The new minimalism


Photo: Glamour Magazine

In a world where many of us have become addicted to spending, it seems some consumers have decided to go cold turkey.

The combination of a recession, and people's credit card habits has created an urgent need for people to cut back on spending. In the meantime, they're examining what they already own, and finding they don't need much of it.

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Last year I posted on The Uniform Project, in which one fashion designer was trying to take a single outfit and accessorize it creatively for a year.

Now there are sites like Six Items or Less which challenge people to winnow down their wardrobe to six pants, shirts, dresses and/or skirts.

And then there's the The Great American Apparel Diet, in which people are pledging to refrain from buying any new clothing for a year. As the title implies, GAAD equates binge shopping with binge eating, and comments to its website sound eerily similar. Some "dieters" share there excitement of greeting the first day of the challenge, while others confess their mis-steps and try to muster the courage to carry on.

This is a far cry from the 1980s when "choice" and "variety" were all the rage in the market, and such minimalist fashion choices were openly mocked as symptoms of an oppressed society, as in the below ad from Wendy's:

Aside from clothing, there are those who choose to eliminate just about everything, including their homes. In an age where people can commute to work, and communicate via cell phones and lap tops, who needs a desk? This idea inspired software engineer Kelly Sutton, creator of the website Cult of Less, to sell off most of his possessions. While Sutton is an extreme example, a report by the BBC points to evidence that shoppers are increasingly choosing digital forms of entertainment over their physical counterparts.

Consumer electronic book sales tripled between 2008 and 2009, while the growth of physical book sales slowed, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Meanwhile, compact disc sales have declined by roughly 50% from their 2005 levels worldwide, while global revenue from digital music has nearly quadrupled in the same period, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

As I see all these reports popping up, I can't help but think of the ramifications for not just fashion, but the arts as a whole. Already I'm guessing there's a connection between these minimalist type tendencies, and the surge of art I'm seeing made with just graphite and paper. Will simple lines and forms, typified by Donald Judd in sculpture and Philip Glass in music, make a comeback?

Or will we seek out the luxury and variety we can't afford at home on stage, in the museum and in the concert hall?