India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
March 05, 2018

Less, But Luxe!

Text by Geeta Rao

Minimalism and stripping things down to the essentials may enable you to hone your personal style and sensibility, life and lifestyle. We find that judiciously letting go without guilt can lead to maximum happiness

Too much of a good thing, it turns out, may not be a good thing after all. Minimalism and decluttering were keywords in 2017, and if you haven’t at least made a feeble attempt to apply the KonMarie method to your life, well, your time starts now. The KonMarie method comes from Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In fashion speak, this means editing, whittling down and curating one’s wardrobe to have just what you need without feeling overwhelmed. Kondo suggests emptying out your wardrobe entirely, dumping everything onto the bed or floor and then dividing stuff into piles — things that speak to you and you love, stuff that has no relevance, stuff that you are hanging onto but can do without and stuff that you hate. Put them into bags and get rid of all except the ones that made it to the love pile. Her real insight is that we will get it back into the system if we don’t give it away straight away. Donate, sell on ebay, gift to willing friends, or just trash. The choice is yours. I am not sure what Kondo would have to say to Kemal, the protagonist of Orhan Pamuk’s bestselling Museum of Innocence, who hung onto 4,213 cigarette stubs smoked by his dearly beloved Fusun. Obsessive love for a person and an obsessive love for clothes may actually be more similar than one thinks.

Minimalism is about stripping down all aspects of life — design, living spaces and clothes — to essential elements. New minimalism is about investing in fewer, but more high-quality possessions — less, but luxe. When you have fewer choices in clothes you are likely to find your signature personal style as well. Investing mindfully in a few good pieces rather than junk will ensure you are always well dressed. Minimalism in clothes suggests a sort of a Zen aesthetic. A return to a few timeless classic pieces or a monochromatic palette of nudes, blacks, whites and greys to blend seamlessly into multiple occasions and looks. The silhouette may be pared down too — less frills, flounces, embellishments and fussy shapes, more clean lines. Savio Jon’s designs, Sujata Keshavan’s Varana collection and Eka’s saris have this aesthetic approach.

For a bling-loving Indian, (at least I am one) the pared down, monochromatic aesthetic may be difficult to manage but the principle is not — we can all reduce, declutter and edit. Experts suggest creating mini capsule collections within your wardrobe — work wear, evening wear, holiday/beach wear, winter wear, wedding wear (this is India). If you had four to six good pieces in each collection, that’s about 20 outfits. Accessorise each capsule — handbag and shoes, as relevant. This does not have to be the forever wardrobe, but the rule could be that when you buy something new you will remove something. Regular purging is good to maintain this discipline.

Minimalism could also be reduction by numbers. In the ’80s, Donna Karan redefined urban chic with her iconic collection of seven easy pieces fabricated with jersey, metal and wool that could be mixed and matched.

Project 333 started by Courtney Carver challenges you to wear 33 pieces (accessories, shoes and outerwear included) for three months. Sounds like a big number, but it is surprisingly easy.

Finding a style formula or ‘uniform’ is another way of approaching this lifestyle. Renowned media professional and academic Sunita Chitrapu took the thinking out of her professional wardrobe. She invested in six standard cotton Kerala kasavu saris — five for each day of the week and one backup. She found it liberating and time-saving. “I started in September 2017 and it led to interesting conversations with my colleagues. Some of them recalled family members, parents mostly, who had very few items in their closet. It’s been four months and I have worn the ‘uniform’ almost 95 per cent of the time and plan to continue.”

One of the best tips I read to declutter your wardrobe is to let go of clothes you are saving for the ‘Other You’. Aha! We have all been there. You know that self — the one who will one day be 10 kilos lighter, the one who will suddenly develop lean long limbs and lose the batwings to fit into those clothes perfectly! And here is another tip. Stop posting on Facebook. The urge not to repeat clothes thanks to social media posts has created its own sartorial pressure.

Is this all leading to another kind of throwaway mentality? Will the urge to be minimalist make us ruthless about things we should cherish? Susan Sontag mourned this in her essay On Photography: ‘Fewer and fewer Americans possess objects that have a patina, old furniture, grandparent’s pots and pans …used things warm with generations of human touch’.

Worse, what if we start missing our stuff?

‘We have to move from closet-ful economics to mindful economics,’ says UC Berkeley economist Clair Brown in her book Buddhist Economics. Instead of chucking our stuff which could be a painful and emotional process, we could get to the root — stop accumulating so much instead. Letting go without guilt is another lesson we can apply. It will make us less obsessive about things we own. That is the kind of minimalism that could lead to maximum happiness.

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