Carl Barenbrug

Product design, creative direction


Ever thought of having a personal uniform? Not the typical work attire, but a carefully curated capsule wardrobe that reflects a cohesive style. My interest in fashion is limited, yet the concept of capsule wardrobes has fascinated me for years. I've been chipping away at crafting my own personal uniform and it's been a gradual process that's been ongoing for over 5 years. So I'd like to dive a little deeper into this topic.

The concept

A capsule wardrobe is a thoughtfully curated collection of clothing that emphasises quality over quantity. It's about streamlining your wardrobe to a selection of versatile pieces that you truly enjoy and wear regularly. The idea isn’t to limit your options, but to create a more intentional and cohesive wardrobe that reflects your personal style and lifestyle needs. Each item in a capsule wardrobe is chosen for its functionality, comfort, and the ability to mix and match, making getting dressed not just simpler, but a genuine pleasure. It’s about breaking free from the endless cycle of fast and on-trend fashion and embracing a more sustainable, personalised approach to what we wear every day. Here's a sample of my personal inventory:

Core items Building blocks Occasional pieces
Uniqlo black socks
Uniqlo white socks
Uniqlo black boxers
Patagonia grey socks
Björn Borg black boxers
Uniqlo black flannel trousers
The North Face M66 black cargo trousers
Prana stretch Zion black trousers
Yeezy Vultures pants
Uniqlo black thermal tights
Uniqlo oversized black tee
Uniqlo oversized grey tee
Uniqlo oversized white tee
Håndværk prima cotton long sleeve shirt
Black Diamond black tee
Yeezy Vultures Number 1 box tee
OEX thermal base layer
Mid layer
Håndværk black crew neck sweatshirt
Longevity London black hoodie
Adidas Y-3 black hoodie
Uniqlo black lambswool turtleneck
Outer layer
Ministry of Supply black Mercury jacket
COS black bomber jacket
Arkk Raven shoes
Terrex GORE-TEX hiking shoes
Uniqlo grey slippers
Yeezy Pods
Yeezy Foam Runners
Arne Track Racer shoes
ODA x Minimalissimo black backpack
COS black belt
Arc'teryx Veilance Nomin pack
Uniqlo black crossbody bag
Uniqlo soft black cotton ribbed beanie
Black Diamond midweight gloves
Uniqlo black Twill cap
Finlay smoke/grey Bowery sunglasses

My uniform

Firstly, the palette. I'm personally drawn to shades of black and white, yet, after learning more about colour analysis I'm not convinced black suits my complexion. Most people don't have a clue what colours and tones suit their skin type, and maybe don't particularly care. We all have undertones, overtones, seasons, and pairing these with fabrics that also suit our facial features is incredibly difficult. Material tones that might suit my skin (probably warm colours), might not be colours I enjoy aesthetically (although accents of yellow could be interesting). I want my uniform to also reflect my personality, not just my skin tone. So I need to consider the details of the fabrics I wear. For instance, faded blacks and off-whites will work better with my complexion than stark black and white. At least, this is the case for upper body fabrics.

Out for a walk in sunny Edinburgh

Next, let's talk about style and fit. My personal uniform strikes a balance between utilitarian functionality and comfort, drawing inspiration from the minimalist aesthetics of Japanese streetwear, with a hint of futurism. It comprises a layered ensemble of loose-fitting tees, sweatshirts, jackets, pants, and sneakers — a casual yet distinctive look. While I'm fond of the idea of owning multiple pieces of the same garment for simplicity, I often hesitate, especially when shopping online, due to uncertainties about fit and appearance. Even when a piece does meet my expectations, I usually find that one is enough. Above all, my uniform must be versatile enough to cater to a range of needs, including:

  • day wear for the home
  • general purpose outdoor wear (all seasons)
  • event/evening wear
  • gym wear for weights and cardio
  • gym wear for climbing
  • outdoor hiking wear (all seasons)
  • rare special occasion smart wear

These requirements equate to quite a lot of clothing. Probably more than I'd like to have, but I do operate in a one-in-one-out basis, so quantity is never out of control. That said, a good tip is to always store away clothes that are out-of-season. It keeps the clutter to a minimum and your wardrobe rarely feels overwhelming. Although some wardrobe pieces might not remain in my possession for long periods (I often donate), the ones that do are worn into the ground. I don't care if there's holes in my clothes or colours fade. So my clothes are rarely in pristine condition.

Yet the process continues to be challenging. I think my gym wear is what's in need of most refinement. I'm still experimenting with styles, fabrics, and brands, but I'm hoping to settle on a uniform soon. All other areas are taking shape, but again, I might need to tweak the shades of some garments to better suit my skin tone.

While continuing to refine and adapt my personal uniform, I'm intrigued by the idea of expanding this concept to a larger community. I want to explore how we can apply the principles of a capsule wardrobe to create a uniform for Minimalism Life®. But before designed apparel can become something that would interest people, I'm wondering whether we'd need to evolve what is currently a readership into an interactive community. The thing is, I'm not sure I'm prepared to take on that responsibility right now.

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