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At our book launch in Stockholm last week, Konrad Olsson (above) – editor of Plaza Uomo magazine – asked some rather stimulating questions.

Such as, what is quality? Well, for me quality (in clothing) is aspects of manufacture that lead to practical benefits –longevity, fit, or comfort. Which of these a consumer prioritises is of course up to them, but the benefits themselves are usually pretty objective.

Second question: is there a risk that we focus too much on quality, and too little on design? Yes, perhaps.

Within our world of menswear enthusiasts, we have almost gone too far in emphasizing quality, fit and provenance, at the expense of aesthetics.

In the end, a man’s top priority (in clothing) is looking good. Fit is a huge part of that – most obviously in suiting. But design is always a big factor and, much as we hate to admit it, that design is subjective, dependent on context, and changes over time (even if it takes decades, rather than months).
  

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As Konrad pressed further in his questioning, I brought up the example of manufacturers that have become brands. Many, such as Drake’s, Begg and Bresciani, have successfully made the switch to retail in recent years.

But some makers underestimate the time and cost involved in good design – the staff, the research, the prototypes. They think they can carry on selling their standard product year after year. Even classics need to be refreshed.

Konrad was, to an extent, playing devil’s advocate. We were talking about the exploration of quality in my book The Finest Menswear in the World, and he was pushing at the idea of quality, its universality and importance. 

The vast majority of consumers focus too much on design, not too little. They buy designer brands, they buy poor quality product because it looks good – and then do so all over again when it has worn out. The Finest Menswear in the World is meant to be a step towards changing that.

But there is a tendency among our menswear crowd to go too far the other way. To ignore good design in favour of old brands with old factories. It must be a balance.
  

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Konrad and his colleagues kindly organised the Stockholm book launch, with the ever generous Fredrk af Klercker (of Stijljournalen) hosting at his club, Fou.

Thank you to all the readers that came. If there is one thing I enjoy most about these events, it is meeting long-time readers face to face. They’ve been loyal for so long, with nothing but the odd online comment between us. Nice to make it personal.

My favourite photo from the evening, by the way, is the first one below. I’m sure everyone wishes this is how they read menswear books: with a loving, beautiful partner looking appreciatively over their shoulder. And perhaps asking the odd, intelligent question.
  

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Clothes:

  • Chittleborough & Morgan navy suit (read more about its development here)
  • White double-cuff, fly-front shirt by D’Avino
  • Printed grey/brown silk tie by Hermes
  • Lapel chain by The Armoury
  • Coffee-and-white linen handkerchief by Paul Stuart
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A. Keller

I was wondering if you know the book “The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury, & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat” by Meg Lukens Noonan. I read it a couple of years ago and I can honestly say that it changed the way in which I see clothing. I am not linked in any way to Meg or this book, nor do I gain anything by talking about it. I just believe that you and the visitors of your blog should be aware of it.

The book itself is a pleasure to read. It emphasizes the history of every single aspect regarding the coat, one chapter per item. Although that particular $50,000 coat was made only a few years ago. I can sincerely recommend Meg Lukens Noonan’s book to you and to everybody interested first of all in history and in particularly in the history of clothing. After reading the book you will believe that those $50,000 were well spent.

btw, congratulations on your book.

AlEg

I think in this sartorial world it is more about ‘permanent style’ as opposed to (forcibly) short lived fashion.

Good style is (nearly) timeless while fashion only lasts a season.

Adam Jones

Interesting points about people becoming too obsessed. I think it is happening to me!! i visit some shops now find something that looks pretty good, fits well enough but then i get so obsessed that it is not of good enough quality, will last me long enough or too “designed”. I end up buying something of amazing quality, that maybe doesn’t look as good as something cheaper and slightly poorer quality. That is me putting longevity over everything else. (prob a tightwad trait) I think i should sometimes not worry about it so much! – this has reared its head recently trying to buy a new DB coat. A few nice looking ones in Dutti, Zara Reiss etc. Respectable quality for the price but I still want better. I find better and they just don’t look as good. I am still young (ish) so maybe I can still get away with it and I should just not concern myself with everything I buy.

Gustav Ehrenborg

It was a very nice evening. I appreciate what you do and what I’ve read so far in the book is great.

Dimitri

Simon – terrific photos and I loved the photo (and comment) about the partner! I would like to purchase a copy for my brother for his birthday. Where can I purchase a copy in London ? Kind regards

nick inkster

Now the collar on this coat is, in my view, far more as it should be than the recent A&S examples you have posted. Sits a nice height on the neck, and shows off the right amount of shirt collar points at the front. Bravo.

Mac

Design through need. That’s what remains. The rest is superfluous fluff.

Jason

Simon, compliments on the suit- a great silhouette- and the outfit as a whole. (Not that there is any pressure on the author at the launch of a book on the world’s finest menswear…)

As a curious aside (not a rebuke- I’ve been known to do it myself ;-), I can’t help wondering what our grandparents’ generation would have made of men that well dressed drinking beer straight from the bottle… A world where pocket squares could be worn with jeans would have been incomprehensible, wouldn’t it?

Bertie Wooster

Simon your tie knot seems rather large even though you are a tall person and this looks like a four in hand. Is it. Are there any “rules” or ideal knot sizes e.g. large for big build, small for smaller people etc? Like the ones we have with collars shapes enhancing certain face types

Matt S

That balance of design and classic clothing is something I’ve much appreciated about this site. The pea coat from Davide Taub perhaps shows the best example of it. The problem with most fashion design is that it doesn’t consider proportion or function, and I think that’s what turns off people interested in quality menswear from design. Taub is just as much a designer as he is a tailor, but he understands good design. I wish there was more clothing out there like what he has done, that doesn’t sacrifice good proportions, quality and taste for creativity.

John

Hi Simon,
This was a nice event! Thanks for sharing!
To our Swedish friends, keep the good work. The world would be a better place, if there were enough folks like you everywhere!
As to the main question, quality vs design, when it comes to shoes, the answer is quite straightforward. But with jackets,for instance, a bit more knowledge is necessary to decide between, say, an unconstructed one and one that has at least a free floating chest piece.
By the way, have you noticed the huuge number of unconstructed jackets on sale? Obviously, a trend that has to do with current designer’s heft in the menswear industry.
John

David Craggs

Design/fashion v style — always a good discussion.
In my not so humble opinion, menswear is made up of a lot of small details that evolve slowly but they do evolve — trouser width, pleats, vents , etc.
If you evolve in a way that suits your build and colouring, you will remain stylishly relevant.
Move to the fashion end of the spectrum and you’ll look as ridiculous as 007’s suits in the otherwise creditable Spectre.
On a positive note, I’ve just taken delivery of my first Abbarchi shirt and judge it to be really rather good. A great equilibrium between quality and value. I just hope their strategy is economically viable.

Anonymous

Hi David

Have you had shirts by Luca Avitabile ? If so, how do the Abbarchi shirts compare? Fit, quality etc.

David Craggs

Sorry Anonymous but I haven’t experienced Avitabile.
What I can say is that my previous bespoke shirt experiences have been expensive and not particularly happy.
Consequently, I’ve resorted to Zegna made to measure for formal shirts (expensive and not particularly great) and Dunhill for casual – with alterations (great fabrics & colours – flannel etc.) – but not bespoke fit and again expensive.
The Abbarchi shirt fits like a glove and I’m happy with the fabric. Providing it wears well I’ll definitely be ordering more. Nice guys as well.

Anonymous

Hi Simon

If I remember correctly, you were happy with the latest shirt you received from Simone. However, I don’t remember a comparison to Luca. Are you able to compare? If memory serves, Luca has hand stitched elements whereas Simone’s shirts are machine made. Is there anything else that sets them apart?

chris

Can’t help but echo the comment about drinking beer from the bottle. Each to their own and all that, but the amount of time – and money – spent on raising the bar sartorially is thrown away in a moment.

Anonymous

For Adam Jones… try Jaeger.

Anonymous

Looks like a superb evening Simon, congratulations. Two questions; on the suit the Dugdale twill – is this the same type of cloth as a worsted…(I love the colour), also for readers unfamiliar with a lapel chain could you please explain its use and when to wear?

Hugo

Dear Simon,

I’ve noticed that your new book on travel is available for purchase at a few retailers, yet I’ve seen nothing on the website about it. Will there be a piece about it, or is the low-key launch intended?

Kind regards