Perhaps the thing that makes me happiest about writing Permanent Style is when it kindles a love of clothing in readers.
Men come up to me in the street, or at events, with a twinkle in their eye that says they have discovered the pleasures of good clothing. The style; the interest; the daily luxury of something beautiful against the skin.
We have to get dressed every day – there is no choice about that – and clothing matters. It is a huge part of how we are perceived by the people around us. So it makes sense to get dressed with intelligence and with taste.
But clothing is not important.
It does not change the world; it has no moral value. Even as a branch of the arts, fashion is a poor relation.
Clothing is like cooking. You have to eat every day, just like you have to get dressed. Understanding food and cooking well can be creative and absorbing. It is a necessity that can also be a rich, rewarding pleasure.
But cooking, like clothing, is not important. It comes someway down below politics, economics and science in its ability to change people’s lives and improve the world.
And as an art, fashion ranks below literature, music, theatre, film and, well, art.
Clothing can be a wonderful way to express aesthetic concepts. But its movements are largely derivative, products of broader art or culture. It does not have the depth or originality of fiction or poetry; it is unlikely to make us question how we live our lives.
Sometimes the fashion industry seems to forget this. And sometimes, in our neurotic way, do we.
Dress simply, intelligently and well. And don’t take it too seriously.
(Pictured top, Pierre Corthay in his Paris atelier. Not taking anything too seriously.)