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Elegance over Minimalism: Why Less is Not Always More

Updated: Jul 24, 2023




Here's the truth...


Even when you aren't an influencer, don't have a business or are never on social media, you have a personal brand.


Your personal brand is defined by how you dress, talk to people, and entertain yourself.


This personal brand is one of the most powerful factors in getting you where you want to go in your influence, impact, and income.


However, many women make one vital mistake; they fall into the temptation of creating a personal brand that is totally over-simplified, often done for fear of being seen as self aggrandizing, narcissistic or selfish... or they follow in mega-stars like The Kardashian's footsteps. Sometimes, however, this simplicity goes so far to the point of being confusing, and not advantageous to their personal goals.


This kind of simplicity is called "minimalism" and it's always been popular, but looks different in varying trends and decades.


Minimalism has the potential to stunt your growth, limit your unique attributes, and open the door for people to pass you over. Your personal brand is the first thing people notice about you, so it is important you approach it well.


So what is minimalism?


Minimalism relies on functionality, utilitarianism, and practicality by eliminating all resources that are unnecessary. One example of minimalism you may recognize is the Pacific Northwest minimalism trend that began in the 1990's and still exists in part today, with practical outdoors themed ensembles with an emphasis on flannel, beanies, denim and sandals.




Author Matthew E. May has been a great inspiration to me in my pursuit of elegance, and he discusses this topic at length. Here's the clever distinction he made between elegance and minimalism in his book, "In Pursuit of Elegance: Why The Best Ideas Have Something Missing"


"Elegance is 'far side' simplicity that is artfully crafted, emotionally engaging, profoundly intelligent. It should not be confused with "near side" simplicity, which stops short of confronting complexity, much like the 'voluntary simplicity' movement that peaked in the 1990s in the U.S. Pacific Northwest did. In principle espousing a philosophy of more elegant living, in practice it centered more on rejecting and avoiding many of the complications of the modern world-- a practice resulting for the most part in simply eliminating many of the conveniences and advances of a rapidly advancing, technologically progressive society.


Elegance is to this sort of simplicity as chess is to checkers. Both are played on the same board, yet the first demands more strategic thinking and much deeper experience to truly master the goal of immobilizing-checkmating- a single piece, the opponents king....Checkers, with it's mostly single-step play, is far less demanding, easier to learn, and quicker to play. Chess-masters understand the nature of complexity-- that it is part of the game and that's why they play it".


Elegance embraces the complexity of life, while minimalism rejects it.


So what then is the allure of minimalism?


There is something alluring about minimalism, and the idea that less is more and simplifying life is the key to happiness. And to a point, this mindset isn't wrong. Elegance is all about cutting away excess, too. Minimalism promises to help you regain control over your life through ridding all but essentials.


However, this can become dangerous.


By oversimplify, you are taking out the true beauty of a design in its quest for more and more simplicity. Less is more is not always true, and minimalism does not necessarily make a product elegant, sophisticated, or refined. The danger of minimalism is that it leaves no room for innovation or creativity; it cannot create beautiful designs and cannot take into account different tastes and preferences, losing uniqueness.


This is why I can't get behind the Modern Farmhouse- All-White-Everything Trend that is finally dying out. There is no definable details about it. Every interior design looks the same-- ironically the opposite of what the designer was going for.


Blogger turned designer turned Influencer Julia Berolzheimer has done a remarkable job of bringing color and elegance to her modern farm house with unique flair.


Julia Berolzheimer's details add a unique and memorable depth to a modern farmhouse interior.


The minimalistic approach is not just interior design, but reflected at a macro- level as evident in architecture all across American capitals. If I show you an image of a downtown city, you likely couldn't tell me where it is located, or any unique qualities about it...


Lets' try it. Where is this?

Can you guess which American capital this is?

This skyline looks identical to most every state capital in the United States, thanks to one glaring oversight...


Details.


Details are what makes us unique.


Details rarely serve a utilitarian purpose and are rejected in minimalist culture.



This skyline of Minneapolis, Minnesota, I'll reveal it now, is practically no different than Phoenix, or Memphis, or Orlando-- barring a few topographical differences or the random landmark.


It is our details that make us stand apart. (My interview with the Marketing Director of big name shoe brand Petite Jolie dove into the importance of details in fashion- check that out here)


This is why I believe Americans romanticize Europe so much. We are drawn to an elegance that doesn't obviously exist in our own culture. We are sick and tired of the pragmatic approach to life in American society, fashion, and architecture. And the elegance of Europe becomes an escape, a peace, and an inspiration.


Each city in Europe is rich with customs, culture and traditions that make it special and identifiable. Remarkable. Memorable. And you can be that way, too.





Author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, probably best known for his classic children's book The Little Prince, was also an aircraft designer and summed up this topic well. He gave us perhaps the best definition of elegance when he said “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”


It is not by stripping our livelihoods of all but necessities in order to find peace. Less is not always more. Sometimes it is the beauty of our environments, the traditions and stories buried deep in our favorite painting, styling, or ritual that give us peace. It is no easy task, but the comfort of peace is infamously hard-won.


How will you create a personal brand that is elegant, intelligent, and attractive?


P.S. I believe Gen Z is picking up on this, and many of the trends in 2023 are projected to reflect more European classical styles. Check out my article on that here


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Hannah Brusven founded The Swish in 2018 to combat trashy & politically biased women's media and create a  place for young women looking for a little more than more society feeds them.

 

Here we believe elegance is powerful, and the key to unlocking confidence, persuasion, and impact. Explore trends, traditions, lifestyle, and more with The Swish-- for an inspired elegant life. 

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