Minimalism in Fashionable Tech

Fashion, as the poet-prisoner once said, is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to change it every six months. Technology, as I put towards you now, is a form of progress so intolerable that we have to change it every two years. Both worlds are ruled over by the monarch called Minimalism, each supporting the other; as our fashions becomes technological, technology becomes more fashionable.

It is under the rule of Minimalism that both fashion and phones are becoming sleeker, almost to the point of homogeny. Kyle Chayka notes how mens’ retail has moved from heavy fabrics like tweed and chambray, swapping heritage nostalgia for urban futurism. Retailers have rid themselves of chequered shirts and dense jumpers into a movement that is almost metallic. The height of style is mesh, neoprene, nylon – man-made materials that shy away from the old world. In the highest of the fashion events, the Met Gala, this transition to the minimum was lauded under the theme of ‘fashion in an age of technology’. Kim Kardashian-West’s Balmain reflected her surroundings, so minimal as to reject the notion of capturing a style. Zayn Malik’s metal plates came as close as possible to rejecting fabric altogether, and hinting at the possibility of a future of augmented humans. Kate Hudson’s dress was outlined with black dashes, looking like as much as possible had been cut out of the garment; what better representation of minimalism than a dress still being shaved away?

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And this trend of the minimal is, without doubt, influencing the tech industry. Apple’s sponsorship of the Met Gala is, according to Jony Ive in an interview with 9to5Mac, because “products become more personal, [the Apple Watch] put us in the space of fashion”. The integration of technology into the fashion world is one that will come faster than either industry is expecting; already Google and Levi are corroborating on a ‘smart-jacket’ which will enable wearers to answer phone calls, control maps, and music, all from the sleeve. While only the Apple Watch currently has the potency to move the smartwatch from gadget to accessory, signified by Apple’s 12 page advert in Vogue, technology has still been moved by these forces. As little as twelve years ago, Nokia was promoting the 6800 series – a phone that appeared to be a common nine-button handset, but which boasted a foldable QWERTY keyboard. In 2004 the Nokia 7710 hit the market, with its functions as both mobile phone and satellite navigation system. Products like the Samsung Juke in 2007 and the Motorola Flipout in 2010 all signify, by their alien appearance, how minimalism has become the order of the day. The most popular smartphones on the market have a uniform design: a dark coloured bar with a sleek touchscreen. Companies are willing to push their hardware to the limits in the name of minimalism, most aptly summarised by how quickly the Chinese whisper has passed through the tech world that the iPhone 7 will have its headphone jack removed in favour of one Lightning port for audio and charging facilities. Whether the consumer loves or hates the change is almost irrelevant. Every edge must be sleek. Every service must be unified. This is the mantra of the modern mobile, and with most customers keeping their phones on a two year contract cycle any changes are going to be in much smaller progressions than before. A decade ago, buying a new phone was like discovering a new species; now it’s the modern day, and we have discovered the minimalist evolution.

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Software, too, is following suit, and nowhere has it been more prominent in the media than with regards to Instagram. The recent redesign of the app might have given it a vibrant, colourful icon, but inside it is the same stable black-and-white colour scheme of the iPhone, Zayn Malik, and the curators of men’s fashion. The physical, fashionable world of white walls that we are associate with Apple Stores or New York’s Carson Street has been digitised and downloaded into a 28.6 MB application sitting in 300 million pockets. The result, according to Verge’s Casey Newton, is that the app feels like it has been modernised – the vintage camera of the previous logo wiped away in favour of the current one’s privative stencil – and while not everyone is content with the new icon sitting on their homescreen, most of the criticism has been focused on the logo’s change rather than the new display of photos or the redesign of the buttons. Customers may not enjoy the doors to the shop but they seem to be enjoying the floor once they get inside.

It seems that, for the moment, the dual worlds of fashion and technology are following the adage of that relatively well-known designer: simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance. The more that we break down the external, the easier it is to see potential. Modern minimalism subverts style over substance; our technology and our fashion turns the style into substance.

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