Men's fashion with Paul McLauchlan: The return to minimalism

Living in a world of sensory overload, it comes as no surprise that purity is a welcome breath of fresh air when it comes to our wardrobes.

Men's fashion with Paul McLauchlan: The return to minimalism

Living in a world of sensory overload, it comes as no surprise that purity is a welcome breath of fresh air when it comes to our wardrobes.

Salvatore Ferragamo — Runway — Milan Men’s Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2020/2021.
Salvatore Ferragamo — Runway — Milan Men’s Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2020/2021.

When there are a million things happening at once, as our screens draw us inward, simplifying one’s wardrobe is the fashion equivalent of seeking solace.

Maximalism is at its peak on the runway with a panoply of patterns and burst of colour on next to every runway. But minimalism is resurgent, taking cues from the 1990s. Sober suiting was present on autumn/winter runways while simpler renditions of classic wardrobe staples popped up in all four cities.

Practitioners of minimal fashion such as Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, and Martin Margiela at Hermès, signalled a weighted shift in fashion over 20 years ago when they rebuked the industry’s glossy exterior with a strict rigour. Lang, in particular, captivated fashion audiences in the 1990s with his rendition of clean lines, unconventional fabrication, and questioning tendencies. Who said fashion has to be loud to make a statement?

This was echoed in the advent of social media, when a cohort of Scandinavian influencers emerged as some of the most- watched men and women in media. Attired in a pristine closet of white, pearl, and other neutral tones, their streamlined approach to dressing became aspirational for those who didn’t aspire to the shirtless social media denizens. Less truly became more.

This is something COS has been doing for years. Founded in 2007 as part of the H&M Group, the Swedish label’s modus operandi is simplicity and function, perfunctory clothes made to last at a relatively affordable price. While much of fast fashion dates and, even worse, is a throwaway purchase, COS garments age well.

“Menswear is very important at COS, it is a category which is constantly changing and developing, and we are continually trying to find innovative ways to work. We are always striving to reinvent wardrobe staples and deliver the best possible quality in our design,” said Christophe Copin, head of menswear at COS.

One interesting thing about the brand is that instead of following the traditional concept of trends, we look to the world of art and design for our inspiration.

The spring/summer 2020 collection consisted of items such as a leather overshirt but in light blue leather with a camp collar, a relaxed fit t-shirt with an intarsia-knit colour-blocked print of green and bronze. The simpler pieces included a minimal double-breasted cotton shirt in pewter, technical lightweight trousers, and a fleece wool zip-up jumper.

Intarsia-knit t-shirt, COS, €59.
Intarsia-knit t-shirt, COS, €59.

Double-breasted cotton shirt in pewter, COS, €79.
Double-breasted cotton shirt in pewter, COS, €79.

“We didn’t set out to be minimal but we focus on modernity and functionality, designing pieces to last. There is always something unexpected for our customers, our minimal aesthetic never stops us from experimenting with design,” said Copin.

Therein lies the biggest misconception with minimalism, that the aesthetic infers a distillation of ideas.

Sometimes, the simple things are the most effective.

New York-based brand The Row, the label fronted by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, offers minimal clothing so expensive it could grow arms and legs and shatter your bank account in two with its bare hands. Coming in at €4,600 on MATCHESFASHION, a single-breasted coat, made in Italy, is crafted from ultra-soft wool.

The silhouette features a coordinating button fastening and notched lapels, inlaid with discreet side-slip pockets, with black satin lining constructed so as not to slip through when layered over shirts.

“The beauty of extreme simplicity and streamlined silhouettes is the effort that goes into creating such an unassuming aesthetic is often quite a demanding process,” said Damien Paul, head of menswear at MATCHESFASHION.

Pared down shapes and palettes as seen in Lemaire, Raey or Rochas engage incredibly well with our customer.

Few designers capture the aesthetic in the same vein as Jil Sander, the Milan-based German label. Under the stewardship of co-creative directors Lucie and Luke Meier, they have maintained the vision of the brand’s founder: Self-empowerment doesn’t necessarily come in the form of overt sexuality, rather a self -directed appreciation of form and function, simplicity of silhouette and colour.

Jil Sander
Jil Sander

“We are delighted to present our exclusive Jil Sander capsule collection launching in February — the epitome of Lucie and Luke’s monastic vision,’ said Paul at MATCHESFASHION, adding: “I think the foundations of modern minimalism are the small details and elevated fabrications meaning the lack of print and colour does not mean lack of interest.”

Having launched last week, the collaboration comprises of a seven-day shirt collection in white cotton, two overcoats, a tuxedo, pants, and loafers.

“We talked a lot about the person going through the week, like ‘what do you feel like on a Monday and what do you want to wear by Thursday?’ You’re already thinking about the weekend by Wednesday, so talking it through helped to find the right proposal for us,” said the designers.

Here, minimalism is as much about a streamlined thought process of dressing during busy weeks as it is about the proposition of crisp white shirt in white cotton, a cashmere overcoat for life. With elevated quality, the term ‘basics’, with its disposable connotations, are replaced by something to cherish. Better yet, they will look as radically simple but elegant in 2020 as 2030, in the same way they are as desirable in 2020 as 2010 before it, and the early 00s and 90s before that.

Good clothes stand the test of time, the endurance of minimalism has proved, and as a single-button Jil Sander overcoat, with its soft shoulders, supple tailoring, and indulgent cashmere illustrate. As Paul said:

Quiet but resolutely powerful, I don’t think minimalism has ever been boring.

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