10 things you need to know about maximalism
By Nhlanhla Masemola
Excess isn't new. Picasso, and Baroque artists before him, understood the power of impact and saturating space with details and colour. Today in fashion and pop culture this 'overmuchness' is very much in vogue from street style stars, fashion designers, tastemakers to magazines hailing the new dawn of maximalism. For those unfamiliar with the term, here are a few important points about the movement that's taken the fashion world by storm.
1. So, what's Minimalism?
The 1980s and 1990s were definitive years for fashion. The eighties gave Japanese design credibility in the eyes of western fashion with its deconstructed approach to clothing – what we know as minimalism began here. It was revolutionary and challenged ideas of defined sexuality and glamour with its clinical and unorthodox take on fashion. This period saw brands such as Calvin Klein and Jil Sander, as well as Maison Martin Margiela, gain relevance and influence over design in clothing.
2. It's a reaction to minimalism
This one is a no-brainer. Maximalism is the fashion antithesis of, and reaction to, minimalism. Trends often come and go in extremes – left or right and hot or cold – and we've currently stepped out from a minimalist resurgence that begun approximately 5 years ago. 'Queen of clean', Phoebe Philo, was hitting her stride as the creative director at luxury brand Céline. Philo's sophisticated M.O managed to steer fashion in the direction of a new and tidy locale. She and other such influential 'minimalistas' of that time included Alexander Wang, the Olsen twins and Raf Simons, recently appointed at Dior. Clean lines and understated tones were on everyone's lips, bodies and blogs.
3. It's not just another trend
Larger trends, unlike fads, not only stick around a little longer but mark more than just what we put on our bodies. Politics for example have a complementary relationship with the way people dress. The election of United States President, Donald Trump in 2016 was more than controversial and polarising – it was momentous. Well-known trend forecaster, Lidewij Edelkoort, when asked how Trump would influence fashion said to DW.com, "in these times of fear, in the big parts of the world, in densely structured fighting societies, fashion tends to become very extravagant." She continues by saying, “There’s this whole urgency, I believe, to truly change form. It has been too basic for too long, and we need to have a new incentive. Theatrical clothes are going to be important.”
4. It's Gucci’s fault
The pendulum has swung once again with minimalism taking a break and all things loud coming in. Most trend innovations have a point of origin or, according to The Cut, a 'spiritual leader'. No one had heard of Alessandro Michele when he set fashion ablaze with sequins, bedazzlement and gauche accessory things that were undeniably covetable. Michele, the current creative director at Gucci, cut his teeth for years before taking the reins at one of the most recognisable brands that launched the likes of Tom Ford. Want more examples of Michele's influence? Look no further than the popularity of Moschino, rise of Balmain, carnival inspiration at Zara and piled accessories at Prada.
5. This is why the eighties came back
Life, self-expression, exuberance and second-wave feminism’s focus on the personal as well as the political are all synonymous with the era of Madonna and mullets. It shouldn't then come as a surprise that such a period in style and fashion is also having a grand moment. Gucci’s runways aren't just a sign of shifting tastes but rather a sign of the times with diverse casting and gender-ambiguous styling. Whether inspired by women's liberation or a hunt for innovation, this revival of a once-gaudy era considered 'tacky' is back. Evidently power suits and 'everything-but-the-kitchen-sink' eclecticism go hand in hand.
6. It works well for winter
With winter here, layering is not only on-trend, but a necessary technique to stay warm. Opting for maximalism gives us the perfect excuse to layer and keep layering until one looks like a haute winter burrito. Pile the clothes on and pile them high.
7. Anyone can be opulent
One reason why maximalism is appealing is because it's not difficult to be over-the-top. Not only do we get to channel our inner child but we get to explore louder parts of our style personalities. From fashion goddess Iris Apfel to Leandra Medine and ASAP Rocky, the art of dressing up in clashing prints and larger-than-life accessories has never been this inspired. For beginners an easy way to get on board is to mix different prints in the same colour family. Try playing around with different textures and build key looks with common fashion staples. White tees plus ripped jeans plus a leather jacket and fuzzy coat. Call on your inner hip-hop kid and go for large gold jewelry and printed scarves.
8. interiors are also feeling it
This new boldness isn't limited to our wardrobes. Home furnishings too seem to demand this unabashed audacity. According to Fastcodesign.com, this year’s Milan Design Week 2017 saw furniture, textile and interior designers opt for sumptuous materials and surfaces, and heaping on the subtle elements to yield items and furniture that was outwardly alluring and suggestive. Design writer Diana Budds explains: "the reasons behind this shift are just as nuanced as the designs themselves, and mirror many of the societal shifts we’re experiencing today"
9. Where are we now?
Where minimalism in fashion was defined by impersonal austerity and deconstructing notions of western fashion, what we have currently is a period that denounces the clinical and unfeeling. In its place is something that pulls at the heartstrings and makes us feel included. Vetements and Balenciaga are two brand names being thrown left and right in this age of modern mayhem with 'pretty ugly' being the describer we use when talking about their clothes. Very now and irreverent to what we consider tasteful fashion, this post-minimalist clothing captures maximalist attributes coupled with over-oversized silhouettes, seasonless garb and youthful zeal where rules don't quite exist.
10. Yes, you can be a minimal maximalist
Trends rarely exist entirely on their own for an extended period. Sometimes more than one major trend may have the spotlight or bleed into the next. We live in an age where trends hit and run faster than we can consistently digest and that's okay. We can have apples or oranges or the entire fruit basket. So minimalism may not be completely dead and your eye may be drawn to a cleaner palette.