If your tastes are not minimalistic, you haven’t spent enough time with all the inferior styles.
After some years in architectural practice, four more years in a PhD program and two decades teaching and writing on the topic of design—not only architectural design, but also interior and industrial design and, to some extent, fashion as well—I have spent enough time with the world’s styles, to know exactly how shallow they are.
To love a style, you have to believe its main leaders. I don’t. I’m not charmed by their charisma. I only see sophists.
My sympathies lie with designers like Rem Koolhaas and Bjarke Ingels, who can talk about function all day. When it comes to finishing things off though — in other words, giving them style — they do as little as they possibly can. When finally forced to make stylistic decisions, I've seen each of them copying Mies van der Rohe. It's as though by deferring to the world's leading exponent of minimalism, they're avoiding inventing any style of their own.
One's own style is a liability. If you have brains and a conscience, you know it cannot be explained.
I don't waste my time considering or debating the merits of styles. Like time spent debating the existence of God, it is a waste of my time.
Having risen to the level, not of disbelief, but disinterest in styles, you might think I would be happy as a designer to make everything plain. You don't understand my resentment! Like so many before me who have come to minimalism later in life, I begrudge the decades I gave in good faith to the understanding of style. It's not enough, now, to ignore it. I want to attack it! I want to press every last vestige of stylistic intension into the space between two pieces of fabric, where it will never be seen or heard from again!
I face the dilemma now, faced by all minimalists, of making my essential remaining lines perfect and my planes from mysterious matter. The simple wall planes of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona pavilion are Alpine marble, green marble from Greece and golden onyx from the Atlas Mountains. Picasso's single line drawings are on pieces of paper, that blank are worth more than some artworks.
Sublime lines, seams and fabric are the unending pursuits of a minimalist swimwear designer.
Sometimes when I'm tired, I think how much easier this job would be if I took on a few styles. They would be short cuts, like religions are shortcuts, to thinking. Be that as it may, minimalism is the shore I’ve washed up on, in my life as a designer. There but for the grace of a few who understand it, may I indulge in a new career.
—Steven Fleming, 2021.