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.
With the theme of natural feminine beauty, the 2012 Pirelli Calendar was unveiled this week in New York. This edition features Mario Sorrenti‘s work (the first italian photographer chosen in the history of the 47-year old italian calendar), who deliberately chose to not portray the models in an ‘obviously’ sexy fashion, as claimed by him in an interview for WWD: Originally I thought I was going to do very sexy pictures, and when we got there I realized that I didn’t want the pictures to be sexy at all. Faithful to this year’s theme, the images are elegant compositions based on a simple formula: the combined textures of the naked skin, framed and enhanced by the natural elements of the Corsica island. Beautifully minimalistic.
Known for his iconic designs for Joy Division and New Order record sleeves, Manchester-born Peter Saville became a pivotal figure in graphic design and style culture ever since his first work for Factory Records in the late 1970s. Encouraged by friend Malcolm Garrett from early on to discover the work of early modern movement typographers, Saville found their elegantly ordered aesthetic more appealing than the anarchic style of punk graphics and from them drew the inspiration for his first commercial project, the 1978 launch poster for The Factory nightclub in Manchester. When the club spawned the Factory Records label, Saville was named its art director and given unprecedented level of freedom to design whatever he wanted. His body of work features many experimentations with printing techniques and further on with digital tools, but Saville is well-known for his refined take on Modernism and has worked with notoriously minimalist brands such as Jil Sander and Raf Simons. He has also recently designed the English football team home shirt.
In the middle of a wheat field, between the Natural Park of the Bardenas Reales de Navarra and the town of Tudela, sits the small agglomeration of buildings of the Aire de Bardenas hotel. Designed by Barcelona-based, Latin-american architects Emiliano Lopez and Mónica Rivera, the hotel was conceived as a succession of protected spaces from which to contemplate the exterior, due to the site’s exposure to very strong winds. The ensemble is composed by a series of simple monochromatic cubic structures, arranged around a central court, offering climatic protection and providing simple, generous and silent spaces. I’m particularly interested in courtyard-based constructions and this architecture has been designed with a very notable respect for its surroundings and their climatic predispositions, all the while creating a quiet oasis of beauty and peace towards its center. Photography by José Hevia.
Paul Cocksedge, London designer, moulds discarded vinyl records into a range of amplifiers for smartphones in a project called Change the Record. Made by heating and moulding the plastic disks into a funnel shape, they amplify the sound from a phone placed inside simply through the nature of their shape. The speakers were ‘launched’ this year at a live performance to music during Ron Arad’s Curtain Call installation at the Roundhouse in London, where Cocksedge himself was heating and moulding old LPs and encouraging visitors to bring their own 12” record. A simple, elegant and playful way to amplify sounds from your smartphone and recycle to boot!
Designed by Koenraad Ruys for Belgian product company Moca, the Framed storage unit is a varnished buffet composed of multiple compartments in different colors, all integrated into a black steel frame. It’s a fun interpretation of De Stijl and Bauhaus principles in all its boxy geometric glory. As it’s been said before here in Minimalissimo, by no means does minimalist mean a fear of color, and Ruys proves that point with the right dose of sass to an object that is pure simplicity.
German industrial designer Günther Schunn is the creator of this sturdy, elegant and eco-friendly toy, infusing playtime with a valuable lesson in sustainability. The oscillating motion of the Calidu Rocking Horse powers an OLED lamp, instigating children to produce power and light by themselves. The horse is made from oak wood, metal handles and a leather fringe tail that completes the look with a touch of authenticity. Sometimes there is no better way to teach something than through the act of play, and this beautiful toy is a simple, captivating way to do that.
Graphic designer Alex Lin is the author of the signage and wayfinding of The Glass Pavilion, Japanese design firm SANAA‘s first building in the United States, housing the Toledo Museum of Arts’s entire glass collection. Since the near total of the pavilion’s interior and exterior walls are made of glass, the resulting visual noise for the visitor is extreme. In response to that, two basic rules were developed for all signage: if on the ground, it would be dark gray; everything else would be white. Respectful of SANAA’s well-known understated architecture, Lin’s signage and iconography is a work of subtlety, mindful of its surroundings, light and whimsical.
This home in Tel Aviv, Agbaria House, is a pared down, minimalistic rendition of traditional Islamic architecture. Designed by Tel Aviv architect Ron Fleisher, it combines the rich, lush element of the mashrabiya screens with simple, elegant lines of modernist architecture. The house maintains certain typical building elements, like high vents for natural ventilation, high vaulted ceilings, and the traditional liwan, around which the private areas of the house are arranged, all the while adapted to contemporary needs and a simple, geometric aesthetic. Being myself a lover of both Moorish architecture and their vast influence upon European architecture (as in Venice, southern Italy, Spain and Portugal), as well as modernist architecture, this house was a delightful find. Photography by Shai Epstein.
A beautiful, simple idea, executed with so much care: Shelframe, by London-based designer Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad. He writes: The shelves are designed to occupy a space normally reserved for a framed picture or painting, and they act so as to frame compositions of everyday objects. Please note how the cable starts in the center of the sides, to avoid tilting. And those little balls at the end of the cables… The whole design speaks purity and care. I like that very much.
Sleek, simple and stackable, the AMAC plastic boxes have been in production for over 50 years since Gene Hurwitt introduced them to the pharmaceutical industry. They were soon adapted by Andy Warhol and today are a part of MoMA’s permanent design collection. AMAC themselves put it quite perfectly: An elegant expression of modernist simplicity, stripped of adornment, and almost invisible except for its utility. The iconic boxes come traditionally in transparent plastic, but the brightly colored opaque set is my personal favorite!
Character is a Finnish company that recycles old neon signs, created by designer Aleksi Hautamäki. Their process consists in choosing the most stylish letters and turning them into individual and unique design objects, and their sustainability is further enhanced by replacing the neon tubes with LEDs. They add a transformer, install a power cord and off the letters go with a new life cycle. You can even buy one online. Neon signs have this capacity to attract and focus one’s attention, stripping away their surroundings – a single neon letter enhances that effect even more so. In these installations photographed by Johan Warden, they become minimalist beacons, softly illuminating unexpected new spaces.