Two years of pandemic, soaring prices and a war in Europe have left the world bruised. In these sombre times, a new rebellion against the unending doom and gloom has emerged.
Welcome to the new maximalism movement, an XXL eco-conscious response that puts individuals front and centre. The more tarnished life feels, the brighter maximalism shines.
New Maximalism can be seen as one of many rebellions against the ways of older generations, but its influences go beyond that. The style turns your homes and fashions into exuberantly curated museums of personal passions and memories. This notion of curated individualities is what matters for brand builders and innovators.
From the Gucci Runway to TikTok Cluttercore, we hear the screams of a generation in dire need to increase the volume beyond 100% to make sure they are seen and heard. So, what can brands learn from new maximalism?
1. Joy is defiance
In the face of these sober times, the message from Maximalism is that joy, colour and meaning are essential ‘body armour’. That’s not to deny or hide from the challenges and wrongs of our world, but on the contrary, to offer a defiantly human counter point at every opportunity.
Resilience and bold optimism are the heartbeat of Maximalism, a joyful retort to the seemingly endless dystopian challenges we face. And if sobriety is becoming the new leitmotif, it is not a given that brands should go dark.
The 2010’s have been the years of user experience. The 2020’s will go beyond that to get closer to people’s emotions. Haptic technologies, sensorial innovations and products dedicated to tackling mental health issues will lead the way to a new economy of Hedonism, where pleasure and happiness are emotions we are ready to pay for. The ask for brands in these tumultuous times is to find their defiant joy, then shout it loudly and colourfully.
2. We are meaning-hunters
For Maximalists, the idea of ‘disposable goods’ is uninteresting. In our interconnected world, the very notion of ‘value’ and ‘ownership’ has changed. Economists of the early 1920’s defined the value of a product by its ‘use-value’, referring to its ability to complete a task. However, times are changing, and usefulness is becoming a secondary thought.
What Maximalism illustrates is the resurgence of a certain animist materialism, the belief that objects and places all possess a distinct spiritual essence. People are looking for meaning in their life and in what surrounds them as a way to find an anchor during times of turmoil.
Collectibles are all the rage, be it physical or digital. In some fashion houses, vintage pieces are sold at a much higher price than new products. People want to accumulate as a testament to their own existence. Nothing new here, but what is new is the rapid acceleration. Conscious that they are the product of a materialist society and far from fighting it, people will embrace it full-on. For them, it becomes a statement: yes, we consciously choose to be positively, even sustainably, materialist.
People are becoming Meaning-Hunters and are looking for easier ways to get to the treasure without the hustle. The ask for brands is to satisfy this itch, to layer meaning in detail, backstory, cultural artifacts, unexpected collaborations, or new expressions of just being a good ‘citizen brand’.
3. Find your ‘re-purpose’
Widespread anxiety and increasing attention on ‘slow-fashion’ movements mean that Maximalism can step forward as a viable solution for an industry that thrives on consumers’ insatiable appetite for ‘more’. From Bella Hadid wearing archive Haute Couture looks on the red carpet to Ikea vintage, repurposing is all the rage. Demand for a slower, more conscious form of consumption will continue to rise.
A future world that embraces a less-is-more approach to production, adopting Maximalism’s repurpose-with-joy ethos can support brands in retaining their aspirational values without compromise. The key to success is authenticity. Going down that road should be a commitment that is part of a bigger brand plan reflecting a true will to lead the change.
As a new principle, Maximalism’s ‘more-is-more’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘new’; it instead demands brands to innovate with meaning in a way that puts people on an enjoyable yet sustainable path forward. The brand’s aim is to re-purpose with purpose; to use what we have already to feed people’s craving for novelty and aspiration.
4. Be beautifully wrong
Outrageous juxtaposition is so often at the heart of Maximalism; clashing colours, objects and eras that wouldn’t normally go, even shouldn’t be seen together. It’s wrong, but also, when skilfully executed, just right. Just what’s needed to disrupt. The ask is for brands to develop provocative design and innovation that goes against the category norms and embraces ‘good chaos’.
This may require the work of underground designers that are given the creative freedom that challenge product and service design standards. The goal of such strategies should always be to break the status-quo of the category, to disrupt consumers’ attention with eye-catching products, and above all, embody the anti-establishment human spirit in which Maximalism is rooted.
5. Grow new worlds
Maximalism shows us the joy, stimulation and emotional impact of creating distinctive new worlds. The power of immersive experiences, when delivered with love, is an irresistible hit of emotion. Brands should ambitiously create new dimensions, new worlds – IRL or URL – where people can step into a new reality, and perhaps, emerge the other side, uplifted and meaningfully closer to the creator of this strange new ‘planet’.
The recent surge in maximalism is less of a trend and more of a way of life. Intrinsically tied with the current economic climate, as restrictions are felt, maxing out gains appeal. Amid economic uncertainty and political unrest, deliberately excessive lifestyles gain appeal – and are being felt across categories, from fashion to interiors.
COVID created a new generation of maximalists, reacting to lockdowns and the cost-of-living crisis – seen in the Cluttercore TikTok trend among others. But maximalism cuts across the ages, represented by TikTok sensation Sara Camposarcone as well as businesswoman, fashion icon and centenarian, Iris Apfel.
So, what can brands learn from the new maximalists? Anne-Lyse Garcon, Innovation Director at independent innovation agency jump! innovation, will discuss the impact of maximalism on brands and consumers and share five key take outs for brands.
- Joy is defiance – in the face of these sober times, the message from Maximalism is that joy, colour and meaning are essential ‘body armour’.
- We are meaning hunters – what Maximalism illustrates is the resurgence of a certain animist materialism, the belief that objects and places all possess a distinct spiritual essence.
- Find your repurpose – widespread anxiety and increasing attention on ‘slow-fashion’ movements mean that Maximalism can step forward as a viable solution for an industry that thrives on consumers' insatiable appetite for ‘more’.
- Be beautifully wrong – outrageous juxtaposition is so often at the heart of Maximalism; clashing colours, objects and eras that wouldn’t normally go, embracing ‘good chaos’.
- Grow new worlds – the power of immersive experiences, when delivered with love, is an irresistible hit of emotion.