Japanese brand Muji has always been a clear expression of minimalistic principles, always infusing their designs with tranquillity and pause for thought. On the one year anniversary of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Muji presents the Product Fitness 80 exhibition at the Design Museum, proposing a reconsideration of the way in which design impacts on the way we use energy and addressing the following questions: What would happen if we used 20% less materials and energy in the actual process of making products? And in terms of the final object, what is then the role of the user in customising, re-using and recycling products in order to reduce energy consumption? Following the Japanese concept of monozukuri, which means the state of mind of crafting with a minimalist focus while designating a commitment to society and to the planet, Muji’s products have always reflected the search for comfort and purpose. Product Fitness 80 is another step in that direction, representing the firm’s will to raise awareness by reviewing their own conduct and setting an important example. Photography by Joe Humphrys.
Simplified Clothing, or SMPLFD, is a north-american collective from Detroit that believes firmly in “less is more” and strives to deliver thoughtful imagery by means of bold, clever and simple designs. Despite that straightforwardness, they aim to be thought-provoking: We feel an enigmatic demeanor is more fashionable than the opposite so our designs merely elude to ideas, rather than state anything definitely. In other words, they are a door to enter, rather than a billboard that talks at you. What I like about SMPLFD is their freshness. The world today is saturated with t-shirt designs that are a dime a dozen, and these just catch the eye in the middle of that busyness. I especially like the quirk of the featured cardigan and the reductionist Marlboro logo tee (which, admittedly, took me a moment to figure out).
Japanese studio Nendo strikes again: the Block vases are a set of delicate, small and stackable bud vases that form part of the collection of new additions to their 1% products, to be presented in Milan’s Salone del Mobile this coming April. The vases are carefully measured and designed to fit in stackable formations, never disturbing the vase on the bottom. There are four sizes and each can accomodate one flower, but once stacked they can also fit a tall stem through the different combined vases. Only 100 of each vase will be made, as befits the concept of the 1% products. According to Nendo: 100 is the perfect amount: they’re neither one-off “works of art” nor mass-produced products made in the millions. Whether its the skill of the artisans or new technologies, we want to make things that are only possible because there are 100 of them. Not more, not less. To give owners the chance to experience the joy of owing 1%.
A music-and-fashion label with french and japanese roots, Maison Kitsuné‘s collections often have a very classic, essentially Parisian feel to them, and this Spring/Summer 2012 collection is no exception. Inspired by North-American classic film The Great Gatsby, the maison adds a Parision twist to the collection, featuring a mixture of timeless silhouettes with soft pastel colors and impeccable materials and tailoring. When patterns appear, they are muted in the seasonal pastel hues and classic shapes. I’m usually a fan of bold, geometric, contrasting statements, but this aesthetic has a very fresh, light, spring-summery feel that works well with the elegance lines and the simplicity of concept.
Minimalistic trends in beauty and fashion tend to come and go, but this season’s experts declare a much more stronger focus on preparing and polishing the skin and paring down several make-up elements. Natural-looking, or “nude” make-up (as opposed to non-existant) often consists of a neutral color palette of taupes and browns and a flawless skin-base. For recent Spring/Summer 2012 fashion shows at Proenza Schouler, Missoni and Peter Pilotto, the make-up artists even dismissed the use of mascara for women’s eyelashes, leaving the eyes bare. As the owner of straight, light-colored eyelashes myself, it’s interesting to observe this value for increasingly “naked” aesthetics in make-up and beauty. I believe that the great numbers of men who prefer women with “little to no make-up” might appreciate this trend! Photography from Vogue UK.
NYC-based architecture firm Tacklebox is behind the design and concept for skincare brand Aesop‘s store in Elizabeth Street. Succintly filled with oak shelves stocked with products aligned with spartan precision, the main feature of this space, however – and nearly unseen due to its very subtle texture - is the the concept of newsprint walls (stacked strips of newspapers held within a continuous oak wrapper), covering nearly every surface of the shop. Like paper, they will age over time, as the architects affirm: Just as oak is commonly used to store and age wine and spirits, so too will the newspaper age, turning a light tan, thus marking the passing of time. In this way, the history of Aesop North America will be recorded within the very walls of this first store. Photography by Gianluca Fellini and Tacklebox.
Designed in Brooklyn, NY by Bubble Calendar LLC, this poster-sized calendar (122 x 46 cm) has a bubble to pop for every single day of the year. Set in Helvetica Neue and with a very simple and elegant design, it’s a very appropriate tool for both design-conscious and modern homes or offices as well as a fun learning tool for kids (who are we kidding, adults would love to pop those bubbles too). Days of the week and all major holidays and weekends are marked in bold for easy reference (there is also a version with weekends marked by black backgrounds) in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. The calendar is printed on thick paper (80 pound cover stock) and can even be customized with a personal logo. I’m very sure that I’d have a hard time not popping all the bubbles in one go… Photography by Alex Kotlik.
This concept store and atelier for fashion designer Hila Gaon was designed by Karina Tollman and Philipp Thomanek of Israeli studio k1p3 in Tel Aviv. The gallery-like space features 9 dresses from the current collection, hung in prominent display upon store mannequins (which were custom-made by the architects, based on traditional seamstress dolls). The complete collection, for its part, is stored in a translucent and lit closet along the length of one wall, and the main space is completed by a large dressing room and fitting area that are provided for the bride and her entourage. I appreciate this design for its lack of fuss concerning the dresses. Dress-shopping can often become a stressful activity and it’s a good thing to have a clear and minimalist space to cancel out distractions and to aid in this choice! Photography by Ardon Barhama.
When two talented people meet, an edgy fashion designer and an unconventional photographer, an astonishing project, intriguing in many levels, originates. The Serpens collection lookbook is the product of the collaboration between the Chinese fashion designer Qui Hao and the Shanghai based, French photographer Matthieu Belin. Named after the constellation of the northern hemisphere – the reptile, the mythological symbol that represents both good and evil – Serpens is as mysterious, futuristic and compelling as its name implies. An extravagant collection in which the size is the absolute dominant. Oversized clothes touched by the magic wand of minimalism. The use of black and white (evil / good) and the absence of colours add an extra dramatic dimension while emphasizing the simple, geometric lines that hide behind the original idea. An unfinished game between textures and sizes. The photography concept is working on the same wavelength. Models like mannequins form geometric shapes with their bodies within the photo frame. Again, the absence of make up and the elimination of shadows produce a neutral canvas, where the clothes seem the only thing alive. Bodies like robots, clothing like structures, a rather architectural approach in a fashion photo shoot.
Created by Spanish designers CrousCalogero for Estiluz, the Balloon Lamp is a very simple, clean and playful lighting fixture, pleasing children and adults alike. Emitting a soft and warm light, the lamp’s shade is made of satinized polyethylene, a translucent material that hides an energy saving fluorescent bulb. A thin red cable hangs subtly from the shade, serving as a switch in the wall version (a ceiling option is also available). It’s the perfect fixture for a young one’s room, but also for a couple’s alcove or a modern living room. Seeing it in person immediately made me smile (and desire one for myself)!
Minimal and warm; clean, crisp and a place to call home at the same time. Everything is possible when Norm Architects is involved. The Humlebaek House was a former land workers house, located in Denmark and converted by Danish architecture firm Norm, into a unique home-studio. Originally constructed with brick walls, concrete floor and steel beams, it had almost anything an inspiring conversion needs, except one: adequate daylight. And that was the biggest issue. Unable to interfere in the exterior walls, as the building is protected by local architectural restrictions, the architects had but one choice: walls painted white and a new concrete floor treated with shiny epoxy, to help spread the light. And the result justified them; luminous spaces that reveal their history, a minimal approach with the necessary touch of colour, a well-designed place to feel yourself at home. One of Norm Architects’ best interior projects and certainly one of my favourites.
Published in 2011, this book by journalist Harriet Walker surveys one of the most wide-reaching movements in fashion, taking the reader through the transformations of minimalist along the decades, ever since Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel in the early 20th century, when women’s clothes became pared down and practical after centuries of complex construction. Walker argues that minimalism is not an exclusive club for intellectuals, but an egalitarian popular movement, and writing the book led other conclusions: The process of simplification has underpinned every great progression and movement, not only within womenswear but politically and culturally. Reviewing the work of designers who, over the decades, have adopted minimalist principles in their work, from Coco Chanel to Donna Karan and Jil Sander; and from the avant-garde style of Japanese masters Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto to contemporary interpretations by Gareth Pugh, Roland Mouret, COS and Zara, Less is More tells the story of an enduring aesthetic that has subtly shaped modern fashion.