Minimal Vs Whimsical

‘Minimal Whimsical’ is how I describe the aesthetics of my shoes. A number of times I have had raised eyebrows and puzzled looks asking me “what does that really mean?”. I completely understand the confusion, as the expression itself seems contradictory! On the one hand, I reference clean lines and simplicity in the silhouettes of my shoes. On the other, I have an obsession to use ornamentation to express a sense of warmth, nostalgia and playfulness in my designs. It might even come across as a simplistic expression of whimsicalness. What has really fascinated me is the debate of the two ‘schools of thought’ between minimalism and ornamentation in the design world. As a designer, many times you are challenged to have a point of view — to associate yourself with either of the two camps, be it the maximalists or the minimalists rather than choosing a slice of both and making it your own.

Minimalism is closely linked to the idea ‘form follows function’ — meaning the design of an object is shaped by its purpose. I am drawn towards this aesthetic because of the clarity and simplicity involved in the approach towards design. Part of the influence comes from my travels to Scandinavia and Japan, where design and architecture revolves around purpose and practicality.

In contrast, ornamentation is the zest and the emotion added to the form that either enhances or diminishes the appearance of the object. What intrigues me is the power of motifs and decoration, how it engages and communicates with the soul. In India, from where I derive a lot of my inspirations for colour and motifs, we thrive on ornamentation and decoration for the simple reason that it creates comfort, warmth, and romantic beauty.

Historically in most cultures, ornamentation and decoration were used as a symbol of opulence to indicate social structure. The craftsmanship and amount of time spent over intricate details suggested a certain status and power. With time, the industrial revolution brought about a change especially in the north western hemisphere part of the world that made ornamentation excessive and commonplace. As a reaction to this, Modernism brought about a vocabulary of design and architecture that was symbolic. The idea ‘less is more’ made sense to people because it was a representation of time. The meaning of ‘splendour’ and ‘craft’ were altered.

There is a certain tranquility and polish to Minimalism, which many times is perceived as a purer aesthetic. Whereas, the warmth, energy and liveliness that comes from ornamentation touches a chord within ourselves. What I have always challenged, is why as a designer, someone who appreciates the pure, subtle beauty and at the same time the complexity and intricacy of craft, have to make a choice of one aesthetic over the other. Therefore, I embrace the juxtaposition of both the minimalist aesthetics and whimsical ornamentation, which defines my own design vocabulary and what I find beautiful.

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