Something to read
I’m sure this won’t be the first message you will have read about Covid-19, and how it affects what we do. But I think it’s worth setting out a view, even if it repeats what others have already - perhaps more eloquently - said.
Fashion is non-essential. Clothes are a long way down the priority list of things core to life. As I’ve written about in the past, I’d go as far as to say they’re plain not important.
As I also wrote in that click-bait post, I’d put clothes on a par with haute cuisine: not essential to survival, but certainly one of the pleasures of life. And worth enjoying when you can.
For me, reading about clothes, their aesthetic and functional pleasure, is something I get a lot of joy out of. I’ve just finished In His Own Fashion, the Ralph Lauren biography, and have just started Rowing Blazers, which Jack Carlson kindly sent me.
They’ll be a ray of sunshine if at some point soon I’m self-isolating, and stuck in a room on my own.
So with that in mind, Permanent Style will be carrying on as best it can. Writing about things I love, how they’re made, and how to look after them.
There might be rather more posts on the last point: how to care for the clothes you have, get the most out of them, and treasure ‘how great things age’. That feels important.
But there will also be posts on brands and craftsmen. Partly for the point above - the joy of witnessing craft, or expressing beauty through the cut and colour of clothing – but also because I think we should continue to support these small operators. If we can.
Small companies usually have little cash at hand. I’ve already heard one conversation in a shop about how many weeks (not months) of zero sales they could survive before they went under.
The founder of Noah wrote an interesting piece along these lines on Tuesday – on their Instagram page – called ‘Not business as usual.’
Only when possible and responsible though. Not if personal circumstances mean all those more important things rule it out. And it makes complete sense if people want to support local restaurants or theatres instead. They will be quickest and hardest hit.
But it is possible to help the shops we love, online. And hopefully that will mean they're still here in a few months’ time, when I really hope a lot of this is behind us.
P.S. For those that have asked, the PS Shop is operating and shipping normally, with the only restriction being slow delivery to some countries as their border controls are stepped up. More information here.
Thank you Simon, being able to read Permanent Style is a kind of a shelter in those tough times.
Charles (Bordeaux, France)
Cheers Charles, lovely to hear that
Hi Simon, while I get that some will be coming here for escapism, my own view too is that a mix would be good. The alternative, to wax lyrical about product whilst producers potentially wither away, would be wrong. You are in a strong position to put out good journalism using your extensive network of contacts informing us about how companies are being impacted and how we can help. Such journalism would not only be of great assistance to us hobbyists, but would probably also be a good long-form piece of interest to the wider public.
I look forward to visiting the rescheduled pop-up and hope it’s postponement has not caused anyone unrecoverable financial harm.
Wishing you and everyone here all the best.
Thank you Richard, that’s a good point. So something that looks more specifically at how companies are being damaged, and any ways to help other than just buying as usual (when possible and responsible)
Exactly that Simon. I can dream up ideas about the many ways businesses and customers could be impacted, but would rather hear from those in the know. If the live issue is, for example, cash flow through loss of demand from being unable to travel, then many (hopefully still in a position to do so) could put their orders in remotely rather than waiting for a rescheduled visit. If the issue is, say, at the mills, then there may be little I can do. I suspect the challenges will differ by profession and price point. Knowledge is power.
Well put Richard, thank you I’ll look into it
Importantly I want to know who specifically I can help and how. I bet drakes will make it through this so unlikely to buy them online anytime soon (though I need a few items) and would prefer to find a struggling producer that I can support over the coming weeks.
Admittedly these are likely to be more RTW but still want to keep on top of it!
It’s hard to know what companies’ financial position is, and they’re unlikely to be public about it. But it’s fair to say that the smaller the company, usually the bigger issues they’ll have. Also those with physical stores and salaried staff.
I will try to look into it more though.
It’s an important message. All manner of small businesses, from sandwich shops to independent retailers and bespoke artisans, will be hit hard by this. Even after the initial crisis is over, anyone who relies on discretionary spending will struggle. The biggest names will be hit too. Burberry just announced they expect sales to fall 70-80%. Rolex (perhaps the most resilient name possible) have closed their factories and sent their workers home.
Longer term, there will be big changes to the luxury and fashion industries. Clearly a demand-side shock, but other effects too. Sterling has collapsed over the last week or so. That might help anyone with a big clientele in the US, but UK demand for foreign products will get worse.
Event based bear markets tend to recover very quickly indeed once the nature of the event is understood and can be priced. Govt. intervention will stop the worst things from happening. It will be time to start buying shares again very soon.
Businesses will inevitably change shape and size in the very short term, but mid term things will evolve to replace whatever has been lost.
Well put Simon.
On a side note, how’s “In his own fashion”, would you recommend it, or is it more of an advert for Ralph Lauren than anything else?
I was thinking about treating myself with the book to fight a bit of my boredom.
I’d say it’s definitely worth it.
It’s obviously very one-sided, and to read it you’d think he invented every fashion of the past 50 years.
But that sheer history is fascinating, on men’s and women’s, plus Flusser’s writing has some genuinely lyrical moments that are inspiring – and make you want to dig out your old cricket sweater or navajo blanket
Won’t the rich who often buy luxury products continue to spend? They will not be as impacted. It’s the middling patronage who buy once in a while that companies will lose. If the average PS reader income is $170k, we can presume that these people have prestigious stable jobs that will pay throughout the crisis. They will still have disposable income to spend on clothes.
True, though remember that if that’s the average, a lot earn less than that. And even losing 20-30% of your custom is a lot
Rowing Blazers is an excellent book, Simon, you will enjoy it, I think.
I do hope you keep up your cadence with Permanent Style. I think you do a greater service to your readers around the world than perhaps you realize. Speaking for myself, as one who is under a mandatory “Shelter in Place” order, the little pieces, small reminders of the “normal” world are invaluable for maintaining ones sanity.
Your point about supporting small businesses is absolutely on point. I am acutely aware that some of the artisans and vendors that I treasure may not come out of this, ever. We’re doing what we can to support local restaurants (delivery only, of course), and our favorite stores around the world. We can only do so much, though. The world will not be the same when this is over.
So, please, keep posting.
I love this post — mostly because it feels like a nice course correction and encouragement for the current time. There is no doubt that we have(had) been living in a gilded age. But all things come to an end… even just partially.
I was laid off at the end of last week, due to the virus. For the last seven months, I’d been slowly putting away for something handmade later this year. It’s become obvious that my attention and resources should be redirected to sustaining myself in the year ahead. (As you write, dressing well is non-essential.)
Part of my own course correction will include paying more attention to the things I already own and love. Those Wolverine’s will be getting a good polish this weekend and a new pair of laces when it makes sense.
I want to encourage you to stay true to writing more about how things age; those posts always galvanize me into taking better care of what I have. And like your own reading, they will be good comfort food for many of us in the road ahead.
Thank you Miles, I will. I’m sure I speak for others too when I say it’s particularly poignant when related to someone’s personal story
On the other hand this crisis will surely steer even more consumers online. I wonder what the coming weeks and months will look like for the more online-based retailers, say like Berg & Berg for example, with millions being stuck at home with time on their hands.
On a more pedantic point, the short name for the disease is COVID-19 (capital letters). If you were talking about the virus rather than the disease (that wasn’t entirely clear), the name is SARS-CoV-2.
Thanks Thomas. Not that it matters at all, but the house style I was trained to use, and have generally stuck with, is to use title case (as here) for an acronym or initialisation that is said as a word, like Covid
Correct Simon, on style and usage. I work as a subeditor at The Guardian and that’s the style we follow.
Poignant post too for our changing reality. Life, will and should never be the same again.
Thanks Simon, well put as always. I’m writing this from Italy, where we’ve been effectively under house arrest for the past ten days. Difficult as the situation is over here, it helps to think about nice things whenever possible, and even putting on a favourite shirt or jumper in the morning makes a big difference and gets you through the day. I’m looking forward to reading your posts in the weeks of lockdown to come.
Lovely post and sentiments. Just returned from a business trip to London and on 14 day quarantine and working from home. I am counting my blessings and trying to be sensible about health matters. I am also not wanting to forget about the appropriate pleasures of life, family and friends. I worry for all the small businesses and believe we can all play a small part in helping them back
Great perspective. Would love some features on “small pleasures” purchases like ties to spruce up one’s existing wardrobe, probably from small makers or ones in particularly challenged markets (Italy, etc)
Great idea, absolutely
Great point. During the 2008/09 crisis, Lipstick sales registered a huge increase, and it was concluded that “affordable treats” were a way of lifting the spirits during the gloom.
Hi Simon, Just wanted to say thanks and commend you for this article. I agree with all the positive comments. I will be looking forward more than ever to your articles, as I spend more time indoors.
The personal cost to many people working in the disposable income space is incapable. I will try to support these businesses in what ever small way I can over time. In the U.K I would urge business to seek out the help the government is offering. For example my barber didn’t know about the Business Rate holiday.
As I mentioned in a recent comment there is some great comfort in appreciating what you already have – my ancient Belstaff waxed jacket feels like an old and valued friend when I go out for essential travel. Also perhaps it’s a good time to sort out wardrobes and also see what items need some TLC.
Thanks again Simon, what you do really is appreciated.
I spent time working in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis, a horrible and terrifying time. But life went on, food was available, people got dressed in the morning. And we came through it. Sustaining a degree of normalcy and a sense of community was vital. You provide that – please don’t stop. Darker times require lighter moments. Thank you for giving us some.
Wow. Thank you so much
We need PS more then ever.
As bizarre as it sounds , with the impending storm, a passionate distraction coupled with the hope of future purchases inspired by PS articles is one of the things that will help pull us b through.
The very best of health. Stay safe.
I’m not sure how I would cope without my thrice weekly dose of PS.
Such inspiration, vision and knowledge are not easy to find, and I fear for my equilibrium if I am not able to access this clarity of thought and solid sartorial advice.
Please stick with it Simon.
As someone who is fortunate enough to be able to afford the pleasure of an item of bespoke clothing every now and then and also be able to continue with my job through this, one thing I thought might help was to reach out to my tailors and offer to pay the balance on my clothing now, which would usually be done at the last fitting. It’s not a lot relatively, but especially for smaller houses, zero income for quite some time is a real possibility. Perhaps others in a similar position might consider doing the same.
Good suggestion. It’s normally cash flow that’s the issue, so having it now and then the freedom to spend it on rent or wages would be very welcome
The tailor I’m currently using is in one of the hardest hit areas, north of Milan. They had to cancel a London visit a few weeks ago, then things really took a turn for the worse and they’ve closed the business until further notice. I sure hope they’re able to weather the storm – not just because I want my jacket, but because they’re a good bunch of folks.
I wonder Simon if you could host a page for readers to write in with their own clothing and style reflections.
Things like a small essay on the feelings you had while dressing for an important occasion, a story of a style experiment that failed or an item on a favorite piece of clothing and why you love it.
I understand if this is logistically impossible or would impose a heavy burden of editing on you.
In any case here is a bit of a limerick form me.
There once was a man named Pete
Who loved leather shoes on his feet
He thought “I’ll just buy one pair”
But it mushroomed from there
‘Til they spilled from the house to the street
I’ll see how easy that is Pete, yes. I guess it happens to a certain extent at the moment with the comments? I love how good some of them are – personal, informed, funny
“Fashion is non-essential. Clothes are a long way down the priority list of things core to life. As I’ve written about in the past, I’d go as far as to say they’re plain not important.” I agree with the first sentence but must disagree with the last. Having good quality and stylish clothes that fit is very important. Most men in my town (wealthy middle class) dress appallingly.
I am fed up looking at blokes in badly fitting jeans, trainers and nylon jackets. It is a form of visual pollution that is boring and depressing. It is also unnecessary as good quality and affordable clothes are readily available on the High Street and online. Those on average incomes can’t afford luxury brands and expensive tailoring but they can still look stylish in RTW clothing. All that is required is good taste.
Maybe now’s the perfect time for that long due post on laundering and ironing shirts! 😉
Ha, yeah nice point. Just need to convince someone to come over that can do the video…
Great outfit in the Instagram post from the park. What you’re wearing doesn’t look bad either!
Ha! Thanks Ian. She looks lovely in that bear suit doesn’t she? Just upgraded from a lamb one…
Thanks for this as always, Simon.
As an NHS GP I’ll be wearing scrubs and a mask for the next few months, so your content will important ‘soul-food’ during the dark days to come.
Keep safe everyone.
All the best.
Thank you, that’s so nice to hear.
And thank you in advance for all the hard and caring work you will be doing for people.
Hi Simon, I can recommend ‘The Dandy at Dusk’ by Philip Mann if you haven’t already read it.
Thank you, I haven’t
I went in to the city for the first time in 6 months and said hello to the friends at Graham Browne. As expected, they’re in dire straits. The City is still a ghost town. Business has all but dried up, and given continued working from home, doesn’t look like the City clientele they rely on will be ever coming back in full. And they don’t have the repuation or heritage of Savile Row to see them through. I wonder if businesses such as this will ever make it out without any significant restructure…