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“Minimalism is about creating a perfect balance out of imbalance — about pairing shapes, fabrics, proportions and colors that speak to the harmony of the whole.”
So says Francisco Costa, the women’s creative director of Calvin Klein Collection, in his foreword to “Minimalism and Fashion: Reduction in the Postmodern Era,” a new book written by Elyssa Dimant and published by Collins Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. It’s the first volume devoted to the movement, and in it, fashion historian Dimant examines the evolution of minimalism from American art in the Sixties to the influential fashion movement in the Nineties, when designers like Klein himself, Martin Margiela, Miuccia Prada, Hussein Chalayan and Jil Sander pushed the idea into new aesthetic territory.
Dimant comes to the subject with much experience under her belt. The 33-year-old author is an adjunct professor at Parsons The New School for Design, and cut her teeth working with curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As curatorial research associate there, Dimant was in charge of seeking new acquisitions and, in 2004, co-curated the “Wild: Fashion Untamed” exhibit.
Approached by a dean at Parsons to stage an exhibit, Dimant said she came up with minimalism as the concept. “I realized that there is no book on minimalism,” she said.
Dimant wrote the book after moving to Tel Aviv for a few months with her producer husband, Eyal, finding inspiration in the Israeli city on the Mediterranean, which is known for its abundance of white Bauhaus architecture.
The timing of the book launch couldn’t be more appropriate. Minimalism has recently had a bit of a resurgence, with Costa’s spring 2011 collection being the purist one he has presented. “I was sitting next to Harold Koda at the show, and he turned to me and said, ‘Where are the closures?’” Dimant recalled.
“Truthfully, I did see minimalism begin to move back into fashion back in 2005,” Dimant added. “Fashion was emerging from this crazy roller coaster of postmodernism. It wasn’t the Nineties version of minimalism, though. It referred back to the time when artists like Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt explored it. I think minimalism today is a reflection of what the high art movement intended it to be in the Sixties.”
Spending time with Costa added a new dimension to Dimant’s understanding of the movement. “Initially, I thought of minimalism only in terms of constructive reduction,” she said. “So much of what Francisco does is about textiles and the texture of a garment.”
Calvin Klein Collection is celebrating the book at its Madison Avenue boutique tonight, but Dimant has already moved on to her next work, which is due out in fall 2011. She is examining eight contemporary style icons, from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Lady Gaga — “The stylemakers who define the art of dressing today,” Dimant said.