How Permanent Style works as a business

Wednesday, September 2nd 2020
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Fashion media has had a hard time of it in recent years, with near constant disruption - which Covid-19 has only made worse. 

So why am I confident that Permanent Style can survive this turmoil? What revenue streams support that, and what investment? 

How PS works as a business was a question readers brought up a few times in last year's Readership Survey. So I thought I’d try and lay it out today. 

This is not about why I quit my job (we’ve covered that before) or why Permanent Style started (ditto). But rather from a pure business point of view, how does it work: where does the money come from, and what are its dynamics.

The aim of this is primarily to answer those reader questions. But it's also nice to increase transparency - reemphasising what we take money for and what we don't - and perhaps make readers feel closer to PS.

It might be helpful for other small businesses too, in the same vein as the 'How to launch a menswear brand' article last week.

Permanent Style didn’t start making any money for about four years.

It started as a simple blog, and took a while to gain traction and a following. Even when it had a healthy 300,000 page views or so each month, and was one of the biggest classic menswear sites, brands only advertised when I went out and asked them. 

The first was Drake’s. They advertised on Will Boehlke’s A Suitable Wardrobe and I asked if they would be interested in PS. Michael Drake kindly said yes, and they’ve been there ever since. 

Others followed, including Edward Green and The Hanger Project. And when other brands saw their peers advertising, inquiries started to come in. There began to be enough money to fund trips, or to commission bespoke to review. 

The high renewal rate of these advertisers is a fundamental reason Permanent Style has been able to develop. 

The revenue has been constant, and reliable. It's not project based, and does not require me to spend time seeking new customers or making pitches. 

Brands advertise because the content is good, and popular. And because they know from experience that it delivers, they make no demands on coverage. 

This kind of relationship between advertising and editorial is probably the ideal one, and something magazines (including those I used to work for) aspire to. 

But in my experience, this relationship is either prevented, or established and then undermined, by a demand for growth: a constant push for greater sales than the publication naturally generates. 

(The modern obsession with growth is also an interesting topic, encompassing loss-leading start-ups and governments’ focus on GDP. But not something for here probably.)

The way the advertising slots work on PS is both a blessing and a curse. 

Because brands have their place in the right-hand column reserved, it’s hard for new entrants to get enough exposure. They have to start low down and gradually move their way up, when those above them leave. 

But that pressure from below also encourages advertisers higher up to stay. They know that if they left, they would have to start all over again. 

The end result is even greater stability. Which is helpful for PS as a business, but does mean there is a lack of new openings for brands. 

When the newsletter started (above), I partly addressed this by limited advertising to one month per brand, giving everyone an opportunity to get top billing. 

The other main revenue stream for PS is the shop.

It was growth in this area that allowed me to quit my job three years ago. But I’ve been particularly specific here that growth is not the aim. 

The shop started as small collaborations with brands (Breanish Tweed, William Abraham) where I suggested or helped design a product, and received commission on sales. 

Over time, I started to want greater control over these projects, and moved to holding and selling everything. 

This was a much greater financial risk. Each time I'd be spending thousands of pounds buying stock. But I liked the fact that readers knew what they were getting - that they were buying from me, not from a brand via me, or some mix of the two. 

Retail is exciting: you can make quite a lot of money quite quickly. But it is also riskier. 

With all the costs built in (see previous article on starting a brand) and charging a fairly low margin (as PS does), you normally have to sell more than half your stock before you stop losing money. 

It’s easy to see how brands get into a situation where they haven’t made their money back, and begin selling all the remaining stock at a discount, just to get into profit. 

And here’s where the growth point comes in. 

I've deliberately run PS conservatively, so that it doesn’t matter if some things don’t sell. Luckily pretty much everything has, but I never want to be in a position where I’m scrambling around to make cash, and as a result forced to do things I wouldn’t otherwise. 

I've found some businesses get into that position by taking on extra costs in order to grow. They hire more people, rent more stores, and all of a sudden they need to sell large volumes just to break even.

For fans of Nike, Shoe Dog by founder Phil Knight is a good illustration: at every stage, whether revenues were $10 million or $100 million, the company was almost going bankrupt because it was growing so fast. 

I've found - personally - that being conservative with what we do has worked well. It just creates freedom. It means you can come up with a nice idea and see how it goes, rather than trying to push sales every way possible, or worrying about what the next big thing could be.

The constant of the advertising helps too: I try to make sure it always covers PS’s basic costs, and a basic salary.

And in any case - as mentioned variously in the past - the aim is for the shop not to grow too large, as I don't want it to affect the ability to cover other products. Permanent Style is fundamentally an editorial publication, with a shop on the side. 

A Japanese friend recently told me of how the magazine Free and Easy collapsed in this way.

From what I understand, it went from being a popular magazine, to having its own physical store, to selling its own branded product (Rugged Factory). Eventually the need to sell more things every season harmed the credibility of the brand, and it all folded in 2016. 

Others will know much more about this than I do, but it sounds like an object lesson in the dangers of letting a shop run a magazine.

I’m sure there will be big challenges for Permanent Style in the future. I'm certainly no industry veteran, and I've barely seen one fashion or economic cycle pass. 

But I did think it would be nice to pass on my personal experience of what works well for this site, now, with these aims. Because I know some will find it useful.

I’ve learnt for example that physical events, like the pop-up shop, rarely make much money - their value is in other things, such as a physical connection with readers. 

I’ve learnt that consultancy or speaking has to be charged at a high rate, unfortunately, because it’s so time intensive. 

And the reputation of PS has made it easier to turn down the brands that email every week wanting to pay thousands for a link, a recommendation, or an article. 

(Though I’ve also learnt that some people will always remain cynical - never believing you do this, let alone giving you credit for it.)

I do hope this is the kind of article readers were after. If not, please ask questions in the comments.

If there’s general advice here, I think it’s that it pays to spend time creating genuine, original content, and not trying to sell yourself early. 

And think carefully about how you define success. For too many people, I think, growth is a big part of that definition. This is not about greed - it’s just about wanting to seem successful in the eyes of others. 

For me, success is being able to confidently support my family, doing something I love. And now and again people tell me they appreciate what I do.

It’s hard to see how it could get any better than that. 

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Oliver M

Excellent article, very insightful and honest.

Guillaume

Interesting content as always, and thank you for being so open about PS.

Have you thought longer-term about the business? Do you have a 5 year plan or indeed an exit strategy?
As the majority of the value of this site is in your knowledge, and your relationships with various brands, it doesn’t seem like something that could continue should you wish to step away, or even work less.
It would be such a shame to lose what PS offers. There may be an argument for growth here just to secure the business from that point of view. Perhaps earning enough revenue to cover the costs of new contributors so that you could take on a more managing editor role down the line.

Andrew Hughes

Hi Simon,

As always a great post.

Will you be making chinos to sell through the shop?

Regards,

Andrew

Carl

Great article Simon!

I think most of us readers trust you and know that the heart and soul of PS is the articles. The more commercial parts are necessary to pay for things but its not in the centre.

Consumer journalism in menswear has unfortunately low standards in general. There is a lot of hyped articles and interviews with people like Tom Ford, Luca Rubinacci and Ralph Lauren. I can find things to admire with all of them but its rarely journalism that takes the side of the consumer. PS is the best example of consumer journalism in menswear.

We had a very good blog in Sweden – Manolo – run by Andreas Weinås that I truly respect. But it declined in the last year and is now in Limbo after the departure of Andreas.

Thank you for the transparency!

Robert

Interesting isn’t it, that while the blog is focused on covering the very high end of menswear, often moving into the luxury territory, the shop is ran much more conservatively, selling high-quality stuff at a (I hope!) modest margin. The difference between what the menswear industry is and what it should be?

Burt

Thank you for this honest article.
Where I have problems though, is where the overlap between journalism and commercial interest happens. E.g. when Gieves & Hawkes makes you that beautiful linen suit and does it completely free of charge, no matter how independent you say you are, your article is a way of advertising for them. One might say that kind of things happens with all bloggers/influencers. In other countries however, e.g. Scandinavia, bloggers have to inform readers about all gifts. As long as you define yourself as a journalist I find this problematic. I would prefer you call yourself a menswear writer then like Bruce Boyer does. Also, you’re not alone. Your “clone” (not intended to be rude) Aleksandar Cvetkovic, who e.g. writes an article about Grenfell for The Rake and a little later you see him in advertisements by Grenfell. Just like we see you in adverts/Instagram postings by Private White. Sorry, how independent is that? Even if one may ask oneself how independent journalists eventually can be, these practices are corrupting the word journalism. I almost forgot mentioning Mr Bernhard Roetzel, who seems to make a true living by “cooperating” with craftsmen/companies in Middle Europe, but then he was and is a marketing man from the beginning.
Apart from all this, I do enjoy your blog and good writings. Just my 2 cents 🙂

E L

1) What is wrong with Simon receiving stuff for free? You seem to assume that if Simon gets something for free or heavily discounted he will be more likely to review it favorably. I am not sure this is true. When people spend money on something–especially a very significant sum of money–they are more likely to try make themselves like it precisely because they have invested so much in it. There is a desire to rationalize the purchase. I am pretty sure there is a good deal of psychology literature on this. Accordingly, there might be more reason in general to be suspicious of a review when someone spends a lot of money because they might try to rationalize the purchase. Not sure if this is true of Simon; I think he is pretty fair in general and that is why we read him. That being said, a few reviews of very pricey items are perhaps more positive than they seem like they should be.

2) I also don’t see what benefit Simon would get out of giving positive review to items that he got for free. If there is a tailoring house that gives Simon a bad or mediocre product for free, why would he write positively about it? So he gets more bad or mediocre products from this tailoring house? I don’t think Simon is so desperate for mediocre bespoke tailoring in his wardrobe. Perhaps positive reviews for free goods would enocurage other places to give Simon free stuff and you could argue that this is incentive enough. However, I think Simon would only try something out if it looked promising, and besides I don’t think Simon is afraid of giving a negative review. His reputation also depends on whether his reviews are good. If Simon became a shill, we would probably stop reading this site.

3) As for doing promotional material with PWVC, Simon makes products with them. The fact that he makes products with them indicates that he thinks they are good. Simon wouldn’t want to sell bad products, because that would damage his reputation and make consumers less likely to buy from him again.

Simon

The utopia of the unbiased journalist…Yeah, I don’t think that exists. And sometimes striving for that unbiasedness makes things even worse. The best we can hope for a journalist who is very aware of his biases or, even better, a journalist who is very aware of his biases and reveals them upfront – and that’s what I see Simon is trying do in this piece and others like it. I admire that. Permanent Style is after all nothing more than his take on things – a very well informed take no doubt – but a point of view nonetheless.

On another note, Simon I’d like to ask about how you work with less established brands or new brands. I get that you don’t receive pay-for-review deals and I think that is amazing. But then how do new brands reach you with the hopes of being featured in some way on the blog? How do you discover brands that you weren’t aware of before? (Following with the spirit of full disclosure I ask because I own a brand).

Joseph

I remember a handful of comment threads revolving around cynicism of your refusal to do paid content. It was all quite amusing, yet also unfortunately sad.

My day is beginning to wind down, and this was a lovely read for such an hour. I agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of the closing paragraphs – though most of us tend to forget it, there’s simply no fixed metric for success.

Rob

It is always fascinating to see how other businesses operate. Continued good luck with this venture – I have the utmost respect for small businesses.

Noel

Thank you Simon for taking the time to explain in detail how PS works as a business.

Regarding the PS pop-up, whilst it might not be profitable, I found it useful to see and touch some of the products before ordering. This was perhaps more important at first when I hadn’t yet bought any and I was naturally less sure if the products would match my expectations. It also helped to introduce me to other artisans / brands of which I’m now a customer.

William

Hi Simon! This feels so genuine and heartfelt reading this, thank you for being so open about PS.

Robin

I’ve followed your blog, watched your videos , visited your ‘shop’, shook your hand and commented (at times very critically) on your articles.
There is nothing else like PS.
Sure the Americans have their fair share of vlogs, blogs etc , but they’re all compromised by commercial interest.

As for the adverts on your blog ……ADVERTISERS TAKE NOTE ……I deem any such advert as a brand worth looking more into and have spent on a few such brands.
The mere fact brands advertise on PS to me indicates you align with principles of quality. clothings.

As for the products you sell ….. it makes a lot of sense to sell stuff that fills a gap in the market.
Personally I’d like to see you sell/ launch more products.

P.S. The last few articles have been a pleasure to read.
There’s not much for me to be learnt about a review of shoes or suits I could never afford.
As PS evolves remember there are those of us PS has helped elevate from £30 M&S shirts to £140 Simone Abbarchi shirts but we will never be able to justify the jump to £250 plus hand stitched European shirting.

Winston

Hi Simon,

thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insights. I don’t want to be cynical, but there are so many businesses trying to convince customers by pretending to be uncompromising, honest …

Actually, this is the first time I believe every single word. I am a longtime reader of your blog, and I haven’t noticed any change in your attitude since Permanent Style started to sell under its own brand or since you decided to do the blog for a living.

Thank you!

Anonymous

What’s the turnover and net profit? I’m sure thats what everyone really wants to know!

Jonas

Interesting read, appreciate the openness! IME a lot of the online blogs/magazines seem to go the same way as traditional magazines have done, where it’s all unclear what is marketing and what is unbiased content, it’s all just entwined. The Shoe Snob is the latest example, where it’s obvious that a lot of what is published both on the blog and social media is paid for, although it never is stated. A site like Put This On is more distinct between what is paid and not, but my feeling is that the advertisers get more and more attention in the content. That’s why I appreciate those who keep things very professional and at least from all I can tell as unbiased as possible, where PS and the Shoegazing blog are the two best examples of the ones I read.

On another note, one thing I thought of when I checked the media pack on your site a while back, and came to mind now again, is that you don’t separate mobile and desktop views, yet advertisers only show on desktop? I can imagine that the trend must be similar for PS as it is in general, that more and more visitors read on mobile? Are you looking at solving so adverts will show on phone as well, to not loose out in importance for your advertisers if they are shown for less and less when audience use desktop less?

Jonas

Yeah, that is extremely low indeed! Very far from the overall numbers, where mobile stands for more than 50%: https://gs.statcounter.com/platform-market-share/desktop-mobile-tablet

Anonymous

Hi Simon, do you happen to know anything about what’s going on with RJ Simpson leather? They had an administration notice on their website for a very long time, that’s seemed to have gone now but there is no purchase option for anything on their website. They also haven’t updated their news page or socials for over a year. Is it safe to assume they have gone under? Might be worth investigating.

JMB

I cannot say I know the answer either, but the Simpson London website (if these are one and the same) mentions that they were acquired by WRA Group in 2009, and I notice from Companies House that WRA (Group) Limited had an administrator appointed earlier this month. Obviously these might not beconnected but I thought it was worth noting.

The Financial Statements for WRA (Group) Limited in 2019 do reference Simpson (and a factory) so if I were a betting man, I would predict these are related but it is obviously possible that Simpson survives nonetheless (albeit, unlikely given all of the above).

Anonymous

Why don’t you state clearly, on the same page as each review, the price you paid or whether you received the product free of charge? Having a generic statement on a separate page and leaving it to the reader to search for that page and then assume each product is free is not as transparent as you seem to assume or believe.

Also, why do you alternately use a collective “we” when referring to your website? Who else besides you are you referring to? Other than photographers’ credits, no one else is mentioned as a contributor. Since you’re the one in the pictures, wearing the clothes and writing the content, why not just say “I” exclusively?

Anonymous

If the fact that you take a discount or the amount of the discount doesn’t matter or make a difference to anything, then why take any discount? Why not pay full price for everything so that you can give a review from the perspective of an actual customer, who is paying full price and taking the risk of disappointed in the result?

And why say it doesn’t matter to readers when I am a reader and I am saying it does matter? Such dismissive comments make it seem you hear what you want to hear from readers.

Anonymous

Discounts are also relevant to repeat commissions that you show your on your website. Do you get discounts or free products from makers once you have already made an initial review on that maker? Are we to assume that you don’t pay for your second or third commissions from Caliendo? Or that you never pay for shirts from Luca or 100 Hands? Do you pay for your fifth odd trouser from Whitcomb? Assuming the reason to give a discount is to enable you to provide a review, and without knowing the answer to these questions, one could assume those makers no longer give you a discount because you have already reviewed their products. One would also assume you continue use to use those makers because you like them the most and value their products the most given the money you spend. However, if you liked a maker of shirts more or equal to another but you only receive discounts from the second, you probably would get shirts from the second. And the second maker would continue to get mentions and credits in your photos. More specific and accurate information on these discounts and how they apply to what you wear would allow readers to form their own conclusions as to why you continue to use these makers. Transparency in product reviews and subsequent photo credits to makers means providing to the reader specific information that is relevant to their decision on whether to buy the product. If you continue to use a maker not just because you like them but also because they give you free or discounted merchandise, that information is relevant to the reader and is not disclosed clearly in your posts.

Anonymous

You didn’t answer the question: do you pay for repeat commissions?

Anonymous

The only reason makers would provide you with free or discounted merchandise is because your readers actually spend their money on the full price of the makers’ products. So you get the benefit of our outlay. The least you could do is recognize this and provide more specific information about your arrangements with these makers when your readers ask about it, rather than dismissively say it’s not relevant. And not act so defensively when readers ask you about it while at the same time being self-congratulatory about how transparent you are. It’s curious why you refuse to disclose what you pay. Have you ever sold any pieces you received for free or on a discount?

Guillaume

Mr Anonymous, the price Simon pays is largely irrelevant, you simply have to ask yourself, do you trust him? If you suspect he’s only in this for the free clothing then you’re likely not going to put much faith in any of his reviews. If you trust his knowledge and impartiality then you really don’t need to know what he paid.

There may well be new, uninitiated readers who see Simon declare an item was provide for free and then, due to not knowing the history of this site, deem the review worthless as ‘of course he’ll say nice things about a freebie’.

Ben R

I care less about what you may have paid or the discounts you may have received. Though, I would appreciate a more clear and consistent location for the price a reader may pay for garment (or the opening price for an artisan/brand). Generally the information is in the articles/posts. But for instance the Guide to Tailor Styles has a dedicated section in each post, while the Shibumi review the opening prices are in-line in the body of the review. I tend to prefer the style used in the Guide to Tailor Styles.

And I would be interested to know what the garment would cost to readers as commissioned in the article, as opposed or in addition to the opening prices.

JMB

Although I am innately curious as to the level of discount that PS receives, I prefer the information not be public.

From my perspective, the real question is “do I trust Simon’s reviews”? If I do, then I want as many products to be reviewed as possible. This is clearly easier to achieve if Simon receives a discount.

Publishing the details of any discount might be misinterpreted by readers and lead to undesirable outcomes.

As for whether I trust Simon’s reviews, the answer is “yes”. Indeed, some of my favourite articles over the years have been less positive. For example, I recall the Charvet bespoke shirt review as confirming that Simon would be unlikely to pay full price as the shirt was not dramatically better fit than cheaper alternatives and had less handwork than many of the Italian rivals yet I think I would still go there if I visited Paris more often because the fabric room is so marvellous and that is a unique selling point to me (although those that can visualise a shirt from the small samples in fabric books may find the rolls less appealing). This is possible because Simon typically does a good job of providing a measured view on any offering.

Like Ben, I am always quite keen to understand the pricing I’m likely to encounter but I’d almost rather know more about the artisans (e.g. understanding their style or level of guidance better), as that helps me identify where I would like to try.

Thomas

Anonymous, I am extremely fascinated by your comment. Not by the fact that you might desire to know more about the details behind how Permanent Style operates (I might even share that to some extent), but your extremely demanding tone: it seems that you actually mean that you have some kind of right to know. Which is in stark contrast to the fact, which is that, let me put this as mildly as I can, you are completely free to not read Simon Crompton’s web log. The deal is made perfectly clear: Crompton prefers not to divulge the precise details of his transactions, and can and should take that into account when they read his entries – or not. This persistent attitude of entitlement to information from a free (!) web log must be a gold mine for any psychologists out there.

KD

Great article, Simon, l appreciate what you do and how you do it. Keep the fire burning!

Anon

Hi Simon

Excellent article, thank you for the insight.

When you say that “Then when it had a healthy 300,000 page views or so each month, and was one of the biggest classic menswear sites, brands only advertised when I went out and asked them… Others followed… There began to be enough money to fund trips, or to commission bespoke to review”, does this mean that up to the 300k page views per month you were self-funding all of the commissions you reviewed on PS? If so, you are either an excellent saver/spender or you have a very understanding wife!!

Please do keep up the excellent work.

Nicolas Stromback

Great read Simon. As always you are as transparent as they come. More so than I think people should expect from a site like this. Good on you.

Again, I have to support your independence as a writer in light of all the cynicism. It baffles me that people are still offended by the fact that you get discounts and so on. To me that is part of a business becoming successful, where people trust you enough to wanna spend time, effort and money making you something that will impress you enough to write a good review. Im sure no one lined up to do that the first five years or so. For those of us that follow you regularly it is beyond clear that you have remained independent. Have the cynics not read your harsher reviews. And the talk about PV should be even less relevant, when they produce half of all in the PS shop. With that logic one should never be able to even talk to brands or artisans to remain completely independent 🙂

Anonymous

To me it is baffling that some readers verge on sycophantic admiration of Simon.

PS is unquestionably the best menswear blog around and the quality of Simon’s writing is unmatched. However, on numerous occasions Simon has informed us that he has the wealth to buy anything that is reviewed on the website, if he is going to accept freebies and discounts then this statement is entirely redundant, as the fact that he can afford it is a moot point.

In addition earlier in the year at the start of the pandemic there was an article on supporting artisans that might be struggling during the epidemic, well if they can afford to offer discounts and freebies to someone who doesn’t need it then they can’t be in that much trouble. The assumption must be that the tailors are expecting to get more full price commissions from Simon’s readers based on the review that Simon writes.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that Simon’s reviews are not independent. I’m merely pointing out that if someone is getting something free then this cost has to be recouped by the artisan/tailor from somewhere.

Nicholas, you seem to be very naive in how business works. If I went to a tailor and said I want to pay half the price of what I’m quoted I’d quite rightly be laughed at. If I commission a bespoke suit based on reading a review on PS them I’m effectively subsidising the suit that was made for Simon to review for free.

I’m sure you will think what I’ve written is cynical, but I can assure you that it is not.

Simon, please continue to keep up the excellent articles.

Anonymous

My apologies, Simon. My intended point was that by calling readers who raised any questions as cynical, Nicholas was making sweeping generalisations, which I felt were slightly insulting to your readers, however, I could have expressed this in a better tone.

Nicolas Stromback

Oh, I do admire Simon for his tenacity on this subject and his way of keeping all of us informed without giving in to each and every brand that want his attention.

As for me being naive in business, yes maybe that is the case. But that wasnt the point at all now, was it? For someone with such strong view, you could at least have the courage to write your name my good man.

Anonymous

Hi Nicolas my tone could maybe have been a little better, but my main point is that readers are allowed to have differing points of view and sometimes where relevant ask challenging questions, this should be celebrated without other readers making assumptions about their motives.

Refreshingly, Simon is happy to get involved in what can sometimes be quite robust discussions with his readers, which I think is one of the many strengths of PS.

zo

i think if you’re a cynic, you will always be a cynic. it all boils down whether you trust SC’s reviews or not. if you do, divulging discounts/freebies per review wont make a difference. if you dont, it again won’t make a difference because you’ll identify another reviewer’s bias (his age, his taste, his geographic location, social circle) to mull over. in fact, it can probably have unforeseen consequences and readers may lose trust as they start equating discount value with review quality and conclusion.

as for readers subsidising his next commission, that’s probably true. these relationships and conflicts of interest are inherent in literally all media. I think SC has done enough to lay it all out – most dont. he has clearly said sometimes he gets discounted stuff sometimes free sometimes neither – and the reader is free to use this fact to interpret each review.

if you’re a shrewd businessman like you say, you’d know that if you can find that any discount anywhere is good for your business. you’d also know that if a tailor is getting 10s of thousands of £s as a result of permanent style review, then SC is probably getting shafted by just getting a free pair of trousers.

Ben R

In regards to the PS Shop and similar/related projects (i.e. Escorial Tweed), I was wondering how the sales have faired recently for new launches. It seems that there have been less articles/updates about sell-outs or low inventory lately. I remember there being several articles around stock levels when Friday Polos were launching. And last year’s Escorial Tweed had several updates to the original articles as colors sold out or ran low.

I was curious if that is a content decision – for instance, deciding to devote one of the three weekly articles to a stock update is not needed? Or have you improved at estimating demand and//or managing inventory? Or is it the effects of COVID-19 – either supply chain or demand?

Please don’t take this as a slight in anyway. I am genuinely curious.

Sam

Simon,

A welcome read, thanks. Two observations:

1) I know it’s come up a few times before, but I do wonder if the products (and services) you receive are truly representative of what your readers might expect if they make the same purchase.

You’ve said that you do a certain amount of checking around and research on a brand’s general output to check this, but it strains credulity a bit to imagine that any brand you feature won’t be “pushing the boat out” in terms of what you end up with. I’m sure we’ve all been privy to instances at work where services provided to higher-profile customers were given a lot more time and resource than for a regular person.

I don’t really mean that as a critique – short of shopping under a pseudonym with a false moustache I don’t know what you can do about to remedy it. But I hope you’d concede that you can probably push your expectations with the maker a bit further than most patrons could.

2) Your observation around an editorial publication being subsumed by the shop – did you have The Rake in mind at all? Any thoughts on what that direction has done for their brand?

Stephen

Hi Simon,
Firstly, I for one really do appreciate what you do. I don’t always agree and that’s good too as you challenge in gentle/subtle way.
Your point on growth is excellent. Just to expand a little. The push for continuous growth, beyond what’s reasonable (or desirable) has caused the failure of many companies – particularly in the services sector. Whilst this sector has been extremely hard hit by the pandemic, many have, to use a common phrase at the moment ‘pre-existing conditions’. Growth often becomes unsustainable as companies over extend. The slightest fall in revenue, with the impact on cash flows, and weak supply chains that have little or no contingency, can all be calamitous. Perhaps the ‘new normal’, will be a more conservative and financially sustainable approach to growth. Even at corporate level, reliable lower levels of growth (post some pandemic recovery) can ultimately also be be in the shareholders best interests.
Finally, articles like this for me are in part a reason for your success as you ‘mix it up’ a bit; sometimes a review, an interview, a informational tutorial type piece etc.
Wishing you continued success.

Matthew V

Another great article and very inspiring to find someone able to do what they love and support their family at the same time. Long may that continue.

(And I agree about the apparent obsession with growth that most businesses seem to have, which can be their downfall).

Scott

Continuing to run your business on a conservative basis will allow you to sleep well at night. Resist the temptation to grow the company with borrowed money or outside funding, private equity for example.

Scott

Simon, that was a smart decision. In my business career I’ve seen many people who took on outside investors and regretted it. Investor expectations have a habit of growing and/or changing over time. So, keep your freedom and grow your business at your own pace which will happen due to the quality of Permanent Style.

Joel

Great article Simon. I know I have purchased from many brands (HN White, Shibumi, etc. ) that I wouldn’t have even heard of if it wasn’t for your advertising. Now they are regular sites that I visit along side yours. As for your shop, your products are some of my favorite in my wardrobe. Hopefully both of these sources of revenue continue so we can continue to read great content.

Charles Rundle

Would you say “social currency” plays a big part in what you do/sell?
Like a “pop-up shop, rarely make much money” but will make a strong attachment to you and what you do?
I’m sure you are too humble to say but good character traits help? Always thought that you were helpful and kind.
Keep up the good work

Adam Pace

Hi Simon,
Nice of you to offer up such transparency. For me its totally unnecessary though.
I come to the blog to read the content – how much money you make and so on is your business. If you couldn’t make it add up – then there wouldn’t be a PS anyway.
If it stops being interesting and relevant, then I’ll stop reading.
Pretty simple really.
Just glad you can make it work.
Cheers,
Adam

Richard B

For me Permanent Style is an objective voice supported by a knowledgeable readership. The two are interdependent.

Moving forward what challenges and opportunities do you see for PS as a business?

Do you have any commissions in the pipeline or under consideration for the next 12-months to whet my appetite as the dark nights draw in? I digress.

2020 has been a searching year for many, but the world is a slightly better place with Permanent Style. You did a good thing Simon.

Roy

I admire your honest and clear stance on how Permanent Style operates, described, as always, in an elegantly written piece.

What I shall remember from the article though is the confirmation that you have found a way to make it work in a way that really enjoy. Nice to know and a rare snippet of positivity in these tough times.

Andrey

Thank you, Simon! I’ve been reading your blog for probably 11 years now and, having read perhaps nearly every post here, I haven’t seen any negative changes since you quit your day job or started selling products on the PS Shop. I discovered many brands through your web site and found the makers I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. And yes, I am among the readers who do not care if you are getting things heavily discounted or for free (but would like to understand the likely price for myself), because I come here for information and opinions, which I value and trust. Anyway, your critical comments are made in very British understated way, so not everyone of your readers would probably even get they are intended critical.

SH

Hi Simon,

I am one of the regular readers who took your survey (the only such survey I have ever willingly taken) and who requested articles about how PS works as a business. These recent articles are exactly what I had in mind – thank you! I would certainly enjoy updates every few months (or annually) as to how PS continues to develop. For example, if/when you hire additional staff, you could walk us through your thought process, such staffer’s area of expertise, etc. Or you might keep us informed (in general terms) how revenue streams continue to develop. I also appreciate you might view this as too much “mission creep” for PS and certainly respect your judgment. Unrelatedly, I have used your reviews many times for ready-to-wear purchases, but I just recently ordered my first pair of bespoke trousers. Your guides to materials were invaluable. I went with a >13 oz gray flannel as a nice winter pair, and I am certain I would have chosen a much lighter weight were it not for your guide on the matter.

Michael Murray

I felt a lot of pride and emotion in reading this post. It took me back to my early days in 2008 reading PS in my cubicle here in Cleveland, Ohio. I remember telling my wife and friends about how different this site was from others in the menswear world. I’ve realized over the years many of you that comment on these posts are very like minded, and PS has given us a place to congregate. I am so happy to see the growth and success of PS and what it has meant for you, and your family, Simon. My most prized purchases are those that come from the PS shop as I feel such a connection to the product through you. I put such trust in all the advertising that is in the right column! I know those brands have been thoroughly vetted by Simon and I go in with full confidence when purchasing from them. I’ll end with an example of the connections that get created with this site. When I tell my wife that there is a new post up that I particularly enjoy I always begin by saying, “My buddy Simon from London had a great post today.” For someone I’ve never had the privilege to meet in person that connection is a very real thing. All my best as you continue your great work!

Michael Murray

Absolutley!

Henry R Mandell

This is a refreshing and transparent article, but honestly, my opinion is you don’t have to explain your business model to anyone. There is nothing to feel awkward about in building a blog, monetizing your traffic and offering a curated collection of clothing and accessories for sale. You have accomplished quite a bit as an entrepreneur.

You mentioned the substantial capital at risk having a retail business. It appears you stock merchandise but a less capital intensive approach would be to offer vetted items but have the manufacturer drop ship to your customers. You take the order, the manufacturer fulfills and you receive a percentage for driving traffic to the brand and generating an order. You probably won’t make as much per transaction, but it’s much less capital intensive. One more thing to consider is running an online retail business is a full time job. While you might have someone handling that for you, I assume your interest is not that of merchant, but that of educator and evangelist for high quality and bespoke clothing in an age where disposable and fast fashion are the norm. This is damaging to the environment (waste) and imperils the long tradition, skill and sustainability of apparel craftsmen. My humble suggestion is not to let running a retail business detract from your true talent, interest and mission.

Anonymous

I think the Rake is a prime example of the risk of putting a shop before editorial. It used to be an interesting blog to read but has since gotten very sidelined.

Mirko

Thank you Simon, I hope that this will be the starting point for a new era of journalism.

Stay safe

Mirko

Peter hall

I enjoy the long read format and it’s inspiring me to move up from rtw (shoes first!). Success, I think is It’s continuing quality of writing and the way, you teach, your community that brings me to the site.
I really enjoy the low key approach to sales and consider you have the necessary integrity that your comments are not advertising or sales driven.

My only worry is that it is very much a one man band. Perhaps, asking for others to write and review might ease the burden

Anonymous

I am surprised that you don’t mention the photographers who work for the site. For me the consistently high quality of the photos is half the reason I frequent PS.

JJ Katz

Thanks. An extremely informative, extremely relatable and, if I may say so, rather brave article.

Nik

Thank you Simon. I believe your business ethic shines through and really does resonate with your readership.
Here’s to continued success.

Matt

Interesting to read this, and the transparency is greatly appreciated. I was thinking about the difference between your reviews, Simon, and critical reviews in other arenas such as food and drink. One big difference I see is that you are friends with many of the tailors. Being buddies with the tailor has to affect your judgment of the finished product. Restaurant critics often avoid friendships with chefs for that very reason.

But I’d argue that any friendship and resulting partiality is a feature of your work, not a bug. When I choose a tailor, I’m hoping to build a relationship with a person who will ideally make me clothes for decades. I want a friendship too – that’s part of the point of bespoke. You usually don’t make friends with the chef at a fancy restaurant and ask them to make all of your celebratory meals going forward. You don’t dream of introducing a specific chef to your son when the boy’s old enough for his first elaborate dinner.

Obviously it would be crass to explicitly rate a tailor on personality. But it often shows through your writing when you like someone personally, and it’s nice to know that the expensive suit was well made by a cool person. I’m glad you don’t take money for reviews, but the honesty in your writing is what matters most to me.

Sorry for the comment length.

Steven

Love the article, Simon. You have been a firm source of inspiration all these years. You provide very insightful views, wonderful ideas, and tasteful products. No hard sell, no BS(PS being the antonym), just all-around good old knowledge which I appreciate very much.

Alf

Hello Simon,

Like many posters, I’ve followed from afar. The world you invite us into is one based on a singular approach to high standards. I’ve noted the few criticisms that have sometimes appeared, and hand on heart they mostly should be consigned to a style dustbin (assuming one exists). Of course we should all expect, even welcome, opinions that are opposite, even contrary, to those views we consider correct. But even with that in mind you still have a business to run, and I sense that in your capable hands we’ll still look to PS as an informed voice that shows no favour other than for those who deserve it.

Well done for your persistence in maintaining such high standards, but I must add my support to the contributions of poster’s such as Henry R Mandell who grasp what it is you’re attempting to create, and offer positive insights that underline the difficulties you’ll have faced in order to maintain PS in it’s current format. Yes, I hope you continue to find enjoyment from this venture, it’s tough enough to make any sort of headway, but the rewards I hope you’ve found from PS aren’t simply monetary (although who wouldn’t welcome a healthy income to supplement your efforts in making PS possible?) but also those that support your personal views regarding the need for quality to be found amongst the artisans that inhabit the world you’ve chosen to describe.

Just keep on keeping on Simon, I’m envious (in the nicest way possible) and wholly supportive of what PS brings to a far wider audience.

Alf

Matthias

Very interesting and well written. Thank you.

Andrew

Great authentic, open article, Simon. Embodies much of what is great about the PS “voice”. Always takes an enthusiast’s keen interest in the quality and style of a product and avoids the whole exclusivity/snobbish mysticism that some high end mens style journalism takes (no names, The Rake). Happy to read of your philosophy and wish you many years of success

ANM

Simon,

I hope you and PS are around for years to come to continue to tell us about this remarkable journey.

All the best!

PJM

I think an important point here is integrity. Simon is trusted by his readers. He’s honest. His only agenda is to inform. If Simon received a suit for free, or paid 5k, I can say hand on heart I believe the review process would still be exactly the same. That transparency is why I keep coming back. I believe it’s why we all keep coming back. You’re a gentleman Simon, keep up the great work.

Eric Roby

Have enjoyed your article, I can honestly say you have completely made me reassess the way I dress and purchases my wardrobe. It was always difficult getting reliable information and address of good suppliers. Please don’t fold and keep up the good work

DE

Hi Simon, for me the site has been very educational. I’m lucky enough to already buy on SR and Naples, but you’ve shined a light on topics such as style (albeit I’m much more conservative than you!), fabric and appreciating my tailoring as craft (rather than just what I put on to go to work). Respectfully I have little interest in how you make the site work financially – I just want you to make enough money to keep writing the articles and if this means the tailors I use add a few pounds to cover your discount then I’m happy to pay it in exchange for what I’ve learned on PS. I hope this isn’t too sycophantic, Permanent Style is good – keep doing what you’re doing.

ZM

Great article Simon. Too much discussion on how you make money. You’re a voice of reason, there are enough people who trust your opinion, and you do what you love. Growth with purpose makes little sense. Perhaps you can expand where you see yourself and the brand you represent head. And perhaps be bold enough to ask where you don’t know and where you want a crowdsourced opinion. Regards

Matt.JW

Simon,

Firstly, great article and insight into the work you do behind the scenes to bring all if this to your readers.

Secondly, one of the strengths I’ve always seen in PS and your writing is your ability to provide constructive feedback on garments you have received/bought/customed. This is stark contrast to other menswear sites which clearly talk up their paid reviews.
However, how difficult do you find it nowadays to continue to remain constructive and impartial in your write ups when reviewing garments from your top advertising clients? Do you have to consider the trade off between how constructive/negative a review versus the potential impact to your relationship with them as an advertising client?
Is it not even a consideration at all?

Many thanks.

Christian

Hi Simon,
Just that comment that you seem to have a really lovely humility.
Kind Regards
Christian

Gavin

Thank you Simon,

Another illustration of why I, and many others, bookmark Permanent Style as a key source of impartial and insightful advice on classic and contemporary menswear. I just had one point regarding the shop and your collaborative work with designers and makers. Whilst I fully appreciate the need to keep this part of the operation lean and avoid over-extension, a consequence is that some items are rarely available for long. Every few months I check in forlorn hope that your Donegal overcoat collaboration with Private White VC will be back in stock in larger sizes, but in vain! I just wondered if you might consider holding more stock of such core capsule pieces or, alternatively, forming a waiting list?

Russ

Simon, your blog is the best of its type out there and I marvel at how you always manage to remain such a gentleman in answering the more irritating or repetitive comments. I’d be punching the air in frustration if it were me!

On a separate note, it is great to see that there are some marvellous new British brands selling over the internet -Instagram being a brilliant way of them advertising. I’ve just been really impressed with Private White VC (discovered via your blog) and recently with running trainers I ordered from AllBirds and jeans from Spoke – brilliant fits (it seems from the algorithms they use). I do fear what the future of higher end bespoke tailoring is going to be given the pandemic’s long term effects on office working. It must be very worrying for those firms with high rents and staff coming off furlough.

Marisa

Very insightful and honest post, thank you! I am curious about when you first started, did you feel the need for a business plan at some point or did you build “in mid-flight” as some entrepreneurs do? Also, how did you decide between putting money back into the business vs. paying yourself?

Jaye Brunsveld

I’ve been reading the comments and I find it rather curious that some people seem to think it makes a difference if Simon discloses discount rates or prices. The notion of demanding that disclosure as a measure of his “trustworthiness” is rather ungentlemanly to me. We don’t go to our bakery or any other shop and demand they open their books to decide if we buy bread from them or not. I feel it’s completely up to Simon to decide what he is comfortable to disclose about the inner workings of his business. Simon provides a wealth of knowledge, insight and interesting views via his writings on PS and elsewhere.. Even if you disagree with his views or don’t buy any of his products, there is something to take away here, remember, free of any charge.

Jackson Heart

While I think it would be very interesting, in an admittedly perverse manner, to see what kinds of discounts Simon gets or whether an item he reviews was given to him for free, whether he discloses this or not hardly alters the high level of credibility I assign to PS articles. It would become evident over time if he’s “bending” his analysis to favor an incompetent merchant. However, I am not sure the bakery analogy is on point. The point here is that we have a third-party who potentially gains from supplying purportedly impartial information to readers with those readers being asked to rely on the accuracy of the information.

In the baker example, I assume the baker is selling his own goods, has his own apparatus for marketing those goods and is receiving all the profits therefrom; even so, the price of a cake is significantly less expensive than a Liverano, thus, the risk of the baker being dishonest about the quality of the vanilla extract is acceptable and, more importantly, insignificant.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of industries where society recognizes the opportunity for impropriety when third-parties market or present alleged impartial analysis. For example, globally in the securities industries, a third-party who writes about, analyzes, markets or sells a security is legally required to disclose all monetary interest gained from the issuer of the security (i.e., if Google gave the seller tickets to a Carribean cruise for selling Google stock, that has to be told to the purchaser). In addition, the third-party is subject to criminal punishment for not making a full disclosure. This simply allows the purchaser to gauge the partiality of the information being presented – nothing more or less.

Journalism is another industry where convention requires that third-parties (“journalists”) disclose pecuniary or other benefits gained from, as well as relationships to, the subject of the journalist’s product. If the journalist fails this endeavor, the mere appearance of impropriety is enough for us to lose faith in the work’s integrity. Ok, I am being partially facetious here, but I want to emphasize that it’s not altogether a ridiculous concept for a third-party to disclose information designed to allow the audience of his or her work to gauge the work’s partiality. But I agree with everything else you wrote. I use PS to find new tailors and understand the bespoke process and approach used by each one. And I love the photography.

I also agree with what someone said above…As iconic as Simon is, I find the excessive toadying bizarre.

John

Simon, I do hope that at some point in your career you consider writing a biography, detailing the background of your love of menswear, the launch of PS, and it subsequently becoming a full time job. I know you have touched on all of these individually, but never in detail. The shorter form of articles here does not permit a huge amount of detail, and you surely have so many interesting experiences and anecdotes from over the years. PS is as successful as it is because of the trust us readers have in you and your opinions, and I’m sure there would be interest. I’m sure you have more important projects in the works, but hopefully you will consider this for the back-burner.

Cameron

I have purchased items from five of the companies currently advertising on your front page, and from many who have been mentioned in your posts – predominantly because of
their association with Permanent Style. And I continue to do so.

The advertisers keep themselves front-of-mind, and I can’t think of a more effective form of marketing for companies seeking to deepen their business in the area of high quality menswear.

zo

very interesting, thank you. just out of curiosity, do you have any staff working for you or is perm style a one man show?

Peter Mi

Love this article Simon, always loved how your passion seems to bleed through your written words. I really feel this is what Hodinkee was in the beginning but even more personal. I do hope to keep this relationship but also see sustained growth whilst maintaining quality for you. BTW love the bridge coat and CANNOT wait to where it!

Thanks again,
Peter

Anonymous

Hi Simon,
I’m not sure where the best place to post this is, apologies if it would be better posted elsewhere. Given your approach to PS products being, essentially, to concentrate on plugging gaps that you perceive I wondered if a good dark green flannel for trousers might be something to think about. I’ve had no trouble finding grey flannel and shades of brown, but am really struggling to find a decent dark green.

RT

Thanks, I’ll take a look. Sorry, I forgot to include my name on my original post.

Robert Grenville

Interesting insight into PS as a business. You can generally get a yardstick of profitability from the change in retained earnings, year on year in the annual accounts. I have done this for PS and its reasonable 🙂 This will be less director salaries/benefits. Its the only benchmark for abbreviated accounts of a small business.

Its worth saying to those readers thinking they can set up a limited company, blog or website and use their companies to put through clothing and accessory items and write off 100% against tax then HMRC may question the write off as not being wholly and exclusively a business expense but having some personal benefit. From first hand experience, some tax inspectors can be very strict on this so remember to apportion reasonable costs as an expense or it will bite you on the bum later.

Robert Grenville

There is a line in the filed accounts on the BS – often the balancing figure. You then look at the difference from the previous year. It usually gives a fair indication of the net net.

Russ

Who are these people who spend their time trying to work out what someone is earning from setting up his or her own business (with all the risks and uncertainty that entails)? I’ve been there in a brand new business myself, and there’s little more nauseating than the ‘its all right for some’ brigade who have no idea about the incredibly long hours you have to work, the sleepless nights fretting over cashflow, the anxiety about whether you’re doing right taking on another staff member or the fact you realise you can only afford to take out in earnings or dividends far less than the company needs just to keep going (the true fact about ‘retained earnings’). Then you get the intrusion compounded by the ‘bleedin’ obvious’ point on tax deduction thrown in for good measure. 🤨

Robert Grenville

The same people who are called by creditors following a high court order when businesses fail but need to repay their debts and jobs and other local businesses in the supply chain saved. We then run the business with long hours far from home. We have plenty of idea of what goes on behind the scenes from good businesses in a bad economic climate to more sinister things.

Linden

I really appreciate what you do Simon.

I thought I’d reflect a bit on that and try to convey why…

1. You have, in my opinion very good taste, and a good sense of style for clothes that cover a wide range of occasions.
2. You don’t talk about clothes as if they exist in a vacuum. You describe what might work in different situations – the office, with clients, weekends (and even your beach holidays). You show how versatile certain pieces can be by dressing them different ways. You also bring what you have described as ‘relevance’ to bear – i.e. being smart, but avoiding ‘costume’, or ‘dandy’ dressing. Including ‘relevance’ in your posts I find useful (yet not widely covered elsewhere).
3. You acknowledge that this can be expensive. It’s a relative term, but you cover things that most readers would find expensive, at least in some posts, and for other readers in all posts. So I appreciate that when you review something, you discuss points of quality that take into account the price, and whether it might be worth it (cost relative to quality / market segment).
4. You invest in high quality photography that shows how the clothes look in different combinations, types of lighting and environment, static, moving, etc, and in every instance the images are of something relatable (rather than cringingly aspirational / playboy / casino cliches).
5. Related to #4, despite commissioning a wardrobe that most readers would dream of, you still come across as down to earth.
6. while there are some running themes here – in tailors or brands, and things you clearly particularly like and return to – which is fine – you do also bring new things to your readers to consider on a regular basis.
7. Where there is something to praise, you do it, where there is something to criticise, you do it. Whether or not the article of clothing you are reviewing is something I would buy, nonetheless, each time I read an article, I’m educated by it. Each article helps hone a more discerning eye.
8. Because the focus is on style, rather than fashion (and yes of course they overlap), I feel more confident to buy some – to me – quite expensive things, on the basis of fewer, but better, is more satisfying.
There’s probably more, but that’s the heart of it.

So, thank you for this amazing resource. Long may it flourish, and we continue to benefit from it.

Russ

Noted RG, but having met through my own professional practice lots of people who claim to be able to evaluate the worth of people’s businesses, I’ve seen few of them who actually dared to set up businesses of their own. It’s so much safer to tell other people how to run their enterprises than to try to run one yourself.

Robin

hi simon, I was wondering if your site or if you know of a site that can keep an update of specifically young tailors/shoe makers who are wanting/already started Up their own houses? It would be nice to help push business to them especially with customers of younger ages so they can grow and develop relationships over a long time as well as having the more we’ll known brand names.even if they are setting up in a small space or their own flats would be what I’m meaning.artisans with not much backing so far,but plenty of talent

Ian Guiver

I’ve dipped in Ondaatje out of PS for some years. I didn’t know that it was now your entire focus. Although my taste is rather different from yours being more traditionally British I suppose, I find all your articles interesting and enjoyable. I think that’s down to the quality of your writing. It’s a heartening story. Long may your success continue.

success continue. Thanks.

Bolaji

Apologies for yet more ‘toadying’, but I’ve always found Simon’s candour rather refreshing. I’m not even a shareholder in his enterprise, yet he opens himself up in this way.
Perhaps a change of name is long overdue: ‘Transparent Style.’

Artefact London

Simon, I am in business of bespoke. I do not know a better source than PS to be informed of quality menswear. Your style is impeccable, the clarity of your articles is unbeatable.
Week in week out I am delighted to read what you have to share with us.

Never mind those who question how PS works.

Thank you for the immense amount of thinking, investigation and analysis you invest in every article.