The Wabi Sabi philosophy and the minimalism movement
"There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in" - Jellaludin Rumi
What is the Wabi Sabi philosophy?
Philosophically the term Wabi means simple, immaterialist, humble by choice and in harmony with nature. The notion of Wabi thus refers to a natural simplicity and elegance.
Sabi literally means "the birth of time", where beauty and serenity come with age. It is about authenticity, a proof that beauty is fleeting and does not last.
This philosophy is an art of living, a way of feeling things. Living Wabi Sabi means favouring simplicity and harmony, accepting what is imperfect and the little things of everyday life. In contrast to our consumer society, which advocates always "having more", this philosophy invites us to abandon the superfluous and to say yes to the essential.
What are the principles of this philosophy?
There are seven aesthetic aspects of the Wabi Sabi philosophy:
1°) Fukinsei : asymmetry, irregularity
2°) Kanso : simplicity, elimination of clutter
3°) Shibumi : austerity and altered nature
4°) Shizen: unpretentious, natural
5°) Yugen: subtly deep grace, not obvious
6°) Datsuzoku: unlimited by convention, free
7°) Seijaku : immobility, tranquillity
We can therefore summarise them as follows:
- An untamed nature that allows the discreet elegance of the passing of time to be reflected.
- Accepting imperfection and rediscovering it. Symmetry and perfection do not exist in this world. This philosophy therefore invites us to ignore straight lines in favour of the delicate imperfection of curves and asymmetry. In this sense, craftsmanship is the allegory of the Wabi Sabi philosophy, as it shows patience in making imperfect and unique works. It is a beauty that moves away from the conventions and diktats of perfection and symmetry.
- Beauty is found in simplicity, beauty without frills. Natural materials encourage this authenticity.
- To feel good about oneself, to contemplate the poetry of time passing.
- Less but better, adopting a more responsible lifestyle, in harmony with the planet, and favouring quality over quantity.
What about fashion ?
This new aesthetic (even anti-esthetic for some commentators) of imperfection, asymmetry, authenticity, natural elegance in tune with oneself, resonates in the minds of Japanese designers such as Miyake, Kawakubo and Yamamoto. "Less is more" is the motto of the minimalist movement initiated by Rei Kawakubo in the 1980s. The anti-conformist Japanese designer defends a vision of clothing that is far from the diktats imposed by fashion. The garment is a second skin, an extension of oneself, and not a simple piece of fabric that covers one's nudity. According to her, we buy a garment for what it brings, not for what it makes us look like. Through its minimalism, the kimono is a garment in conversation with the body, the skin and the mind, humble and sensual.
More generally, these fashion philosophers bring irregularity, asymmetry, simplicity and complexity, deconstruction and construction into their work. Through this sensibility, these Japanese designers confront us with the authentic beauty of humanity through their clothes. Their works disturb and provoke because we are afraid to acknowledge that imperfection is inherent to the human condition.
This philosophy is reflected in :
- deconstructed and reconstructed conventional clothing ;
- monochrome tones;
- Unusual volumes, new proportions;
- unfinished garments held together by knots;
In other words... a new beauty that defies conventions, norms and aesthetic diktats.
The creativity of Japanese designers has inspired many Belgian designers. Ann Demeulemeester, a former fashion student at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, discovered a new freedom as a designer and a woman. Like Rei Kawakubo, she challenges the stereotypes of Western beauty and gender. The woman is now strong, has self-esteem and appeals to men through her mind rather than her body.
Martin Margiela, another Belgian designer, draws his inspiration from the poetic deconstruction of Japanese designers. He dissects the garment, observes it, thinks about it and reconstructs or rather deconstructs it (asymmetries, tears, frayed edges, knots and uneven hems).
From different cultures and generations, these free designers have participated in the emergence of a "new aesthetic" and the recognition of fashion as an art form in its own right.