Meet Strategic Minimalism — The Way Everyone Wants To Dress Right Now

Simple doesn’t have to be boring.

by Kendall Becker
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: A model poses backstage at Jonathan Simkhai during NYFW: The Show...

When thinking of the “minimalist aesthetic” a clear picture comes to mind: a beige outfit of old-Céline-inspired pieces, Bottega Veneta’s Pouch bag, a perfectly foamed latte, or an all-cream apartment with Matisse prints on the wall. Sound familiar? Chances are your Instagram feed used to be filled with this aesthetic — and you’ve probably been influenced by it at one point or another. But, after the last year and some, people are ready to replace simplicity for excitement. Enter strategic minimalism: an updated take on this timeless style with intricate details like tasteful cutouts and eye-catching trims, new neutral colors (i.e. soft yellow and sage green), and a playful mix of textures and fabrications done in a sophisticated yet fresh way.

Before looking too far ahead, it’s crucial to understand the core of this aesthetic; minimalism is centered on timelessness and a less is more mentality. But, by emphasizing a personalized take, the building blocks of a forever wardrobe don’t have to be boring at all. In fact, this is the mission of Frankie Shop, many minimalists' go-to shopping destination. Owner and creative director Gaelle Drevet looks for “easy classics with a modern twist” to achieve this coveted combination. “It’s not about creating as many basics as possible, it’s about creating the right basics,” she says of both developing pieces for her brand and selecting the assortment for her shop from other designers like Bevza, LouLou Studio, and Ganni.

“As much as I love classic silhouettes, basics, and neutrals, a certain risk with minimalism is all of it blending into one big neutral [blob] and becoming extremely repetitive,” Polina Meshkova, a New York-based content creator known for her aesthetically-driven TikTok videos, tells TZR. “I became uninspired by both my wardrobe and social media where I draw a lot of my inspiration from,” she explains of what drove her towards a more creative take on pared-down dressing. With the rise of so many bold, colorful, and quirky trends in the second half of 2021, minimalists are finding their own way to embrace the joys of dressing up again without playing into anything overly trendy. Meshkova says, “at this point, I know pretty well what I like and don’t like, what colors work for me or don’t, so it’s hard for me to get influenced unless this is something I’ve already been leaning towards.”

As the industry and customer mindsets evolve, there must be a balance achieved between the values rooted in minimalism and the excitement that draws shoppers to bold, digital-first looks. This strategic minimalism is made up of subversive basics and classic wardrobe staples with a small twist that plays into the desire to be different online. Jonathan Simkhai is one designer embodying this zeitgeist.

“I had a desire to create items that people felt beautiful but comfortable [wearing] while not needing to put much time into thinking about them,” Simkhai tells TZR. While comfort is certainly key for Simkhai, so is attention to purposeful detail. “I am deconstructing classic items and stitching them back together in new modern forms that have surprising details, allowing the wearer that same comfort you'd find in a sweatsuit while still embracing an easy elegance,” he says.

In his latest collection presented at New York Fashion Week, you can find slinky dresses, modern suiting, and knit sets punctuated with thoughtful details like cutouts, eye-catching straps, and fringed trim. But this aesthetic isn’t relegated just to Simkhai. Proenza Schouler, KHAITE, Peter Do, Fendi, and Courrèges showcased this notion through their own lenses during the Spring/Summer 2022 season, too.

Cassandra DiMicco, the founder of buzzy jewelry brand Aureum Collective, is approaching her work with strategic minimalism in mind as well. “A big part of the inspiration behind creating my jewelry brand was to elevate everyday staples,” she says of her sleek yet playful designs. “You can add so much interest to a classic look by adding statement jewelry. I find it so much easier to get dressed in the morning when you have your uniform or go-to outfit formula and then have fun with the jewelry you put on.” As you can see on her Instagram, DiMicco has mastered the art of styling wardrobe basics like a classic white tee or black slip dress and transforming it into a coveted look with the help of chunky chain necklaces, twisted gold hoops, and layered snake chain bracelets.

The takeaway? Whether it’s adding a little extra detail to a staple piece, uncovering a new styling cue, or elevating your throw-and-go outfit with intentional accessories, the strategy behind the new minimalism is what makes all the difference. Simple doesn’t have to be boring — in fact, timelessness, quality, and attention to detail are anything but.