'90s Minimalism Has Peaked, But If You Can't Afford The Row, Try These 9 Brands


(Image credit: Courtesy of Christopher Kane)

I think we all remember the iconic photo of Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss sitting on New York City streets wearing nothing but understated slip dresses. This is one of the photos that will forever define the model-off-duty style rhetoric of the '90s. The supermodels proved that all you need is the basics and good style to put together a paparazzi-worthy outfit and the rest of the world followed suit.

Decades later, if you take a look around at what fashion insiders are wearing lately, you might notice a minor shift. Many people I know who used to always love bright colors and statement-making pieces have taken a new approach to turning heads. Fashion designers have lead the crowds with brands like Christopher Kane, 16 Arlington, and Saint Laurent designing for the '90s supermodel aesthetic. Sometimes less is more, and in 2023, that will certainly be the case so a minor dose of '90s minimalism will serve everyone well.

Most of us know The Row as the destination to get this look. In fact, its recent sample sale drew the biggest crowd I've ever seen in New York City, and that's saying a lot. If you're like me and would prefer to skip The Row price tag, allow me to introduce you to nine brands that will help you get pieces that hold nearly the same quality and power. Enjoy.

1. Reformation

Although Reformation is known for its floral, cottagecore dresses, the brand's fall collection immediately made me think of '90s supermodel apparel. Plus, with sustainability at the forefront of the label, you'll feel good about buying into these pieces.

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2. Mango

Of all the high-street brands, Mango has always delivered the most European vibe you can imagine, which, of course, requires a slew of minimalist pieces. The quality is superior to other affordable brands, in my experience, so I tell everyone to invest in its pieces.

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3. The Frankie Shop

The Frankie Shop is an absolute favorite brand that all fashion girls have in their closets. I finally made my first few purchases from the brand this past year and have loved everything. 

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4. COS

If you like minimalism, you've already heard about COS, but if you're new to the brand, allow me to explain: Every time a friend of mine asks me for advice on where to shop, I have to mention this store. It has everything you need to build a fabulous wardrobe.

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5. Sir

Australia does it again. Sir has thought beyond the minimalism aesthetic to consider making a minimal environmental impact—and look good while doing it. While its pieces are perfect for a '90s minimalist wardrobe, they're anything but basic, and therefore, I'm obsessed.

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6. Totême

Totême is similar to The Row in that the woman who shops there is absolutely obsessed and always owns way more than one piece from the brand. Every design it creates pairs well with the others, making it the perfect brand to create a capsule wardrobe with.

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7. Sézane

If you love French girl style, please allow me to introduce you to Sézane. Based in Pairs, of course, it tailors directly to the French-girl aesthetic, so you'll be sure to find minimalist pieces there.

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8. Christopher Esber

Multiple people have told me lately that Christopher Esber is their favorite brand, and honestly, same. You'll find pieces from this designer that are unlike anything you've ever seen and that still feel minimal and effortless. Since the brand is always thinking outside of the box, I can't wait to see its next move.

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9. Zara

You might be surprised to see Zara in this lineup, but here we are. The retailer has provided multiple new collections and collaborations lately and minimalism has clearly been top of mind. Most notably, it's created a collaboration with Narcisco Rodriguez, a designer who is known for dressing the best supermodels in the '90s. Keep an eye out for affordable and chic pieces.

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Up Next: I Stalked French Girls on Insta, and They All Own These 8 Non-Basic Things

Associate Editor

Sierra Mayhew was always destined to work in fashion, but she didn't know it at first. Growing up with no choice but to wear a rotation of school uniforms and activewear, her love for fashion really blossomed when she moved away for college and was able to finally define her very own personal style. Shortly thereafter, she interned at Elle magazine and instantly knew that editorial was for her. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, she worked for ShopBazaar, contributing regularly to Bazaar.com, and finally made her way to Who What Wear, where she is an associate editor. When she’s not working, you can catch her always trying to catch a flight, rollerblading through New York City traffic, or exploring the latest luxury vintage boutique.