It feels like we’ve reached the peak of something. An era of creativity that didn’t shout, but screamed. Stole our attention with unlikely collaborations and delighted us with technological innovations. Call it the era of maximalism.
But on the runways that set the tone for the industry, a trend is emerging that suggests we’re entering a new chapter in the evolution of luxury communications. Call it the ‘quiet fashion’ movement. As Angelo Flaccavento observed in his analysis of Paris Fashion Week, ‘in an age of sensory overload, acts of reduction resonated most.’ What this means is obvious when it comes to garments and objects - acts of reduction mean the snip of the couturier's scissors, a focus on quality and nuance, a move away from logomania. Brands who have made simplicity and subtlety their thing - brands like The Row and Zegna - are enjoying commercial success in this context. But off the runway, in the world of communications, what do ‘acts of reduction’ really look like?
If surging economic growth and cultural optimism has been the driver of the era of maximalism, economic uncertainty, combined with an increasing demand for and appreciation of craft, is the driver of the era of reduction. With hugely complex international issues affecting individual budgets and collective attitudes, we wanted to explore how luxury can continue to contribute to culture in a context of dramatic cultural change. That means looking at brands that are helping define this new era of reduction, who are ahead of the curve in demonstrating that acts of reduction can in fact open up a whole new world of creativity. At RANKIN, where we believe the lifeblood of creativity lies in questioning everything, it’s a topic we’ve been very excited about.
From stealing the limelight to sharing it
If the era of maximalism has been about brands competing for the limelight, the era of reduction is about sharing it. Many established brands have a long but under-leveraged heritage in supporting the future of the industry - from Vetements’ and Off-White’s support for young designers to Loewe’s craft prize that supports the kind of craftspeople that are key to its equity. We think these kinds of initiatives will become increasingly important as brands look to act in more generous ways.
From short-term gimmicks to meaningful actions
The era of reduction will be about shifting towards more meaningful, long-term actions. This year, LVMH will report on the performance of its LVMH Initiatives for the Environment programme, ‘which made sustainable development an integral part of the strategic business plans of all LVMH Maisons’. It’ll be an opportunity for its respective brands to demonstrate action beyond the kind activities that quickly become yesterday’s news, and show commitment to addressing global issues over the long-term.
From exclusive products to experiences for all
Exclusivity defined the era of maximalism. But as economic headwinds exclude many brands’ most enthusiastic followers, offering those audiences opportunities to continue to participate in brand worlds will become key. Balmain’s annual festival is a great example of this - it grew from a fashion show to a food, music, and fashion event ‘happening for 10,000 friends of the house’, with a portion of the proceeds going to global charity RED. ‘Reduction’ doesn’t mean small scale or boring.
Luxury is a creative force whose cultural reach and influence has grown further, wider, and deeper than its founding mothers and fathers could ever have imagined. But luxury brands have always been the innovators, finding new ways to stand out from their competitors, and fuel the cultural conversation - whether it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s court wardrobe, or Balenciaga’s redemptive show from this season. If the cultural currency of the era of maximalism has been headline-grabbing actions, the brief for the era of reduction is to share the limelight, create long-term impact, and widen access to brands. How brands respond to that brief is still an open question, requiring brands to question everything that has gone before - something that aligns precisely with our ethos here at RANKIN.
Image Credit: The Independent