Till last year, Aashna Shroff’s entire wardrobe consisted of fast-fashion items. That changed when Denmark-based label Blanche gifted her a pair of pyjamas with an enclosed note describing how it was produced following sustainable practices. Compelled to know more, she opened YouTube on her phone and started learning about the concept of a minimalist wardrobe.
Her recent Instagram grid boasts of monochromes, clean cuts and athleisure. “Keeping it simple has become my go to. I am trying to reduce my usage of fast fashion and take the jump to be more ethical. That is a priority,” she says.
Shroff’s transformation is part of a wider trend. Interest in minimalist fashion surged last year as more reports came up showing how serious the problem of overproduction is in the fashion industry. In Spring/Summer 2021 collections, the trend accelerated 48.4% compared to the previous season, reported Tagwalk, a fashion search engine. Be it Prada, Jacquemus or Hermes, labels favoured black-and-white overalls, friendly layers and a trimmed silhouette. Essentials like tapered Khaki or denim pants, trench coats and no-fuss evening dresses hogged the limelight.
“People don’t want to buy something so trendy anymore, that it can be worn only for one season,” says celebrity stylist Edward Lalrempuia. Work from home and lack of glamorous events have given rise to comfort-driven clothing, but that doesn’t mean seasonal trends will drop off. With talks of revenge dressing already abuzz, he believes, “Once things get better, people will start buying something different again.”
Fashion blogger Usaamah Siddique insists he won’t be one of them. He has always preferred classy over trendy. Despite this, he found several barely-worn clothes while cleaning his closet during the lockdown. “I bought them because they were trendy at some point,” he admits. After donating them, he vowed to invest only in high-quality essentials. “A classic navy suit will never go out of style. Whereas, a red or a maroon would restrict the wearability and repeated value of the garment,” he says.
Often, minimalism has a connotation of being boring or safe. But Siddique believes styling one piece in different ways can stir up creativity. He considers it “a good challenge”. Fashion influencer Komal Pandey, who has over a million followers, has turned this challenge into her USP. She can wear a sweatshirt in more than five ways, style a blazer with a sari, and with the help of an elastic band or safety pin, even fashion a blouse out of scarves.
Beyond the veil of aesthetics, the aim of minimalist fashion is to limit consumption and get as many wears out of a fabric as possible. Fashion industry is the world's second largest polluter. One cotton shirt requires 2,700 litres of water and over 200 years to decompose.
“Look for clothes that turn into old friends, pieces that you will want to wear again and again,” says Sujata Assomull, an author and mindful fashion advocate. She insists on being an informed shopper and advises against impulse buys or purchasing something because of a designer tag. As Vivienne Westwood said, “Buy less, choose well, make it last."
So, how does one choose well? According to Assomull, it all starts with the cloth.
At Buna, designer Pallavi Shantam, favours natural fibres like Khadi, mulmul and Chanderi silk for their soft, airy and indulgent quality. Her flowy dresses showcase intricate block print and tie-dye work. “Minimalism is not the absence of detail. It's just that one has to look closer to find it,” she believes.
Once designer Suket Dhir’s mother mismatched the thread while fixing a button on his shirt. He grew so fond of it that buttons with mismatched threads are now a norm at his studio. “You don't observe these at first. But when you start wearing the piece, every time you discover something new,” he says. “I work a lot at the yarn stage. So, I don't need to add extra piping, extra panels...all that extra has been achieved at the artisanal level. My clothes are not complex, they are simple. But as soon as you get into the fabric, you’ll see how complex it is to achieve simplicity.”