High Functioning

A new style of minimalism is gathering momentum. In a time when fabric is grown in laboratories and everything from guns to human organs can be printed at the click of a button, fashion is on a quest to understand what is real. This is a movement grounded in the corporeal and fascinated with the mind.

Gone is the deconstruction of gender norms that preoccupied designers working at the height of minimalist fashion in the early nineties (both Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela’s Hermès were exemplars of the style.) Buttoned-up androgynous suiting has been replaced with nomadic kimono-style jackets worn with wide-legged trousers and Moroccan slippers as seen at The Row. The clinical starkness of black and white has been swapped for a more seductive palette of navy and grey as seen in the collections of 1205 – the cult label that quietly prises opens a dialogue about tactility and intimacy in a digital age.

“I think that with over information, we have lost our instinctive sense of touch,” says Paula Gerbase, the designer behind 1205. “My fabric choices are consciously unreadable from a distance, totally truthful to this search for intimacy. This move towards a simpler way of being is totally a rebellion against our time." As more elaborate advances in technology begin to creep into our lives, it has encouraged designers to deliver textures, cuts and silhouettes intended to inspire a deeper connection to the body.

The relaxed sensuality of everything designer Christophe Lemaire shows for his namesake brand in Paris responds to this need too. With influences from classic Mongolian costume with its flat patterns and deconstructed softness to the aloof glamour of 1970s Sonia Rykiel and Guy Paulin; Lemaire’s is a style of dress that magnifies what is essential.

And there is elegance to minimalism. The Yugoslavian-born designer Zoran Ladicorbic – who arrived in New York in 1972 – premiered his Five Easy Pieces collection alongside the gossamer and glitz of Studio 54 in 1976, showing one pair of black trousers, a black skirt and three ivory tops. With no buttons, snaps or zippers, his clothes question the very essence of simplicity and are known only to a coterie of women who today buy directly from him after he withdrew from traditional retail in the early 2000s.

Imagine clothes so plain, they are almost celestial. “These clothes require a woman with character, someone with great confidence,” says the Serbian-born, Milan-based designer Dušan Paunovic who worked with Zoran for six years before establishing his own eponymous label in 1999. Paunovic’s collections too have largely remained a trade secret amongst gallerists, designers and architects. “I strives to make clothes that are modern without directly reflecting the times,” he says, offering a wardrobe that undeniably questions the need for constant reinvention.

Whimsical, frothy clothes look outdated when so much of our fantasy has come to life. “What we place onto our bodies should neutralise the images and sounds that constantly flash in our faces, encouraging a clearer and more focused mind,” says the motion and digital designer and director Julien Simshäuser. “So in that respect, really, how can minimalism ever be wrong?” Today we are looking for an authenticity in what we wear that goes beyond the elegant functionality offered by the latest in wearable technology. “I really appreciate the advantage of new fabrication techniques where you don’t directly see the tech but you can feel it,” Simshäuser says. “In such a classic discipline like fashion, technology shouldn’t be the detail. It should be invisible.”

Along with our new ways of living, the role that clothes play in our day-to-day has changed. “Our lives have become simpler, less defined by rules of social etiquette,” says Maria Lemos, the founder of Rainbowwave fashion agency and owner of London lifestyle boutique Mouki Mou. “It is acceptable to wear the same clothes from morning to night, to wear flats in the evening, to wear jewellery in the morning. This is liberating women from social restrictions and allowing us to develop a personal style.” Lemos has always been drawn to the principle of Less is More. Clothes should defy time and seasonality and get better as they wear. Lemos cites Japanese labels such as Arts & Science and 45RPM as leaders of the style; clothes that resist the seasonal whim of fashion.

With their paired back precision, Dušan’s pleated silk shift, a leather bucket bag by Los Angeles based multi-medium design studio Building Block and 1205’s tailored dress in soft baby alpaca, propose a luxury that is exacting and eloquent. They remind us of our own place in amongst the chaos of the everyday.

As published in Wallpaper* September 2015

1205 photographed by Liam Warwick
Dušan photographed by Liam Warwick