Fashion is running out of ideas, faster and faster

Friday, October 16th 2020
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A couple of weeks ago I picked up a men’s fashion magazine in the new (very nice) newsagent on Chiltern Street. I really miss good print products, and fashion magazines in particular.

I think I flicked through it all in five minutes, and felt almost nothing afterwards. Like bingeing on fast food.

On the one hand, fashion brands seem to be veering towards ever more unwearable extremes. Gucci in some fur-and-spandex 70s fantasy; Prada preferring plastic gilets and oblong sunglasses.

Yet at the same time, the editorial was about product that was very homogenous: trainers, sweatshirts, bags, often indistinguishable from each other. The trainers all looked like a resurrection of a different military training shoe. The bags often had the brand name, founding year, and sometimes address stamped on the outside. Which is a pretty reductive form of design. The T-shirts were similarly just spaces for logos.

(There's a good piece on the business behind logo T-shirts on High Snobiety here.)

It feels like both these things – the extremism and the homogeneity – are symptoms of fashion brands having little idea what they’re saying any more. They’re thrashing about trying to be different, yet the actual products all look the same.

It didn’t use to be this way. Although I’ve always favoured classic clothing, I also enjoy being challenged, and stimulated by high fashion. It stops you becoming narrow-minded.

And there was always a leather jacket in Bottega Veneta in an aubergine colour I’d never seen before in my life, on anything; or a seemingly anonymous Margiela trouser that turned out to have the most beautiful cut. Today, Dunhill is the only brand I can think of (and perhaps the classic collection at Connolly) that rides this classic/fashion line well.

From my particular viewpoint – it’s a high horse I use for ranting about such things – I blame two things for this erosion of good fashion. The growing importance of hype, and of social media.

Hype drives not just fashion, but almost every area of modern consumption. Every new brand has to be a disruptor: they can’t just be launching something good, it has to be revolutionary.

You can see this in burger restaurants, which led to ‘disruptive’ chicken chains, ribs chains and so on. Or gyms, which have had hyper-hyped cycling clubs, then boxing clubs, then rowing, to the point that there’s a club near me that just does stretching. It’s huge.

Some of these have genuinely improved the quality in their particular market, and the choice. But many are driven by hype – just trying to produce the cheapest possible product, undercut the market, and grab enough of it to make money fast.

In menswear, there have been some of these. Glasses spring to mind. But mainstream fashion has had it harder. Cheap, disposable clothing from the likes of Boohoo is stealing their teenage market; celebrities are launching beauty lines; brands’ marketing power is being eroded by influencers.

And yet none of this furious activity seems to produce any actually interesting clothing.

I had two conversations recently with people at opposite ends of the fashion hierarchy, which I found interesting. A friend who heads up marketing for a large French brand, said: “We have no choice now but to work with influencers, with celebrities, with anyone that has a powerful voice – because we’re being drowned out. There’s a new hot name, new hype, every single day.”

The same week, I got into a conversation with a young salesperson at a multi-brand fashion store. She said: “Everyone here is so cynical about each new brand that comes in. It just seems to be about money. No brand is interested in real design; they’re just pushing out new things to grab as much as they can.”

One of the factors driving this is venture capital. Every new brand has funding rounds, when they can, and those investors are driven by short-term growth. I’ve talked to a few friends that have been through this process. One commented: “We were lucky, we found an investor that was interested personally, and for whom it was just an interesting idea. But the vast majority need quick returns – and you can’t do that with things as basic as taste or quality.”

 

Perhaps a bigger driver is social media. We all know what it’s like: you come to expect dozens of new, exciting images every time you flick through Instagram. Each of which must be fresh and attention-grabbing. You’re looking for hype.

Slow craft and elegant clothing cannot compete with this – with this need for newness, this volume of information and the speed of consumption.

They are species of art and of beauty that require careful appreciation. The mind needs to slow down to the speed required to read a novel, or to visualise the development of a theme in a piece of classical music.

The fact is social media can be manipulated, but few of us do so: cut down who you follow, slow the speed, comment genuinely and thoughtfully.

As ever, we get what we deserve. If we do not buy quality magazines, or newspapers, they will go. If we seem to suggest, because we consume it, that we want 100+ fashion images a day, spending an average of 0.15 seconds on each one, then this is what fashion brands will provide.

It seems those brands have resorted to a formula of outré styling, accessible to you with the purchase of overpriced trainers or a branded sweatshirt.

Somehow it feels as if we’re consuming both the most over-seasoned food we could imagine, and the blandest.

This Permanent Style rant is now over. It’s been a while; it felt good. Back to suit reviews next week.

*Also, I cut out a section looking at how much I benefit from this system I criticise so freely. It felt like a distraction. But do let me know if you’d like that as well.

UPDATE: Cut out section added below, thanks for the requests there:

-

In writing this article, I have been very aware of the ways in which Permanent Style - and I, personally - have benefited from some of these trends.

One of them is that Permanent Style could not exist in a world without the kind of disruption we have seen in the media in the past 20 years. The internet gave everyone the power to become a publisher; Google made everyone equally findable, and placed value on genuine interest and engagement; social media is the most powerful marketing tool the world has ever seen.

Together, these three mean that I can genuinely compete with the likes of GQ or Vogue for attention, and stand out if what I do is better. In a previous generation, that would have required membership of a particular elite, and many years working a company ladder.

The second way in which PS is related to these trends, is that the 'hype' atmosphere around new products has helped drive interest in our collaborations. Whether they recognise it or not, the speed and appetite of social media makes readers more excited about classic menswear launches as well, whether it be a PS collaboration or a new knitwear colour from Rubato.

I think the first step is recognising this. The second is resisting the urge - and every stage - to push at it too hard. The occasional teaser image on Instagram is fine, and fun, but when you deliberately reduce stock to keep people hungry, or start to approach any of this marketing process cynically, I feel that's very different.

We often sell out of products because we buy small quantities. And we do that because we're small and self-funded, and because we want to ever avoid going on sale. The only way to avoid that is to sell out of products. (You could just never discontinue colours or products, and restock continuously, but that would mean you grew very big, very quickly, which is also not what we want to do - or can afford to do.)

Lastly, I think PS benefits from the fact that fashion brands and magazines are doing a terrible job at appealing to the kind of intelligent, tasteful man that is today a PS reader. And for that I am grateful, if also genuinely sad. I like having something else to read.

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Anonymous

I would like the cut out part please!

Alexander

Ditto!

Anonymous

I would very much like to see the section about how you benefit from this system. Why would you cut this out? It was the leading question on my mind when reading this and it would make the article come across rather less self satisfied [please read this as a positive criticism – love the site].

Peter K

I suppose another way you benefit is from the fact that at least some people who are turned off by the current state of fashion turn to PS as an alternative.

Z

This reminded me of an article I read in Bloomberg in September, “Welcome to Your Bland New World” where one sentence stuck with me: “Blands are in it to exit.”

Larry

This must be Mr Crompton’s best article ever.

Karol

I feel that there is a disparity between clothing that is possible to create versus clothing that is actually worn. In theory, high fashion designers can create an infinite variety of pieces simply by doing things at random – the effect might be hideous and unwearable, but since it is different that everything else, it is new. On the other hand there are the clothes that at least a group of people will choose to wear. And those clothes are the same things over and over. Sport coats, jeans, sweatshirts, and so on. I always wonder where do the high end unweareable clothes go – because all I can see others wear are jeans, hoodies, white sneakers, puffer jackets…
Of course, which of those basic pieces are “in” and how are they cut can vary. But internet changed things. It doesn’t feel as if there is one singular fashion anymore. In fashion bubbles, maybe. The influencers of menswear are now going in on the ivy trend and white socks. But that is not what other groups do. So you can have 50’s Ivy revival in one place, then 70’s revival in mainstream fashion, then twenty more diffent bubbles with different interests. And fashion is obviously based on repurposing old things in rejection of the recent. Which is what is being done, but it’s getting faster and faster. I wonder what will happen when we run out of things to cannibalise.

Bert

I agree re cynical appropriation of subcultures and whether it’ll become harder for them to take root, but think the criticism of fashion as unwearable made above and elsewhere is a bit basic.

Yes fashion in days of couture was designed to the brief of elegance, beauty and so on, but it’s now a much broader conversation, designers using clothes as language for storytelling, humour, social commentary etc. Judging high fashion simply in terms of whether you’d wear it slightly misses the point imo. (from someone not particularly into high fashion).

Bert

Thanks for the reply.

Yes I know comparison is not with couture, I’m just making the point that fashion became about more than simply trying to make people look good a long time ago. Runway clothes are now used to communicate all kinds of ideas/feelings beyond that. This feels natural given the huge role clothes and dress play in culture, beyond just the practical/aesthetic.

I think it’s fascinating actually how designers use something as oblique as clothing to try and get across quite delicate ideas about society, who we are etc. It can become very subtle and suggestive, or not as in some cases e.g. Lee Mcqueen’s comment on the grotesque, and baseness.

So criticising high fashion simply in terms of aesthetics/functionality as have some have here is (respectfully) I think a shallow treatment of the subject. Deserves to be given thought in a wider artistic context. It’s not so much subjective as you say whether you’d wear these clothes as not always the question.

I understand separately the points about commerce, hype, appetite etc. and the drop in quality, rehashing that results. Am sure that has become worse since periods mentioned.

Matthew V

Another thought provoking piece – I feel the same way walking through a lot of the men’s section Selfridges! Then I am getting on a bit so those clothes are not probably aimed at me…

Instagram is definitely a double edged sword – it has certainly been a great way for brands such as Steve Calder’s Informale to spread the word on what they do, and say for Anglo Italian to confirm what has arrived in store, but I tend to deliberately ignore sponsored content and advertising.

I use it as much for my music interests, which seem less brand driven and are just to advise on new music that is available and connecting / maintaining a community of music lovers currently estranged from being able to enjoy the music in clubs, at concerts, etc.

But overall I find Instagram useful, although I don’t find the time to have looked at every new post for the feeds I follow – maybe that is a good thing, as I don’t feel obliged to keep ‘up to date’?

Ian

“One of the factors driving this is venture capital……..and those investors are driven by short-term growth.”
This statement resonated with me, maybe the inner communist from my teens is re-awakening. I think this type of financial model is affecting many areas of our lives now.

I am not a huge sports fan, for example, but I am nervous of the increased interest these kind of backers are aquiring in prefessional Rugby Union at the moment, for example.

Misbah

Simon
Good post, I enjoy when you venture further out. Industry members should definitely critique their own industry. Agree with most points, but consider that fashion, fast or otherwise, is an industry and provides livelihoods for many people. A fair number in the developing world and parts of Europe where other jobs may not be available. Sure the pace of fashion could be decreased, but a huge diminishment would also have repercussions.

Misbah

I’m not offering it up as justification merely to consider the entire manufacturing train as opposed to being an end user.
I agree it certainly can apply to other industries but stopped short of raising capitalism’s need for ever growing markets.

Patrick Bateman

Another great an interesting article Simon. Towards the end of the article you talk about overpriced trainers. Do you not think that you fall for this with Common Projects? This is one of your brand recommendations that I could not move towards or ever justify. It seems a great expense for a fairly simple plimsole.

Kenny

Good point. Over-priced white sneakers are THE bland iGent “must have but they look ridiculous, especially with tailored clothing. No man over 18 should wear sneakers in public. They are not, and never can be, stylish and should only be worn in the gym, on the running track or on the court of a racquet sport.

Karol

Kenny, absolutely true. Likewise, Oxford shoes should be worn only in Oxford, and derbies only during derbies. The bigger the derby, the chunkier the shoes might be. In Glasgow, you might even be allowed to wear derby boots!

Alex

Thought provoking piece Simon, but surely much of this is the way it’s been for a long time? Fashion brands producing unwearable costumes for catwalks and myopic venture capitalists thinking only of the quickest buck imaginable without a single thought of actually building something worthwhile? I’d agree that social media has almost certainly made it worse (by the way, I’d highly recommend The Social Dilemma on Netflix for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet) but isn’t the ‘disruptor’ trend just an extension of starting entrepreneurs always being told to find their USP? Interesting to ponder how, when and if this paradigm may end, but afraid to say I’m not optimistic.

Excellent article from High Snobiety by the way, thanks for linking.

Please do post the section you cut out!

Alex

Not to disagree that it’s gotten worse, but since it’s obviously a subjective judgement could it partially be down to a combination of getting slightly older and having seen so much that finding something you haven’t seen before (or very similar) becomes increasingly difficult?

Going back to your points on print media, is there anything you could recommend these days? I’m afraid that The Rake has completely jumped the shark as far as I’m concerned, what with their (as another commenter mentioned the other day) negronis, cigars and excessive advertorial content.

Charlie

Hi Simon

I’m genuinely curious to hear your thoughts on the brand 18 East. On the one hand Antonio is a known figure in menswear, someone I recall you’ve spoken favourably about before, and someone who clearly values craftsmanship. One the other, and for me at least, 18 East has fallen victim to some of the worst aspects of the hype/limited drop/derivative/capital F Fashion trends you touch upon in this article.

I think this has sparked a bit of cognitive dissonance in the community and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. I don’t recall you mentioning 18 East on PS before.

Riccardo

I for one would certainly like to see the section regarding how you benefit from a system that as a whole you dislike. It feels like you make a point of trying to do your best to do ‘slow’ social media as you refer to it, but the thoughts of the man himself would be interesting. I do agree it would feel slightly out of place on the main piece though. Perhaps in a later piece or in the comments?

Robin

This
https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/murky-business-fashions-cash-cow-logo-t-shirt/

is a MUST read.
I would appreciate something as honest and blunt from PS on tailoring.
Particularly MTM which is outsourced abroad and sold in the UK.

Personally for me fashion is a new cloth or a new ‘technology’ (waterproof/ stain proof wool).
Otherwise , lets face it , a shirt will have a collar of varying shapes and two sleeves , and , a pair of trousers will always have two legs .
To exaggerate …..’Fashion’ takes these and tries to make shirts with one sleeve one season and two sleeves the next and seeks to call them this seasons ‘ trend’.

And how can two different competing fashion houses both claim “oh darling, it’s all about stripes this season”.
Have they been ‘competitively collaborating’ !?

Anonymous

I think that people’s tastes are reflected in many things.In fashion, TV,social media….and these interests are usually very mainstream.It’s much easier to buy into fast fashion than to spend time and cerebral energy mulling over the details of classic style.Most consumers just are’nt interested. They want it and they want it now.You referenced Wittgenstein recently.I guess Simon you have a pretty varied group of interests.The vast majority are not like that.Their tastes are much narrower like their choice of clothes.

JB

While most readers I’m sure, won’t pick up the high fashion magazines on a regular, I fully agree with your points. Especially on social media. I find even within the classic menswear bubble, things are getting more and more generic, with so many looking brands and younger tailoring shops look similar. This combined with the ever changing algorithms of Instagram where everything is shown in a seemingly random order, just drowns out the good content.
Even amongst accounts I used to enjoy and draw inspiration from, it seems to be about drinking negronis and smoking cigars more than anything else.

I’ve started to unfollow more and more, and activated notifications on the accounts I actually want to see, as they tend to get lost in the volume of posts.

It’s not all bad though, the increasing amount of good quality content on IGTV is a very nice change. Anything from conversations such as yours with Jeremy Kirkland, Saman Amel and Alan Flusser, Mark Cho’s what I’m wearing and why (that last part very underrated) to P. Johnsons walkthroughs of showrooms, inspiration, products and styling.

Anon

Simon

As Permanent Style readers know there’s fashion and there’s style. They shouldn’t be confused.

Al

I remember, back in the 80’s, staring at PerLui, the Italian Vogue magazines for young men. It was a strange sport coat or balloon like trousers (they were the eighties after all) but every issue was full of new inspiration. I remember an aubergine overcoat with a very relaxed cut and a black, quilted fabric collar like in the most famous Oscar Wilde portrait. I got it made by a tailor in a bit. Now I wonder where all that energy has gone.

Peter

Interesting article. TBH I haven’t picked up a glossy fashion magazine in a long time; it’s been decades since I’ve seen something that truly grabs me. There are only a few brands per year that really get me excited. Some is innovation/design (Robert Spangle’s Observer Collection, for example), and some is making old clothes relevant (Scott Fraser). To be sure, much of fashion has always been disposable but I’m hesitant to dismiss a particular trend just because it’s not my cup of tea. Sometimes I have to admit something looks good, even if I struggle to see how — or if — I can actually incorporate it in my wardrobe.

Derek

I definitely think that the add-on on your benefit vs. the criticism is a critical point to include in your piece. It may break the flow, but I think the self-awareness component is vital to cover potential comments about a myopic view.

Regarding the piece itself, is the relentless multi-season fashion schedule not also a large part that’s responsible for designs being banal rather than thoughtful? Numerous designers have expressed their frustrations with the lack of time they have to develop designs for the larger luxury/fashion houses. If we take Saman Amel and Stoffa as prime counterexamples, a good amount of time is necessary to incubate and further refine products before launching them, much like a good piece of writing.

Rob Moore

Couldn’t agree more Simon. From time to time I buy GQ magazine – partly in the hope of some style and fashion inspiration or trends. But am always just confronted nowadays with the weird and unattractive. That’s the thing I notice the most in that as you say in your article its good to be pushed and inspired to consider new things but more often than not these days these new fashions just don’t look good on people, the fit is poor and it doesn’t make them look stylish or attractive. I was aghast recently with a social media post from Lewis Hamilton who was showing off the latest piece from his joint project with Tommy Hilfiger – a large purple overcoat – the idea of which was probably fine but in terms of fit I think you could have got three or four people inside it. I now find refuge and solace and real inspiration from web sites like yours so keep doing your thing please as we need you !! 🙂

Peter Hall

Much of what we see is product. As much to do with fashion and style as a bag of cement.
I’m certainly prepared to pay a fair price for sustainable fashion. As my daughter says, if you are paying the price of a few cups of coffee for clothing-you are part of the problem. Obviously, the issue is,I purchase less and do very little spur of the moment buying.
We, as consumers, should be asking about supply chains and material shortages.

The link to the tee article was illuminating. I presume costs for uk manufacturing are much the same. We should be given choice-I would much prefer to have my clothing sourced and made in the uk-not for any jingoistic views, but it makes environmental sense.

I’m sure many have the same views, but nothing ever changes.
So….what can we do?

Peter K

For inspiration I look at “street style” sites. Some of the looks you see are purely fashion driven and very derivative. But you also can find many looks that are very original or show combinations I would never think of.

Thomas

My first tie was from Zegna. In the late 80’s early 90’s seeing Franco at the Zegna store on Bond St. was a wonderful experience. Today I don’t recognize the brand. To your statement Simon so much of fashion is like fast food, little to no nutritional value.

DP

Thumbs Up! I have Gucci Horsebits from 40 plus years ago my wife’s Chanel purses are 35 years old and they were and are wonderful products made by craftsmen who cared. Now I refuse to walk in to a Gucci or Chanel shop. In so many areas the passion for product is gone and the target customer must have logos that can be seen from outer space

John

Has fashion simply latched on to the current norms of a generation that is coming to dominate western society or is it the reason (one of them at least) that so much of western society is so flaccid? High fashion has always tried to challenge our views, high street fashion is about at one level ‘being noticed’ and at another ‘fitting into the tribe’ and gaining instant acceptance by so doing. What it is not about is ‘individuality’ and thinking for your self for the latter read having a personal style. Great piece Simon but what does it mean for the long term crafter of quality menswear? Will they still be around when this generation finally grows up?

Philip Gilbert

Simon, I would agree, it’s beyond tired now. To the two causes you highlight I would add ‘brands’
One you become part of the brand circus the cost accountants move in, it’s all about increasing returns of equity, prices increases are in direct correlation to the decrease in quality
What sells is logo,; take a black hoodie snd put on it Balenciaga and it’s worth £600. The margin must be enormous
I first started buying RTW fashion from Browns in 1977. There weren’t brands then as a result we got proper clothes
Of the few labels that try to do fashion today the Japanese standout, especially Comme and Yojhi. The great thing about them is that the follow there own path and not fashions
Mercifully I am too old for all this rubbish now!

Lewis

A superb article, Simon. Just a small point: if the newsagent on Chiltern Street you mention is Shreeji (a couple of doors down from Trunk), it isn’t new. It has been there for many years but is benefitting from a recent refurbishment.

David

A great article – and I would also be keen to see the expanded version of your thoughts about how you benefit.

Two reactions:
1. I do think there’s an element of ’twas ever thus. Fashion houses have always produced crazy unwearable things for the runway, and then played it safe with the things they actually want to sell. Perhaps what you describe, especially on the retail side, is just a more extreme version of that.
2. What happens when the hype and the desire for a quick return collides with the current economy? There’s a current Reuters article about how the entire wool supply chain (from retail, to the mills, up to the sheep farmers) is being affected by Covid. There are a lot of brands selling very similar things and chasing after a shrinking demand.

Ben

Is the problem really that the brands are running out of ideas or that you’re not a fan of the ideas being put forth? The exaggerated, outre runway stuff seem to me to say as much as a wearable aubergine leather jacket: in both cases, not much. Subtlety is not necessarily sophistication. You can shout in different timbres.

Jason

“Slow craft and elegant clothing can not compete with this “.
Of course it can. It always has and always will.
Many luxury brands have lost their way not because of disrupters, so called influencers or social media. They have lost their way because they have completely abandoned their roots and raison d’etre.
Berluti – what a mess. Dunhill – doesn’t know wether they want to be Arthur or Martha. Zegna – quel bordel ! Brunello Cucinelli – quality meltdown. And so it goes. The list is long.
I laughed my socks off when the man from Zegna destroyed Berluti and then rejoined Zegna so he can destroy them with his outlandish ideas.
Zegna used to be the quality suit provider to the top echelon. Since they embarked on their androgynous adventure they have completely lost that market.
Indeed all of the aforementioned have given up space that has been taken by the likes of A&S, Begg & Co, Private White VC, Drakes, Sunspel etc.
The dollars may be spread out amongst more brands but they all reflect elegant clothing.
So it was in the beginning, is now and forever will be.

Jason

Oh, the communication medium may be digital and different but the trends certainly have been there in the past and are cyclical.
Elegant clothing should react by staying completely elegant.
They are simply not the same market.
The mistake is to conflate the issues and to betray your roots.
The extremes which you sight are the product of ‘Design Teams’ who have become completely divorced from reality and whom report into CEO’s who think that hiring the craziest guy or gal in town will protect them from being deemed lacking in creativity.
It is a debacle that breeds opportunity for those that hold their nerve and don’t get distracted.
Of course, brands require refreshing and nurturing to avoid becoming stale.
Begg & Co are an interesting case. They are currently relaunching in a very intriguing way. They seem to be injecting a freshness and contemporary feel to things whilst remaining loyal to their roots. This is clever and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Andrzej

I fully agree with the article, thanks Simon for a great read. I must add there are brands that exploit this dependence upon social media and design clothes that mimick the way in which Instagram superposes images (eg. Virgil Abloh’s Off-White). It is hard to bear with (because extremely non-stylish) but at the same time it strucks as something very relevant.

Alexander

Absolutely wonderful piece. I do have to wonder though, for those that wear streetwear and fashion magazines, would they view the sort of content on this site (and similar ones) similarly homogenous and unimaginative?

With that said I do think there is a certain lack of creativity that exists in much of fashion, and would argue that at least in tailored clothing there is a discussion worth having of quality and artisanship.

And truly I think that is reflected in this very website and on your instagram. You provide thoughtful pieces, analysis, and criticism. More importantly, I would say you have depth in that you take time to read comments and interact with readers here, and on instagram. There is nothing obligating you too, you could ignore everyone one of us, but similar to depth in quality differentiating tailored clothing (I use that to encompass all types of content you cover) from fashion, I would say your approach on this site, instagram, and through your shop is similarly differentiated by care and depth.

(Would still love to hear the piece you cut out though).

JTR

I found your narrow mindedness on this subject disappointing and out of character. There are pretty amazing and innovative clothes being created right now at JW Anderson/Loewe, Bode and, I would argue, Gucci – among others. They certainly are not the same – although perceived as equally unwearable by many. Although I’d suggest that the clothes on this site – which I share a love for – are also unwearable to many who would find the various suits, shirts, and shoes bland and essentially the same – while all appearing, they might argue, equally out of date. I don’t prescribe to either of these misunderstandings of classic or fashionable clothing. They both can be magnificent or quite dull. Fashion hasn’t fallen; it’s just not speaking to your particular tastes. I believe a broader understanding is required that allows, for example, the brilliance of both Beyonce and Bach, the new and the old. Surely there is room to appreciate artistic expressions even as we may recognize they aren’t for us personally to wear.

Sebastián P

This is such an interesting topic, Simon. At least we, as men, get the opportunity to get out of this “hype” society a bit when we buy quality classic menswear with the purpose of having items that will last and look better over time. Don’t you think, thus, that this tendency particularly affects women? My girlfriend has told me lots of times how she would love to find a blog like Permanent Style for women, but I don’t see how such a thing could be done taking into account the current state of affairs of womenswear…

H

Hi Simon, insightful (as usual) and thought-provoking article. How do you think that the pandemic will shape the high fashion trends that you discuss. Europe is in the midst of a second wave, with a likely devastating effect (layoffs, store closures, bankruptcies etc) on some brands. China and Asia can only come to rescue to a limited extent for some.

Will a buyer fatigue set in for some of the extreme trends and a push for back to basics, or will those unsustainable trends continue? Thanks and cheers

Eirini

Excellent article!!!

Anonymous

Simon,

You could help the industry we all love by being an agent of change – a journalist in the old fashioned sense — caring, critical, fiercely jealous of their independence.

Someone who holds the industry accountable to a higher purpose 🙂

Accepting subsidized prices for the products you review is directly contradictory to all of the above because it creates an unconscious bias and, more importantly the perception of bias.

To be the person I spoke of above in an industry riddled with ‘backhanders’, it is not enough to be clean.

You need to be seen to be clean.

The Economist Magazine is in a similar predicament and regularly reports on their owners, and declares the owners interest in the first paragraph, every time.

It hasn’t hurt them financially, indeed the opposite.

Your work reminds me of them in so manys and you are clearly a person of great integrity already, which is why I still read, but I must confess, my faith is wavering.

Can you make the final leap for us please?

MB

I am confused by this. If Anonymous is satisfied by the Economist declaring their relationship to their owners in any relevant article, why is Anonymous not satisfied by Simon asking us to assume that he has paid less (if anything) for any garment he covers?

Permanent Style makes a clear statement highlighting the potential for a conflict, which exactly the same approach as is taken by the Economist. In each case the reader is left to determine what weight to give the article.

Me again, sorry :)

Simon

Kudos to you for publishing my comment.

! respect that.

However I am a reader and I respectfully disagree that we do not perceive at least ‘the possibility of bias’.

The topic keeps coming up because we keep perceiving it.

The possibility of bias is inherent in your own business model.

You did yourself say that accepting discounts allows you to publish more articles.

More articles drive more revenue.

Your acceptance of subsidies therefore results in higher income.

When a solution aka Economist magazine exists, what do you gain from allowing even the possibility of bias to exist?

Do you not see the slippery slope you are on?

Respectfully …..

Nicolas Stromback

I think you could’ve done what you do even before social media Simon. After all, people will always like what is good. As we are seeing now, social media is starting to outmaneouver itself as the format is getting harder and harder to use for what it was created for. Everyone I know is checking out of social media more and more, or adapting the use to find things specific to their liking. I hope this is the way of the future, using tech as a tool, not an addiction. But, that may be a futile wish on my part too.

Anonymous

Simon,

Are we supposed to connect our tie at the back to the front (through the placket on the tie?)
I see that you don’t, was wondering what is the correct way.
Thanks.

Lindsey Anna B

I absolutely agree about the collections I’ve been seeing out there for men and women. Fall is usually a season that is exiting for fashion, but what I’ve seen (even pre-covid arguably) has been derivative at best. Unflattering and unimaginative silhouettes in cheap fabrics, tacky and gauche branding, and a real lack of longevity is abounding. I was shopping for some quality classic staples for my husband and it was striking how difficult it really was to come up with a couple of nice shirts and decent trousers. I really think slow fashion should be a priority with an emphasis on quality and sustainability.

Charles Anzarut

Simon

I think PS stands out is not because of the topics being clothes (which I must admit I have been interested in all my life) but because you are first and foremost a writer and a writer who thinks. It just happens to be that your topic is menswear just as the Undercover Economist in the Financial Times happens to write knowledgeably about economics. In a nutshell thank you. A great antidote from the five or 10 word tweet that our leaders now indulge in.

Countalma

It’d be interesting to find out when exactly the “unwearable” and/or “ugly” fashion started to appear on the runways and in magazines. Must be the late 60’s and early 70’s? Also, who exactly was responsible for it? Throughout the first half of the 20th century, magazines would publish images that were supposed to show people what to wear and how to wear it. Those magazines, in turn, were influenced by certain trends that developed in the higher circles of the “old-money” elite. Fashion would be “born” as the result of collaborations between certain VIP clients and their outstanding dressmakers. Then, trends would be distributed and popularized among the general population via popular movies (later TV), department stores, and, of course, fashion magazines. Precisely when did this end? When did the “fashion designer” become king? When did runway demonstrstions turn into bizarre shows, meant to shock the public, like some avant-garde art?

Seán

Great article Simon, I miss print media, maybe we might see a Permanent Style yearly Christmas annual?

Peter Hall

Enjoying this discussion.

To add a second comment, if I may. Mens’ style always has that inbuilt conservatism – we set quite formal boundaries as to what(the majority) will buy. I have owned two pairs of Bass loafers for 20 years, exposure to other styles has me actively looking for a slimmer, closer fit style. But, it’s still a loafer.
I agree with you totally-aspire not to be bland, be (slightly different) and ,to that end, the runways do a great job. I often talk about fashion with my wife, especially the Italian houses, but knowing that my next purchase with be a classically styled, British wool coat.
I’m 55 and avoid all things fashion😂
Wearability ,durability and quality are always the selling point for me. The creatives, I nod to and admire, but give me a well-cut coat any day.

Rich H

Simon, I agree wholeheartedly with everything in your post. I think no better example of this currently is the grass stained jeans that Gucci have produced and then stuck a ridiculous price tag on; it’s almost like they’re doing it just to see how gullible their customers are.

I also agree with an earlier comment in relation to brands like Berluti and Brunello Cuccinelli (I would also add Brioni to this list) which have completely lost their way as they’ve grown and in my opinion are now little better than what would probably be classed as ‘high fashion’ brands like Balenciaga despite being different in their output.

You can even start to see the affect in Savile Row. More and more of the companies are being bought out by Private Equity or similar. Hardy Amies has already gone bust after launching ready to wear and Gieves and Hawkes is going downhill rapidly. Richard James has just launched a separate sportswear shop. Even Cifonelli has launched a ready to wear collection. Tailors seem to be becoming more and more like conservative versions of ‘high end’ fashion brands where growth and money are the driving factors. Whether this a good thing for the tailoring industry or not is up for debate.

jason

Rich H,
You make some interesting points.
I worked at the top level of two of the world’s most successful marketing companies most of my working life and I found and continue to find the lack of marketing expertise within these brands breathtaking.
They all keep making the same mistakes time and time again.
The company I worked for made a not insignificant error in the early ’90s when we bought a small but highly prestigious Parisian Haute Couture business.
We really acquired it because we wanted to own their fragrance business to counter the high commissions we were paying on brands we had under licence.
The thing was a disaster because we didn’t understand Haute Couture and brought in a ‘Creative Director’ who turned a delicately balanced house into a outre creative circus that ostracised all of the existing customers and flew the business into a cliff.
At least we learnt from our mistake and never repeated the exercise.
A lot of the current barking mad activity is propped up by aspects of the pink dollar and China. That won’t cancel out the losses they will incur from their core customers of old.
I used to be one of Zegna’s top 20 customers in NYC. I haven’t been near the brand in years and everybody I know who used to buy Zegna and Brioni now buys bespoke,
Jason

Ian A

It’s interesting! I think Drake’s is in danger of following this course if it alienates its core customers in search of gimmicky items in primary colours as it seems to be doing.

Sorry me again

Simon,

Again, much respect to you for publishing my comments and for the polite and considered tone of your responses.

I appreciate that.

I inferred, correctly I think (?), that accepting discounts allow you to publish more articles and drive more revenue, after reading your statement in the article on how PS functions as a business which I quote below;

” if someone wants to offer a discount it means there are more funds available to review more things on the site. Or fund pop-up shops, or book printing”

hence me raising my concerns …………..

@MB

My analogy of the Economist magazine was put as tactfully as I could – in addition to declaring every single time in the main body of the text whenever there is the possibility of bias, I am very sure that they do not accept subsidies/discounts from the subjects of their articles.

This is consistent with their mission on their masthead to take part in “a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress”

In the not too distant past such declarations of potential bias and practices was best practice and the fact that they have done it consistently since their founding in 1843 is why 35 million people including me, still read the Economist through their numerous channels.

I can see the rules have changed – social media et al – but when the price is less truth and less trust, how is it for the better, my friend?

I think I have labored the point enough and it occurs to me that applying the lens and standards of my profession or the Economist to PS may not be a reasonable comparison.

Nonetheless, that is the standard that works for me and so it is best that I cease prodding and take my leave.

Best of luck! I leave the last word to others ……………..

Respectfully …………..

Nick

Hello Simon. Fascinating read. What’s true for fashion is now true for fragrance. Here’s hoping the ‘slow’ movement can get its fair share …

Martin

Dear Simon,

An excellent piece that gets to the heart of where fashion currently lies.

Having worked in the industry for over 12 years I’ve seen significant changes that I feel have been detrimental to the identity and integrity of a brand.

Interesting to read your comments about the magazine. I gave up reading GQ years ago as after wading through page after page of advertisements I found that the content was uninspiring, second rate and in my humble opinion too political for my taste. Nowadays I get far more satisfaction from Monocle or The Rake.

Kind Regards

Martin

MFP

For some reason the below quote springs to mind!
“And, after all, what is a fashion? From the artistic point of view, it is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Mr T

Very interesting article. To add, isn’t a lot of what drives fashion , in particular luxury fashion, today, coming from China rather than the Western markets most of the readers (or at least commenters) of PS have been socialised in?

A market that is much younger (hence more hype-driven), with a super-fast absorption/ amalgamation of previous fashion trends (but less ‘lived experience’ of them), with social media constantly on hyper-speed (forcing brands to create very loud noise, daily, to stand out) and at a state of consumerism where ecommerce shopping days have turned into semi-national holidays/ spiritual festivals (11/11, 6/18).

I may be exaggerating, but perhaps we (in particular in Europe and the US) are quickly becoming an afterthought in terms of target consumers for many brands.

ANON

Hi Simon
As always, a thought provoking & well balanced piece of writing (within a rant! who doesn’t love a good rant!). Good that you added in the cut out section – highlighting the benefits PS receives receives from said system – it gives the article further balance.
If I may add my voice to this: I think the state of the industry is (as you well know) unfortunately a sad reflection our entire society & values. One only has to look at who the most “famous family” is on our planet to sum it up.
The items you cover on this site are always the result of hard work, painstaking detail, passion & longevity. Even though readers will naturally have differing opinions on whether or not they like every item or not – the pure craftsmanship & dedication of the maker can never be doubted & their approach/story is often as interesting as the item itself.
It led me to just briefly reflect on a comment of yours in your recent article regarding your beard. I noted one particular remark re: bodybuilding where you reflected it was “good for nothing other than showing off.” Whilst of course this can often be the case (& quite frankly could be applied in a similar vein to those peacocks at Pitti who many would incorrectly lump into 1 single category of every single Pitti attendee), I would equally suggest that for many of said bodybuilders (not myself – i’m no bodybuilder!) – perhaps more of the old-school type – there is also a level of dedication & relentless pursuit of detail that in many ways one can’t help but admire. In fact – many of said bodybuilders who stick to many classic methodologies equally utterly despair at many of the fitness fads (with such short term outcomes) – which you also describe so accurately in this article.
Whilst i’m not trying to align Tailoring with Bodybuilding – I hope you’ll appreciate the point i’m attempting to make in that it’s a real long term application of hard work & detail. I personally admire those traits regardless of industry – and in so many ways across so many walks of life it’s sadly disappearing.
Hope my point comes across in the manner intended.
Keep well & keep the rants coming!