Maximalism: Pandemic fatigue makes way for riot of eye-popping colours and bold patterns

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August 15, 2021 5:00 AM

Move over, minimalism. Pandemic fatigue is making people turn to maximalism in fashion, decor and lifestyle choices, resulting in a riot of eye-popping colours and bold patterns

Represented by the hashtags #more and #moreismore, the trend, which supports creating one's own narrative, is trending on Instagram with over 2.6 lakh posts.Represented by the hashtags #more and #moreismore, the trend, which supports creating one's own narrative, is trending on Instagram with over 2.6 lakh posts.

The world has been in the throes of minimalism for quite some time now. Minimalist fashion, home decor, lifestyle, spaces, and so on. But the tide is slowly turning now, with maximalism becoming the hot new trend, especially amid the pandemic. A polar opposite of minimalism, it allows you to experiment with your surroundings, fashion choices and living spaces with excessive and repetitive use of patterns, layers and intricate details. It’s an emotion expressed with lavish use of aesthetics in eye-popping colours and designs. “The spirit of maximalism is a primal and relentless pursuit of open-mindedness… of joy. To be a maximalist is to be curious, willing to try on thoughts, ideals, opinions for size and retain what fits. It highlights and empowers a strong personality and depth in a space,” offers Delhi-based Antonio Maurizio Grioli, dean, School of Fashion at Pearl Academy. Represented by the hashtags #more and #moreismore, the trend, which supports creating one’s own narrative, is trending on Instagram with over 2.6 lakh posts.

Moment in the sun

Maximalism is having a moment right now because of many reasons. First, prolonged stay at home has resulted in many people craving for happier spaces, and maximalism helps introduce ‘more’ to one’s home in different ways. Second, spending time in the same set of work-from-home clothes has made people feel bored, necessitating the need for a change in their wardrobes. Third, it is a lifestyle choice to bring joy.

Take, for instance, Bengaluru-based Shubhra Chadda whose home is resplendent with a boho-chic vibe. There are plenty of house plants and eclectic, handpicked memorabilia. The pandemic-imposed idle time made Chadda explore a personal style by adding colours and collectibles to the decor. “In these uncertain times, maximalists aim to bring warmth and a sense of comfort into gloomy places by reminding us that even though we’ve been homebound, we have the power to maximise it in our own way,” says the 41-year-old entrepreneur, who is the co-founder of Chumbak.

Talking about ‘conscious maximalism’, Dipali Patwa, group head, brand and community, Fabindia, says juxtaposition of bold colours and block prints can be done with intention, abundance and inclusivity to create ‘sweet corners’ in homes. “When colours and patterns are layered together for a fun, energetic mix, balancing light and heavy design elements, it can help utilise empty and negative spaces effectively,” she says.

Maximalism generates a wow factor through colours, texture and prints, and creates a style that is cohesive. “Use of repetitive or linear patterns in prints, florals, abstract or animal prints, rich colours, unique statement pieces like books, statues, collectible artworks can make for an ultra-contemporary look. Mixing materials and styles can add surprising elements,” says Krish Kothari, founder and creative director of Mumbai-based design studio KKD Studio.

Features like walls clad in marble, accentuated by distressed brass or coated with strips of stainless steel work well too. “Sleek, contemporary furniture can harmonise well with a stone-and-metal theme, while fragile chandeliers stand out with multicoloured carpets or wall-hung artworks,” says Rakhee Bedi Kumar, founding principal, Rakhee Shobhit Design Associate, a design firm in Gurugram.

There should, however, be a balance between bold gestures and warm materials while creating spaces. “An enormous glass chandelier can be placed in a room with bold wall finishes, basic flooring or accentual furnishings,” says Shalini Chandrashekar, principal designer and co-founder of Bengaluru-based Taliesyn-Design & Architecture.

At a time when there is scaling down of most things, maximalism lets one experiment with or give into excessive indulgence. Mumbai-based musician and entrepreneur Aanchal Shrivastava is a compliment seeker for her loud-red gumboots and the bar unit that hangs from the ceiling of her home right above a contemporary bench setup. Shrivastava says she likes to fill her personal space with a mix of swanky, fashionable and posh accessories. “I am obsessed with buying extravagantly-prized possessions…it gives me mental satisfaction. I do my interiors, closet and styling with creative inspirations, which I used to look forward to pre-pandemic, but didn’t have time (post the pandemic) due to professional commitments. Now, having more of these assets in the house has helped utilise my time and energy positively rather than complaining about lockdown/stress,” says Shrivastava, founder of the multi-genre TAA Music Label.

Mumbai-based luxury marketing professional Nutan Fernandes, too, finds clashing a few geometric prints and mismatched colours in shoes and bags fun. “It explores creativity in contrast and contradicts set rules in design. If I buy brown shoes with brown pants… I could wear red shoes to pep up the look,” says Fernandes.

Going back in history, every time the world experienced a pandemic, be it the 1918 Spanish Flu or the 1957-58 Asian flu, fashion became a powerful tool for suppressed expression. The Roaring Twenties brought a casual, haphazard fashion sense, with vibrant wardrobes in striking geometric designs. In the ‘flower power’ era of the Sixties, the youth preferred clothes with intricate floral details.

In the era of the coronavirus pandemic, some people, struggling to emerge from the clasps of the depressing reality, are splurging more than usual. The post-lockdown rebound has even made some indulge in revenge buying. Ludhiana-based entrepreneur Ritika Krit stocked up in June on workwear from e-commerce sites offering deals. “Apart from restocking my closet with 10 workwear dresses, I also bought 15 toys and 10 fancy dresses for my daughter. It gives me immense satisfaction to see a wardrobe with different styles and versions of workwear, dresses and accessories to break the monotony of everyday routine,” says Krit, who is the founder of the Ayurveda brand Kamree.

Chennai-based entrepreneur and life coach Puja Puneet, too, bought makeup and other beauty essentials in bulk in July. “The need to stock up now is essential as we don’t know when and how soon we’ll have access to many items. I am fond of makeup, so I ordered larger quantities, as I don’t want to run out of them. If you know your consumption levels, there is no harm in stocking,” says Puneet. Maximalism, however, may not support revenge buying in the long run. “Just because a ‘new normal’ appears on the horizon, it doesn’t mean revenge buying is dominant. There is a need to buy with intention and curation,” says Patwa.

Agrees Amrish Kumar, managing and creative director of designer label Ritu Kumar: “The trend is in stark contrast to the environment that has surrounded us during the pandemic… change is key to create a feeling of escape.”

The wow factor

Natasha Poonawalla, the executive director of Serum Institute of India and wife of Adar Poonawalla, is a fashionista. This is evident from her sartorial choices, which scream her love for chic luxury designer labels from around the world. Her statement-making ruffles lend drama to elaborate dresses that define her maximalist vocabulary. She is also the latest entrant to #moreismore on Instagram.

Mirroring the trend, there’s full-blown drama and maximalism this season in fashion. The latest collection of designer Ritu Kumar supports a rich dose of colour-block dupattas. Louis Vuitton’s Vuittamins Pre-Fall 2021 Collection, too, offers a palette of pop colours. Then there are the intricate floral print-on-print shirts and trousers, and co-ord sets by Mumbai-based designers Saaksha & Kinni.

Question of sustainability

In an increasingly conscious world, where excessiveness is often frowned upon, the question is: can maximalism and sustainability co-exist? Yes, say experts. By choosing to repurpose items or upcycle and use sustainable materials like natural marbles, fabrics or art made from recycled materials, maximalism can be just as eco-friendly as minimalism.

Keeping sustainability in mind, Delhi-based maximalist designer Param Sahib joined hands early this year with UK-based entrepreneur Samyukta Nair’s loungewear label Dandelion for the collection Hurrah Hindustan. Together, they designed an entire range of handmade headgears and sunglasses made from industrial waste.

Supporting the movement with a sustainable and mindful approach, Delhi-based designer duo Shivan & Narresh, too, enjoy creating bold and unapologetic looks for both outfits and the home space. Their Wilding 20s collection embraces the maximalist view of extravagance through loud art prints and big textures in knits with silhouettes. The duo relies on handknitting looms to avoid overproduction. “We intend to create maximum impact in swimwear, ready-to-wear fashion, or wallpapers,” says Shivan Bhatiya, the brand’s head designer.

However, there are challenges, too, when it comes to sustainability in maximalism. “Does the embroidery contain plastic? Are the ruffles/pleats machine-made or handmade? There are so many factors… and where sustainability becomes trickier to achieve,” says Saaksha Bhat of Saaksha & Kinni. Moreover, fashion is dynamic. What is popular today will not have the same popularity in a few years. “The cycle is never-ending. Trends go in and out of style constantly,” says Kumar of designer label Ritu Kumar.

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