The age of functional maximalism

Bold statements, practical styles, modularity and expression

Ana Andjelic
4 min readApr 22, 2024
№21 Fall 2024 Menswear Fashion Show

“We should not forget that maybe not everybody only wants a camel cashmere turtleneck,” Olivier Rousteing remarked. Beyond the cyclical nature of fashion, Rousteing’s observation captured a mash-up of trends that has been solidifying into a durable aesthetic.

Todd Snyder, Prada, Fendi

This aesthetic is functional maximalism, and is the outcome of the post-gorpcore, post-genre fashion, changed urban lifestyles, our mass embrace of nature, TikTok creative influences, and a pushback to the omnipresent minimalism. Functional maximalism is fashion’s expansion of its own aesthetic vocabulary, with tokens from sports, outdoors, gender studies, cultural nostalgia, MacGyver, space exploration, future, past, and nature.

MSGM, Prada, Todd Snyder, S.S. Daley

Decades ago, Agnelli wore hiking boots with his tailored Italian suits. Functional maximalism mixes utility with downtown with outdoors, with oversized silhouettes, prints and confident colors, layers and utilitarian details. There is nothing minimal about its outdoors look. It is post-gorpcore, but still embraces nature. It is practical, but not overly sporty. It’s formal, but freeing. Comfortable, but it shuns quiet luxury. Elevated, but wearable. Unisex and sexy. Functional but not simple. Cool.

Fear of God, J.W. Anderson, Prada

Crucially, functional maximalism is inspired by the city life, rather than by the outdoors. Where gorpcore introduced outdoor looks into the city and recontextualized outerwear to make it fashion, functional maximalism uses the outdoors as an aesthetic reference: a detail, an embellishment, like an equipment pack, a lanyard for your phone or a strap and hook on your belt. Scandinavian brands, most notably Ganni, Baum und Pfertgarten, By Malene Birger, Acne Studios or Rotate Birger Christensen, were the first to put forward functional maximalism as a fashion aesthetic, and the rest is catching on. In its recent menswear FW 24 show, Prada showed a customer drawn and inspired nature, but rooted in the urban setting.

Setchu, Todd Snyder, Dsquared2

The underlying logic of functional maximalism is creative expression. To fully deliver it, functional maximalism swears by modularity. In this world, sneakers are the new loafers, comfort is king, materials and fabrics are textured and luxurious, colors and prints are bold, and everything is detachable, foldable, and transmutable. A wearer is at the center, and functional maximalism celebrates their lifestyle, movement, creativity, adventure, expression, and difference. It is like sports wear for spectators, and unlike a camel cashmere turtleneck, it’s optimistic and fun. Even Phoebe Philo is doing it.

S.S. Daley, Louis Vuitton Menswear, Style Du Monde

In contrast to quiet luxury, which is inherently fake, there’s something refreshingly honest about functional maximalism. Where quiet luxury fakes having a personality, taste, wealth, and power (along faking that one doesn’t enjoy them), functional maximalism is direct, unmissable, and expressive.

Dsquared2, Todd Snyder, Style Du Monde

Like any sort of maximalism, it enjoys excess (of color, print, silhouette and sizes), visual drama, and storytelling. It’s a coat that can be a duvet, an oversized Barbour-like jacket over organza dress, a tuxedo worn over sweatpants, equally suitable for a night out in a fancy restaurant as it is for a Saturday morning paper run. Raf Simmons noted that the leather sandals that his models paired with suits on Prada’s FW 24 menswear runway were inspired by those that he wears when walking his dog first thing in the morning.

AMI, Dries van Noten, Wales Bonner, Sacai

Commercially, functional maximalism is a strong proposition. In the context of experimentation, creativity and fun, anything goes: all genres, trends, and styles are easily absorbed and transformed by changing the proportions, color, layers, or utility details. No garment or category is out of place: Todd Snyder’s recent Pitti presentation plays with a number of influences to deliver a perfect combination of the familiar and new.

Sacai, Wales Bonner, Hermès

Culturally, functional maximalism makes a perfect sense. On TikTok, real life, and resale sites, everything is open to interpretation; interpretations are more entertaining than the original; and creativity, expression, and individuality are the ultimate genre and aesthetic. Functional maximalism is the same: what once was a fashion experiment is now everyday wear. How fun!

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Ana Andjelic

Brand Executive. Author of “The Business of Aspiration.” Doctor of Sociology. Writer of “Sociology of Business.” Forbes most influential CMO.