Minimalism needs a discussion of class. So that we can talk about it and then divorce the two.
The reality is that for many people living in an affluent circumstance minimalism is an easy, comfortable and (cringe) trendy lifestyle choice. “I could choose to have a lot or a little. But it’s my choice!” I cringe at the thought that people think I’m a minimalist because I can afford to selectively live with little or to give things away willy nilly because if I need something I can just buy it without much thought. At the same time, I cringe at the thought that people assume my minimalism is simply a rationalization, a way to enjoy living with very little because I have no choice in the matter, because I have very little and can afford very little. Whether I have little by choice or by force of circumstance minimalism becomes a class issue when talked about this way. Minimalism becomes a discussion of stuff and money, when minimalism could be about sustainability, mindfulness, mental health, and so on.
I recently met a woman named Nora who is the owner and designer at Inconnu Lab. After interviewing many people over the last year it was fun to have someone tell me that their work, their passion and their hobby are the same thing. I think that when our work, passion and hobby are aligned we are most fortunate because we are using our time in a way that we love. Nora isn’t sure if she’s a minimalist, but she definitely has lots of ideas (and designs) inspired by minimalism. I won’t give it all away but take note of the class, sustainability and other dimensions of minimalism that Nora alludes to. I do have to say that I absolutely love that Nora’s designs aim to minimize waste by using geometric shapes. Brilliant!
Hi Nora! Let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?
My background is not as creative as you would imagine as I graduated in Economics in Hungary. After some years of working in international work environment, I dropped everything at once to move to Trieste (Italy). It was not easy, as I love Budapest, but it has been a good decision. I like the unknown and I like getting out of my comfort zone. I believe that you can grow only if you are willing to try something new. That’s why I chose the name Inconnu (which in French means ‘unknown’) for my brand. Inconnu is not only a brand name, but my key inspiration as well.
You are a designer at InconnuLAB, an Italian slow fashion brand, can you tell me a little about it?
In my Trieste based home-studio, I create versatile and customizable bags with a focus on environmentally-friendly practices. Minimizing the impact on the environment is at the heart of the ethically made InconnuLAB products. I create geometrical forms which allow to throw away the least possible materials. I have total control of the manufacturing process which makes it possible to use even the smallest production leftovers. The bags are characterized by functional minimalism as I avoid the use of unnecessary things like clasps and buckles but still make them easy to use. I use only high-quality Italian materials like waterproof heavy canvas and durable, yet soft, leather.
So, what is your story, how did you start on a path toward a minimalist lifestyle?
I had to start it really early, I learned everything from my mom. We never had anything at home which was not useful. Un-useful things were thrown away immediately! Anyway I don’t know exactly what kind of lifestyle I have and I don’t like when my style is classified by genre. I don’t think that I am a minimalist, I just simply don’t like un-useful things/words/gestures.
I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you? And, in what ways are you a minimalist?
My bags represent my thoughts about minimalism: at the first glance they are designed simply but if you take a closer look you realise that they are made with supreme attention to details; the edges are aligned and finished carefully.
Sometimes people confuse minimalism with frugality and that’s a big mistake. Minimalism means for me: avoiding the superfluousness preserving and enhancing the quality.
Are there any websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism? Favourite books?
In what ways do you struggle with keeping things minimal? What is your weakness?
My biggest challenge is definitely to prioritize tasks.
Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?
Luckily, no! We can always reach a compromise.
What have been some unexpected experiences (positive or negative) you’ve had with minimalism?
It’s simply amazing how much stuff you can have, in a relatively small space, keeping them in order. You would be astonished if I told you on how many square meters I live and work!
How small is your work and living space?
It is the same space. It’s 36 metres squared, which is around 385 square feet.
What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?
Well, as you’ve previously said there are many ways to be a minimalist. People have different interpretations for minimalism therefore it’s pretty difficult to offer advice. However in my opinion it’s always important to distinguish frugality and minimalism. Never compromise the quality when it comes to minimalism!
Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?
I am 100% focused on my business; in the next months I am going to design new models and there is another surprise which I will share with you in the near future on my blog. So keep up-to-date! 😉
You can find all the other interviews in the minimalist series here.
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