A big word, ‘Minimalism’ encompasses an ideology, an aesthetic and a lifestyle choice. In the fashion world, as is the case with most trends, minimalism has seen a rise and fall, playing an important role in defining the zeitgeist of any particular time period. Socio-economic factors have always left a mark on fashion and most other lifestyle choices. Consequently, during periods where there was a dearth of economic prosperity, excess was strictly looked down upon. Women started going to the workplace and swapped their corsets, feathers and frills for more practical clothing. These were marked with simple, clean lines, single-layered fabrics, and monochromatic color tones. After WWI, in the 1920s, Coco Chanel pioneered minimalist Western fashion when she rejected the conventional–and very cumbersome–clothing in favour of strong but sombre silhouettes and minimal accessorizing. She also famously said, “Before you leave the house you should look in the mirror and take one accessory off”, rejecting the more-is-more school of thought.
Pre-Independence India was the setting of a similar indigenous minimalist revolution, driven by the humble khadi. An entire generation of Indian men and women donned that most austere of fabrics– sturdy, breathable, and minimal–to signify the mood of a country fighting for independence.Seventy-one years later, the time is ripe for another minimalist movement.
Interior design, consumption patterns and now wardrobe choices, this design philosophy is making a comeback in a country that traditionally gravitates towards the big, bright and bold. The trigger? A growing focus on sustainability, anti-fit silhouettes that are functional, and the emergence of a ‘uniform’, and Indian design labels are taking note by stripping away “visual noise” to create patterns that are distinct but simple, separates that can take you from day to night, and silhouettes and styles you can move in. Live in, work in and breathe in. The change-makers that are curating an alternate school of design to their more flamboyant counterparts, while heroing traditional design practices and fabrics, are weaving a new narrative that’s tailored to the fuss-free, conscientious Indian who believes less is more.
Here are eight brands that embody this philosophy and create one-of-a-kind collections with a strong voice.
Founded in 2015 by Medha Khosla, a Pratt Institute graduate, Anomaly was quick in securing a place for itself in the emerging Indian minimalist market. Their brand philosophy revolves around creating clothes that are functional in nature without compromising on style. The result is high quality, sensible clothing that reconciles their main objectives of creating timeless style while promoting a utilitarian way of dressing. In their own words, “Our brand embodies a way of life for the modern woman and man who prefers understated elegance to superfluous ornamentation.”
Check out their collection here.
“Unassuming yet compelling”, the perfect embodiment of modern minimalistic philosophy, Bodice prides itself on creating crisply detailed elegant clothing - mainly in the form of separates and dresses. These separates are highly functional and transitional with subtle color palettes and simple, clean lines. They use only local Indian textiles, work with Indian artisans, and are committed to maintaining a responsible and sustainable production process. Founded by Ruchika Sachdeva in 2011 in New Delhi, Bodice represents a modern, minimal yet extremely Indian approach to fashion.
Shift by Nimish Shah embodies minimalism in its most authentic sense, exemplified by the use of indigenous Indian textiles like khadi and organic cotton to make simple dresses, separates, and jackets. Shah stresses on the importance of sustainable clothing, and puts his money where his mouth is by only sourcing from units that adhere to high environmental and labour standards, according to Not Just A Label. After graduating from The London College of Fashion, Shah worked with the likes of Chloe and Burberry, along with a stint with Sabyasachi at his Kala Ghoda stores. The influence of these experiences is reflected in the clean, flowing lines of his clothes, created while staying true to his cultural identity.
A blend of Indian and French sensibilities, Meesha is a frontrunner in the Indian minimalist market–their scarves retail in high-end designer stores like Le Mill, Ogaan, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Founded by Meesha Khanna, in collaboration with her friends from Paris, Magali Charruyer and Catherine Gouin, the brand makes colorful, printed scarves that are subtle and extremely wearable, drawing inspiration from different cultures and identities. They incorporate a very French aesthetic that gives these statement scarves a minimalist edge, while working with bonafide Indian fabrics– materials that Khanna has access to thanks to her textile-based family business in New Delhi. The scarves are all handwoven by Indian artisans working across the country, making them sustainable, artisanal, and wonderfully unique.
Launched by Simran Lal and Raul Rai in 2016, Nicobar is positioned as a travel and leisure brand for the ‘on-the-go Indian with particularly minimal sensibilities’. The clothes are understated, with a largely monochrome color palette, save for a few splashes of color. Nicobar creates simple but elegant clothing that is more likely to compliment your existing wardrobe with lots layering options and stand-alone dresses or separates. Perfect for traveling, Nicobar clothing does not get in the way and is easy to manage during those long hours of commute or layovers. Lal, CEO of Good Earth, gives customers a more affordable option with Nicobar, while remaining true to the distinct, authentic aesthetic of Good Earth.
Founded by designer Rina Singh, Eka pays homage to India’s vast heritage of textiles and the diverse range of styles that vary from state to state. Incorporating the special technique of Jamdani from West Bengal, while borrowing the art of block printing and indigo dyeing from Gujarat, Eka strives to make minimal, functional clothing for the modern Indian woman. Born in a Rajput family in U.P., Singh was exposed to the craft of making clothes at a young age. Her penchant for all things fashion was further enriched when she married into a royal family in Jodhpur. Culture, history, and art coupled with her own ideology of simple living and humble agricultural roots, give Eka the minimalist yet highly efficient and timeless edge that makes it stand out. Singh routinely travels all over the country in order to learn more about the rich culture that influences different dressing styles and incorporates them in her signature style resulting in clothes rooted in history, while staying modern, sophisticated and relevant.
VII. Runaway Bicycle
‘With a passion to make art for everyday life’, Runaway Bicycle came into being in 2013. The Mumbai-based label works closely with weavers to make their own fabric, has hustled to ensure that all their organic cotton fabric is certified by the Better Cotton Initiative and primarily uses natural dyes. Firm believers in the ideology that better practices make better clothes, Runaway Bicycle’s collection is indeed wearable art. Clothes that breathe (and look amazing), the brand steers clear of form-fitting silhouettes and, instead, marks each of its designs with the ease to move around and go with everyday life.
Giving the quintessential sari a minimalist makeover, Anavila proves that traditional Indian clothing is easy-to-wear. Characterised by simple durable linen, a free flowing pallu, and a feminine silhouette, Anavila sarees champion functionality while exuding sensuality. Founded by Anavila Misra, who had previously worked with artisans for the Ministry of Rural Development and felt it was important to change the perception of saris in modern India. Born out of a desire to embrace the timeless garment in a more comfortable way, the label uses 120-count yarn to make flowing sariss that feel light on your frame and are easy to carry. “The linen that I choose is a very strong material and has a lot of character and fusing it with my aesthetic resulted in something unique. All the materials used are pure in the true sense. We work with sustainable formats with all our artisans i.e. sustainable employment, sustainable clusters,” Misra told Border and Fall. Along with the sustainability vertical, Anavila also helps generate employment for women weavers in rural parts of the country.
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