The Relationship Between Minimalist Fashion and Class



Minimalism and minimalist fashion have become a growing trend over recent years. While the minimalist movement originated in post-World War II America as an art movement, with Marie Kondo’s 2019 Netflix series Tidying up with Marie Kondo it seems that the minimalist lifestyle is growing in popularity.


Minimalist fashion is also a current trend, with neutral colours and staple items of clothing to create a capsule wardrobe which can be worn for any occasion. High end brands are also fond of the minimalist style, keeping many of their products simple yet classy. Minimalism exudes class, and those who dress in the style project an image of sophistication and wealth, but despite being so basic, why does minimalism give the impression of high class?

Minimalism and waste


While minimalism is all about the less is more mindset, promoting anti- consumerism and freedom through a lack of material possessions, changing to this lifestyle from a normal, or an over consumeristic lifestyle, creates a large amount of waste.


Waste is at the heart of fashion. With the number of garments produced annually doubling since 2000 and exceeding 100 billion in 2014, an estimate of 92 million tons of waste is produced each year in the fashion industry. We can see why it is so important that the industry takes steps towards becoming more sustainable and why perhaps a more mindful and minimalistic approach to fashion, and life in general, may be the way forward given the current crisis.


However, decluttering and changing to a minimalistic wardrobe naturally create a large amount of waste. After Marie Kondo’s Netflix series, charity shops have reported that clothing donations have doubled which although is a positive, there are also the clothes that don’t get donated and are instead thrown away. Minimalism appears to be a paradox which in the long term can help the planet, but the switch between lifestyles creates a large amount of waste which could be avoided if people kept hold of their clothes and upcycled them.

Minimalist style and class


As it is commonly said, fashion is a language which expresses a person's personality and status through their garments. In minimalist fashion there is a concern of class and privilege. The simplistic elegance of minimalism carries a subliminal message of superiority and wealth. While of course, fashion is all about individual taste, overall, this is style typical of a certain middle- class who have no need to flaunt eye catching outfits in order to project their wealth, instead they chose to do it through a strict capsule wardrobe.


The fact that people have the choice to own as little or as much as they like certainly carries some privileges. In an article for The Guardian, Chelsea Fagan argues that minimalism is simply nothing more than a performative reduction of consumption, which makes people feel as though they have the moral higher ground. she writes;


"You cannot choose to 'declutter' if you are already living in a sparse home you cannot afford to furnish. You cannot 'reduce' the food you consume if you are already only able to put one good meal on the table per day".


It appears as though minimalism can be seen as a way for the middle classes to fetishize the 'poor aesthetic' and by owning few items that are highly expensive and an upfront investment in their surroundings, instead of a cheaper alternative.


Minimalism encourages us to throw out old and unwanted clothing which many do not have the luxury of being able to do.


High fashion and Minimalist Style


The Editorialist's article on the 13 Best Minimalist Clothing Brands features a list of highly expensive, yet highly ordinary clothing brands. Prices of items of clothing on this list range anywhere from $34 to over $2000 which makes me question how brands are able to ask such high prices for items that seem like they are basic wardrobe pieces.


Many brands such as Prada, Gucci and Channel use minimalistic designs for their products, once again highlighting that minimalism is synonymous with wealth. The simplicity of many of the product that high end fashion brands create go to show that people will pay just for the name of a brand, rather than perhaps something that has more character.


While on the catwalk, these brands may be bold and push the boundaries of fashion, however when it comes to selling products to the public, minimalistic style seems to be the most universal.