Will the Return of Maximalism Disrupt Sustainable Fashion? - Public Goods Blog

Will the Return of Maximalism Disrupt Sustainable Fashion?

Is less really more? Or, as fashion icon Iris Apfel famously said, perhaps “more is more and less is a bore.”

woman wearing maximalist fashion

And so begins the discussion of maximalist fashion, the new (old) style that’s back on the rise and trending.

Chances are this newfound interest in maximalism is a reaction to the minimalist trend that has taken over your favorite boutiques, your inbox — maybe your own closet as well. The simple no-nonsense style has dominated in the multi-billion dollar fashion industry for years now, and it’s easy to see why.

In an age where being informed, ethical, and environmentally conscious is top of mind for so many consumers, it makes sense for the fashion world to follow suit. The no-frills minimalist look conveys a simple way of living and a lack of waste.

So does maximalist fashion represent an opposite, lavish lifestyle? And if so, what could it mean for the sustainable fashion movement?

Ready to forgo assumptions and glean some expert insight, I sat down with a panel of fashion and beauty gurus to see what they had to say.

Defining the Term, Maximalist Fashion

According to the experts, maximalist fashion isn’t a new concept; it’s just making a comeback. The trend is all about mixing and matching bold colors, textures and prints. It’s about adding another detail or embellishment…and then adding one more.

Vanessa Valiente, a top San Diego stylist and creator of V-Style, describes maximalism as a look all about prints, layers and piling on the accessories.

“You can sport a maximal style without shopping a ton or owning a ton,” she said. “You could own the same amount of clothing as a minimalist, but a maximalist closet will have more colorful hues and rambunctious lines.”

As far as sustainability, Valiente said the difference lies in making conscious choices. Minimalists might rock thin rings, delicate necklaces and simple earrings, and a maximalist could pile on chunky jewelry.

But if the thin metal bands on the minimalist are the product of harmful mining practices, and the maximalist is sure to buy from outlets that utilize recycled materials, the maximalist is going to have a smaller environmental footprint. In her eyes it’s all about the individual, not the style.

“If you make informed choices to ensure little to no waste, you can embody either look in good conscience.”

“To sum it up, if you make informed choices to ensure little to no waste, you can embody either look in good conscience,” she said.

Il Makiage, a beauty brand that launched in the U.S. in June, is a prime example of a new entity banking on an anti-Glossier, anti-minimalist approach. The ads lining SoHo streets are bold, in-your-face appeals to a more lavish makeup routine with the tagline “who wants to be low-maintenance anyway” center stage. While it’s easy to interpret this as a call to excessive buying, the execs are singing a different tune.

According to Oran Holtzman, the company’s CEO, the brand’s message is not about wealth or possessions but rather about celebrating powerful and intelligent women who may not fit into the typical “cool girl” model.

Anne Devlin, a veteran of the Beverly Hills fashion market and owner of the dress company, Classiqu Era, weighed in, claiming the trend can reduce waste becauses the nature of the look requires you to take advantage of your full closet.

“I think the same advice applies here as in any fashion trend: buy what you like and purchase things that are versatile,” Devlin said. “Some really fun pieces, with so much detail, color, or texture, are actually just as versatile and long-wearing as their more simplistic counterparts.” Utilizing everything in your closet can be a way to add more value to each garment you own.

She recommends limiting purchases and supporting eco-friendly brands and buying options.

In the end I think I learned at least one lesson: sustainability is connected to the person, not the trend. If you embrace whatever style you feel inspired by and live life according to your values, you can’t go wrong.

Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.

From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.

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