While I’m not exactly sure who deemed Paris the “fashion capital of the world”, or what prerequisites one must have in order to label a city such a thing, I’ll say that Paris is definitely the capital of uniformity. And ironically enough, when I live in New York, I always strive to maintain a more toned-down look comprised of something like a writer’s uniform of plain white tees and baggy jeans, solely because I feel like everybody else is doing the work for me. I’ve got special pieces, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not one of those fashion peeps who believe being “uncomfortable” is “just part of the job”. But as I live in Paris now and I find that everyone dresses the same, their tendency to flatline has sparked a fire underneath my need to be different that I never knew I had. To be done in moderation, though, as the Parisians seem to have this need to stare at me everywhere I go as if I’m wearing a glitter onesie at 8am or something. (Seriously.)
Once I took a gander at my wardrobe, I noticed my clothes lacking some color, pizazz, depth - life, even. So I took a trip to Colette to see what I could get myself into, but after contemplating a 590 euro Givenchy sweater from Fall 2013 and a pair of Dior jeans for 745 euros, I obviously walked out empty-handed. “Dad would kill me,” I thought as I crossed rue Saint-Honoré in a doe-eyed state of panic. There was just no way.
Pining to make a purchase, I stopped into Sandro - a store where I know I’ll always find at least something - and the moment I walked in and began thumbing through racks, all of the employees started commenting on my style. “Oh la la, t’es trop stylés!” and “J’adore ton look! C’est beau, ça.” and “T’es mannequin ou non? Cet manteau, c’est trop chic quoi!”
I had a little Sally Fields Oscars circa 1985 moment and thought to myself: “Finally! They like me. The Parisians really like me!” Granted, it was probably 35% authenticity and 65% what they’re paid to say - but still, they sure as shit didn’t say anything to me in too-cool-for-school Colette.
I continued to look around and was engulfed once more in the essence that is Sandro - classic, well-made pieces at prices that just make sense. As I tried a few things on with my sales associate, Heartencia, it was finally down to two: a plain white tee for 60 euros or a navy coat for 425 euros. One a need, one a want. So what did I walk out with? The plain white tee.
It’s this tee shirt that pushed me to arrive at my conclusion that for the moment, minimalism is the way to go. I can try to buy the standout pieces from every season that make even the most fashion-y of fashion gays quiver in their Raf Simons sneakers all I want, but their limited wearability falls lightyears behind quality and sentiment. So instead of trying to run with the wolves, it was time to settle into my own niche and remember that I’m actually still a college student who just has a spending problem. But since money isn’t actually disposable right now, it’s better to find the right pieces to splurge on than giving up altogether.
So, here’s a few tips on spending to gain and how I do it:
Perhaps in its hundredth cycle, minimalism in fashion is taking hold once more. Hailing from the 90s, the trend stood strong in an era flooded with the grunge movement and served as a sort of cleansing palette from the excess of the 80s. Big shoulders, big hair, big everything made way for clean shifts into neutral colors, classic suits, and most notably, the basic tee. And now, where so many designers are reaching for aesthetics that are less wearable than intended, fashion mavericks like Calvin Klein and Phoebe Philo of Céline are once again redefining what it means to personalize your own version of stripped-down, contemporary sophistication. But at what price?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that in the last 13 years, the prices of luxury designer goods has skyrocketed a gawking 60%. Thanks to the boom in technology, this inflation of price tags seems to match consumers’ sharpened wit of a new “need-it-now” type of demand. The first fashion house to answer this call was Burberry, where in Fall of 2011, the brand began livestreaming its runway shows and offering customers the ability to buy straight from the runway online and in-stores via iPad. And in the years to follow, it was clear neighboring houses would eventually follow suit.
So, after $1,200 for a trench coat, $100 for a plain white tee, $1,000 for a pair of pants, and $700 for a pair of black stilettos – is there beauty in basics? Or is it a matter of everyday pieces boasting outrageous price tags simply because they can?
It’s no shock a t-shirt goes a long way and there’s obviously no “right” way to wear one, but there’s something unpretentious about a plain white tee – the way it ties an entire outfit together in one effortless wave, how every type of neck lends it a different way to fall, the thousands of different fabrics it can be comprised of, etc. Everybody has one. But in recent years, newly hatched minimalist pioneers are paving an alternate route in the world of toned-down: Updating the fabrics and manufacturing processes of their “in-between” pieces in ways like never before.
Brands like The Row and A.P.C. provide perfect examples of updating the minimalism trend with luxury level textiles. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are making satin skirts out of extra fabric they use to line their coats with and selling them for thousands of dollars. And Jean Touitou of A.P.C. has fostered his own take on the jean, aptly named the “New Standard, Jean Classique”. Customers can bring in a pair of their old denim that have been worn beyond wear, A.P.C. gives new life to them retouching everything except for the fit, and asks the previous owner to initial the inside with a permanent marker, making every pair completely personalized and quintessentially one-of-a-kind. Think instant vintage ready-to-wear right at consumers’ fingertips.
It’s innovations like these that are adding new meaning to the realm where less is more and providing the industry with a glimpse into the art of how “real” people put clothes together.
So in attempts to making something of minimalism, the question of austerity versus spending arises. Is it really worth it? While there’s no cheat sheet to achieving the stainless look, it helps to know when to spend and where to just say no.
Splurge on the classic pieces. Even Anna Wintour believes a pair of J Brand jeans is just as chic as a Carolina Herrera ball gown (not to forget the iconic pair on her first cover of American Vogue in November of 1988). So buy the t-shirt, buy the pant, buy the button-up, buy the dress, buy the coat, buy the shoes – and find ways to wear them as much as possible in measures that only reveal their comfort and ease.
(Keep the jewelry simple and the makeup bare.)
And most importantly, hold on to them forever. Because if there’s one thing that’s for certain: minimalism is always in fashion; a sort of perma-trend that will never go out of style.
And in pieces where money talks, it doesn’t get any cheaper than that.