Minimalism vs. Maximalism – an overview

Two opposing movements, two very different aesthetics. Which is better?

From a visual perspective, Minimalism is the opposite of Maximalism. We compare the two design movements, Minimalism vs. Maximalism, and discuss whether they can work together rather than apart.

Do opposites attract?

Minimalism has a firm clasp on the design industry, from fashion to interiors, extending as far as architecture. The movement sunk it’s hipster claws in so hard that it has evolved into more of a mind-set than simply a design trend. Many of us have been challenged to question our choices, “Should I declutter more frequently?” or “Do I really need another one of these?” Surely this is a positive thing, saving us time, money and living within our means a little more. Adopting this mind set allows us to lead a simpler, more conscious lifestyle. So for this, we have minimalism to thank. To the unaware, it may seem boring, plain and basic. It’s inevitable this movement will be misunderstood. If delved into more, those may find it’s muted, understated presence beautiful. The less elements something has, the more emphasis there is on what is there. So although it may seem like a sneaky ply for designers to produce less work, it’s actually an artful skill, to master minimalist design. Minimalism is the art of reduction, the space between the lines. 

Maximalism is minimalism’s lairy sibling, the one who turns up in a loud shirt and pours a shot just as the party’s over and everyone’s calling taxis. With a more is more attitude, maximalism stomps through life, blissfully accumulating this and that, with no real concern for hoarding or excess. This may paint an ugly picture, but the beauty of the movement is variety. Maximalism doesn’t necessarily translate into clutter and mess, but more bold and unafraid. Complex textures are layered on top of layers, patterns may clash. If put together with thought, the outcome could be a powerful and memorable one. In the words of Iris Apfel, queen of maximalism, “More is more, and less is a bore.”

Minimal meets Maximal

The spectrum that both these movements cover is infinite. Both extreme aesthetics, they play the role of Ying and Yang of the visual world. In terms of design, specifically fashion and jewellery, it’s entirely possible to combine the two. Maximal elements can be juxtaposed with a minimal finish, to create a harmonious, balanced aesthetic. This concept could translate into a piece of clothing or jewellery, or a whole outfit. For example, a simple cut shirt with clean lines and a vibrant print, or an understated outfit with statement jewellery. A minimalist accessory could be the statement piece of your outfit, just so long as it’s the centrepiece. It’s the type of statement that calmly demands attention, rather that shouting for it.

Perhaps the key here is redefining these labels which are slapped onto every emerging trend. The point remains, that opposites do attract. Whatever one lacks, the other contributes, cultivating a perfect mix of complimentary forces. Think of the two as the perfect pair, one introvert, one extrovert, levelling each other out and bringing out the best aspects of each other. The maximal over indulgence and the refined, pared back minimal, work better together than apart.


Minimalism vs. Maximalism, Look 1

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Silk Shirt & Other Stories 

Steven Stone necklace

Steven Stone ring

Zara trousers


Minimalism vs. Maximalism, Look 2 

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Helmut Lang top

Steven Stone necklace

Nili Lotan skirt

Mansur Gavriel bag


Minimalism vs. Maximalism, Look 3


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Tibi top

Steven Stone necklace

Tibi skirt

Steven Stone ring

Mansur Gavriel mules

Elizabeth and James bag 


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