Minimalism is back in fashion this season as new appointments at key fashion houses offer a contemporary update of this 1990s trend, from pale colours to androgynous tailoring. Jil Sander, Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein are among the masters of minimalist fashion, so get ready to embrace the simple things in life
We've witnessed such extravagant designs on the catwalk in recent seasons that minimalism often feels like a taboo term. A number of leading fashion houses, however, are revisiting the simple sophistication that defined their style during the 1990s, with cutting-edge new creative directors at their helms.
A number of leading fashion houses are revisiting the simple sophistication that defined their style during the 1990s
Jil Sander is a German fashion designer whose eponymous label became a byword for minimalist design during the 90s. Her aesthetic is built around the quiet confidence of clothes defined by clean lines, clever shapes and the versatility of loose tailoring. It was heartening, therefore, to see that the debut collection by Lucie and Luke Meier, the husband-and-wife design duo appointed as the label’s creative directors in 2017, was firmly in the spirit of Sander’s signature style.
Everything from the set – a futuristic white and silver spectacle designed by another architect of modernity, Zaha Hadid – down to the models’ minimal make-up felt like a logical consequence of the key features Sander had put in place. ‘You have these masculine, constructed, very sharp things, but what a lot of people don’t think about when they think about the brand is that there’s a really warm, kind of soulful sensuality,’ Luke Meier explained to American Vogue after the show.
This ‘soulful sensuality’ was portrayed in bias-cut semi-sheer dresses spliced with layers of lilac or a pale sherbet yellow. There was also an ecclesiastical edge to the range, with crisp white shirt-dresses, collarless shirts and androgynous black trousers paired with comfortable, functional overshirts. Towards the end of the collection the designs shifted gear, with crocheted dresses and jumpers in a patchwork of earthy colours. It seemed to reflect the cerebral side of the Meiers’ creativity, and their desire to engage in a conversation about what constitutes minimalism today.
Hugo Boss, founded in Metzingen in 1924, presented a utility feel for its latest Boss line menswear collection, with chief brand officer Ingo Wilts offering chic steel-grey trenches and drawstring hooded waterproofs in technical fabrics. Much of the outerwear was roomy and unstructured – reminiscent of the pared-down luxury of the 90s, when the brand’s fresh and preppy aesthetic epitomised the mood of the era.
A selection of all-white looks bore little in the way of embellishment, letting the loose, relaxed tailoring do the talking instead. Double-breasted black suits were worn slouchy and unbuttoned, and featured subtle go-faster stripes down the leg. Go-faster stripes are so commonplace now that it is easy to forget their 90s incarnation, when minimalist design was frequently injected with a sporty element.
At Calvin Klein, in Raf Simons’s second collection as creative director for the brand, androgynous tailoring was a key theme for both men and women. Simons is well-versed in minimalist tailoring, having previously worked at Jil Sander for seven years. For spring/summer 2018 a uniform of pleat-front silk trousers in shades of brown, black, green and yellow were paired with Western-style silk cowboy shirts that featured contrasting coloured pockets and closed collars.
By modelling an identical silhouette for both men and women, Simons sought to emphasise the impact of gender-neutral shapes, a theme Calvin Klein himself has revisited throughout his career. ‘I was influenced by my mother and the way she dressed. She wore very tailored clothes, things that were masculine – things that could be worn by a man,’ Klein explained in a recent interview with British GQ. ‘I wasn’t trying to make a statement, but I was using men’s clothing as my influence for women.’ Simons applied the same technique to a trio of looks that featured knitted tank tops styled with straight black trousers.
Other pieces included coloured suits in muted tones of blue, orange and purple, cut with a rounded, almost padded shoulder – a style seen on a number of catwalks this season. Overall the mood was modern, but there was something about the tone and feel of these looks that prompted memories of the colourful, streamlined shapes championed by Klein more than two decades earlier.
What Simons, the Meier duo and Wilts have shown is that they belong to a new generation of designers. Rather than merely revisiting old trends, these are creatives who draw from the archives of their respective labels. They offer clothes that embody each brand’s origins – while also conveying a contemporary, powerful and relevant aesthetic.