Unbegun circular economies: Minimalist fashion and fashion challenges

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Minimalism is an increasingly popular lifestyle movement that involves shopping infrequently and voluntarily reducing one’s possessions to a bare minimum. Minimalist fashion has become one of the key elements of the minimalist movement with a rise in minimalist fashion bloggers promoting the value of reducing one’s wardrobe to a bare minimum of essential items (or a ‘capsule wardrobe’) with few, quality items that co-ordinate. Emphasis is placed on timeless/classic fashion looks, as opposed to fast fashion trends and there is a preference for simple, complimentary colour palettes and versatile pieces. Minimalist fashion vloggers share videos of their own downsized capsule wardrobes and share tips and advice on how to create one (which are the antithesis to ‘haul videos’ in which vloggers show off their newly acquired purchases, fresh from their shopping bags, to their viewers).

Minimalist ‘fashion challenges’ have also gained increasing momentum. Project 333, started by minimalist blogger Courtney Carver of ‘bemorewithless.com’, instituted a challenge to dress in just 33 items over 3 months, a challenge which was popularly up taken across social media. Similarly, ‘Labour behind the Label’ (a charity campaigning for the rights of garment workers) instigated the ‘6 item challenge’ in which participants are challenged to wear only 6 items of clothing over 6 weeks. Such challenges are intended to reduce the need (or desire) for large quantities of clothes and to promote a steer away from fast fashion.

Within this paper, minimalist fashion and fashion challenges are explored via a textual and visual analysis of minimalist fashion blogs and YouTube channels alongside an autoethnography of my own participation in Labour behind the Label’s ‘6 item fashion challenge’. The paper proposes two potential conceptualisations of minimalist fashion practices. First, it explores how minimalist fashion consumption supports the notion of the circular economy because the focus on garment quality, rather than quantity, would suggest that clothes are carefully valued and maintained throughout their life-cycles, in order for them to last longer. Ultimately, minimalist fashion’s focus on not acquiring excessive/unnecessary garments, reduces the number of potential products in circular economy life-cycles all together. Minimalist fashion could therefore be seen to be treating the cause, rather than the symptoms of excessive fast-fashion consumption in which the cycle of consumption, use, disposal and re-use is ‘unbegun’ i.e. not started in the first place.

Second the paper considers how the collective sentiments of minimalist fashion and fashion challenges speak to a rejection of fast-fashion consumption towards a more considered ‘slow-fashion’ consumer approach with a fashionable and stylish edge. Minimalist fashion may therefore be conceptualised as re-branding ‘cutting back on consumption’ from an undesirable form or miserly, traditional frugality (or a radical anti-consumer/anti-capitalist movement), to a desirable, ascetically pleasing and fashionable lifestyle choice which could therefore popularly promote sustainable fashion consumption practices. Consequently, the rise in popularity of minimalist fashion and its potential to encourage more sustainable consumption practices renders it an important area of empirical and theoretical attention

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2020
EventSustainable Apparel & Textiles (SAT) in the Circular Economy - University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Sept 20204 Sept 2020


ConferenceSustainable Apparel & Textiles (SAT) in the Circular Economy
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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