Maximalism has been trending for close to a decade now. In 2010 as the
world began to pull itself out of the worst global economic crisis since
the Great Recession, designers began returning to a maximalist aesthetic.
Embellishments, bright colors, patterns, and the idea of wealth was
celebrated again. Then along came Alessandro Michele at Gucci, and voilá,
maximalism was in full effect and in demand. Although brands, like the
aforementioned Gucci, are keeping the maximalist movement going straight
the recent Fashion Month runways took a turn toward minimalism.

Is threat of a recession driving designers to go more minimalist?

The trend was first noticed at the men’s European shows in January, where
designers took a darker, more muted tone toward their collections.
Designers from Alyx to Ermenegildo Zegna were heavy on the neutral colors,
and collections were more subdued than they had been in past seasons.

While all trends come and go, recall that during the peak of the economic
crisis between 2007 and 2008, black, white, grey, and navy dominated the
Fashion Month runways more than ever. In June 2019, a handful of economists
surveyed by the Wall Street Journal predicted that economic expansion would
end in 2020, meaning that private-sector economists see a recession
happening within the next two years.

Designers are taking a more minimalist approach in face of economic
uncertainty

Although the unemployment rate is currently at 3.8 percent and the Dow
Jones Industrial Index is above 26,000 points, between the ongoing trade
battle with China, the recent government shutdown, and Donald Trump
threatening to close the Mexican border, which would cost the U.S. a loss
of hundreds of millions of dollars a day (although he later backtracked on
that), America’s moment of economic prosperity could be put to a halt.

Is threat of a recession driving designers to go more minimalist?

Brick-and-mortar stores are already struggling with stores like Victoria’s
Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch already planning to close dozens of stores
this year. Department store orders also aren’t what they used to be, with
buyers doing tighter, more curated edits for the sales floor and online.
This has led to designers being more cautious about their approach to
trends and design as buyers look for things that will sell easily.

Coming out of the 2008 recession, the Fashion Month runways became filled
with bright colors, bold patterns, embellishments, and appliqués. Fashion
could finally make a statement again after years of designers being
cautious of doing understated things that were approachable and could sell.
Eventually, logomania also came back into full effect.

Brands like Balenciaga, Fendi, and Gucci began emblazoning their logos on
merchandise ranging from ready-to-wear to handbags because the culture of
flaunting your wealth was no longer taboo. It was okay to let people know
who you were wearing and where you were shopping without them even asking,
a practice that had fallen out of favor as Americans were losing their jobs
and savings accounts left and right. With the job market and the stock
market booming again, fashion was back, bigger, and more luxe than ever.

Even on the heels of the election of Donald Trump, designers actually used
it as an opportunity to go more maximalist in resistance to the darker more
negative times we have been living in. However, as Trump has worked to
restrict immigration and crackdown on undocumented immigrants, which many
sectors of the U.S. economy, like agriculture and construction, are
dependent on, economists are very cautious about how this will affect the
markets and economic growth. Retail spending declines during periods of
economic instability, and the end goal of fashion is to sell clothes,
making designers more cautious in their design approaches.

Yes, there’s still the maximalist brands like Gucci and the logo heavy
sweaters that are must-haves at Balenciaga right now, but looking at some
of the faster growing brands right now, particular men’s brands, they have
a more minimalist DNA. Alexandre Mattiussi’s AMI and Amiri are two brands
that have been surging in popularity and make heavy use of neutral colors.
Amiri’s most recent fall/winter runway show was practically an homage to
black. Over here in New York City, menswear designers, like David Hart, who
were notorious for their use of color, showed an entire collection of
neutrals this past February.

All trends must come and go, and maximalism’s time to lay dorment for
another decade or two will come eventually, but it’s not just a matter of
coincidence that designers are opting to go minimalist now, particularly in
New York and Britain, the former clueless as to if or when one of Trump’s
economic policies could start to send the country into a tailspin, and the
latter in the middle of Brexit, whose means to an end have continuously
failed under Prime Minister Theresa May.

In March, the guardian reported that the UK was suffering retail sales as
the country faces uncertainty over Brexit. Despite an improving look for
household finances and fading levels of inflation, shoppers were reluctant
to make big purchases out of fear that their country could be thrown into
economic turmoil once they left the EU. The Guardian reported that high
street sales have dropped 0.4 percent over the three months to February.

Over here in America with retail stores closing, and the retail sector
being one of the largest job sectors in the U.S., communities who relied
heavily on jobs coming from stores like Sears now face a rise in
unemployment numbers. While the U.S. economy and other job sectors are
seeing growth, a hit to one of America’s largest job sectors will soon
start to see some longer term effects.

Here it is as the runways brace themselves, beginning to play it safe once
more. A return to the sporty styles and the minimalism of the end of the
first decade of the ’00s can be expected these coming Fashion Months. The
political instability of the U.S. and Britain stands a chance at turning
the fashion industry on its heads, and it’s something that will be watched
closely by everyone from designers to department store CEOs.

photo 1: via Agentry PR
photo 2: via Balenciaga.com
photo 3: courtesy of KCD Worldwide



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