to redefine minimalist fashion as a contemporary style and learn how we can make the transition from material to minimal.

 

How the pair defines the modern minimalist wardrobe:

“Minimalist fashion is understated. It’s defined by how it’s cut, its symmetry, its detailing, its subtlety in its branding, and its limited palette—specifically the number of colors rather than the color itself. Minimalist fashion offers you a way of staying classic in a modernist manner while at the same being free of extravagance.”

 

What they consider minimalist wardrobe staples:

“The staple pieces of a basic minimalist wardrobe include three shirts (casual, smart, sport), a few plain t-shirts, two pairs of trousers (denim, smart), and a few pairs of shoes (smart, casual, sport). It’s better investing in quality pieces that will last longer and look better over time rather than cheap ones that will need to be replaced or repaired after only a short time.

“Create a capsule wardrobe that will work from season to season throughout the year, only adjusting how you wear your clothing depending on the temperature and, when it matters, the occasion. If you decide to curate a capsule collection, it’s really important to buy quality garments that will remain with you for a long period of time regardless of how often you wear them.”

 

How you can be trendy and minimalist:

“Buying new garments, think of what items you would like to give to charity if they no longer fit with your style or to recycle if they show clear signs of being too worn. Whether you want to keep up with the latest fashion trends or not, always remember to keep your closet simple, versatile, and concise.”

 

How they suggest homing in on individual style:

“Define your color palette. If you adopt more of a monochromatic palette, it does make your looks easier to customize from day to day without having to own dozens of pieces. Introducing color to your wardrobe is not a bad thing, but try to limit the number of colors, as this will keep styling simple and versatile, and the last thing you want to do is waste time and stress about what to wear.”

 

On considering quality over cost:

“They may seem pricey if you look at the price on the price tag alone, but you should consider the actual cost of a thing. Often, the cost goes beyond the price itself. It’s important to choose well and make it last. You’ll see the benefits over time through less waste, less maintenance, and less stress. In practical terms, you could create a digital capsule collection through the likes of Pinterest and shop around for the best price, or if you’re patient, hold out for discounts. This also gives you a clear visual overview of what you need to invest in.”

Toying with the idea to transition? The following are a few key pieces from minimalist brands to inspire your own capsule collection.

ADay Something Borrowed Shirt, $125

“Both of us knew how comfortable activewear felt, yet we wanted more from our wardrobe. We wanted simple yet versatile pieces, those staples we could do anything in. So we set out to find an amazing team and together create the clothing of the future, which is beautiful, technical, and sustainable. All our pieces are made from technical + comfortable fabrics yet beautifully designed.” —ADay Founders

Turn it Up Pant, $115

“We think of ADay as the uniform and base layer in your wardrobe, those superhero staples you pair with a nice jacket or some layering pieces. Headspace, it’s nice to meet you.” —ADay Founders

Throw It Higher Leggings, $135

“Technical properties in garments allow for more versatility, so for us here at ADay, this is the ultimate ticket to minimalism: fewer garments that can do more things. We are saying goodbye to the days where we had to buy a number of different garments for different activities and stuff our suitcases with them. Breathable, sweat-wicking, and cut for dinner parties? That’s our wardrobe 2.0.” —ADay Founders

Oversized Alpaca Cardigan, $225

“We believe that you can have amazing quality and curated design, and it can still be accessible. We have traveled the world to find the best materials and the most passionate craftsmen out there. Each product we create is carefully considered from beginning to end, and this fresh, accessible approach to fashion really resonates with consumers.” —Co-Founder of Cuyana Shilpa Shah

Cotton Cashmere Crewneck Sweater, $145

“Seasonless pieces make up the foundation of the modern woman’s wardrobe. They are versatile, transitional, and rife with options for styling. Consider pieces like a feminine silk cami, or a cotton-cashmere sweater—no matter what weather you’re experiencing, they are pieces you will look to for any type of occasion.” —Co-founder of Cuyana Shilpa Shah

Le Sud Leather Satchel, $295

“Our designers are first and foremost inspired by the lifestyle of the modern woman. Each piece fulfills a purpose and has subtle, functional details. But beyond this, we celebrate fashion and art. Our designers find inspiration all around them—on the streets, at an art exhibit, watching an old film, or reading a book that brings new perspective. Our collections reflect this balance. Each piece is necessary, but it is also rooted in a greater vision.” —Co-founder of Cuyana Karla Gallardo

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