Which brands do we cover, and why?
Now more than ever, I think it’s important to say what we stand for at Permanent Style. And one of the ways that comes across clearest is our editorial policy: what we cover, and what we don’t.
Implicitly, this defines our values. It reveals not only what we like, but what we think is important.
So we cover brands because of their style, for example, but also because they deliver value. They must make clothes that are designed to last, both because of their quality and because of their understated, more permanent style. And they must help customers through all of this, from educated purchase to long-term care.
I’ve come to realise this selection is central to the point and ethos of PS. It has come up recently when discussing hype in fashion, the quality/value aims of different brands, and in correspondence with PRs.
So here I attempt to define whom we cover, and why.
I firmly believe more people should buy more quality clothing. It’s both more responsible and more satisfying. Our most important criterion for coverage is therefore high quality. And within that, we also tend to cover the very best.
This means that the clothing tends to be more ‘luxurious’ and expensive. But quality is always the driving factor. So we do cover bigger brands - Loro Piana, RL Purple Label, Hermes - when we think they deliver quality, while noting the higher cost and therefore perhaps lower value for money.
And the small brands that make up the majority of the coverage are certainly luxury too, given they’re consciously aiming for a very good product and so are expensive.
However, we do try to spell out where that quality lies - whether it’s fineness of work, feel of materials or longevity. Because perceptions of quality can be personal, and just as importantly, what counts as ‘quality’ varies between categories. Fineness matters a lot less with workwear chinos than with tailored trousers.
Our size also means we can’t cover everything. So even among quality clothing, we really focus on the very top of the market. From Berg & Berg and up; from Carmina and up. It would be lovely if there were another site that covered cheaper products as effectively.
The phrase ‘classic style’ or ‘classic menswear’ is not great. It seems to imply the clothes must be old, and perhaps old-fashioned.
But it can be useful shorthand, just because men’s clothing used to be more elegant, more subtle and more refined. And this is our second criterion for coverage.
For a brand to be included on Permanent Style, most of the time it must be aiming for a look which is classic and chic. This doesn’t have to mean tailoring: even sportswear will tend to be unobtrusive, with a well-considered fit and a lack of loud logos.
There are no gimmicks. No jackets with a notch lapel on one side and a peak on the other. No exaggerated fits, with shoulder seams at your elbow or waistbands round the thighs. Even ‘heritage’ styles are treated with suspicion: gurkha trousers or spectator shoes must prove they can look modern, and not like costume.
My aim, and the aim of Permanent Style, is to look simply well-dressed. And so the brands we cover must be dressing a modern man. Not an eccentric or a menswear insider.
This is probably an unexpected criterion, but I think a crucial one.
The reason we cover more smaller brands than big ones is that they have passion. They are clearly, fundamentally driven by those points about quality and style above.
This leads to an integrity of product. The founders design the clothes themselves and tell you why they’ve done it a certain way. They talk on Instagram, or their own website, about the decisions they made and the style they sought. They want to dress a certain way, and they're making the clothes to enable that.
Big brands can look cynical by comparison. This is obvious with designer brands at the moment - all producing the same trainers, the same sweatshirts. But it’s the case with high-street brands too. Their problem is selling by spreadsheet - using nothing more than sales figures and trend forecasting to decide what to produce.
If you’re not part of the majority (in terms of spending power) then this won’t work for you. It’s why chinos all have stretch in them, and all shirts have tiny collars. It’s also why most of these shops only compete on price - and as a result, invest less in quality.
The worst kinds of brands are the venture capital-driven ones, all piling into new areas of growth, whether it’s menswear or mattresses. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to spot these: within a year, they’re not the same company anymore. Usually they’ve frantically expanded.
Funnily, I find it’s quite easy to tell what kind of brand someone is running. Just listen to what they talk about. If they go on about sales, growth, or celebrity endorsement, then they’re the wrong kind.
The ones we like only want to talk about product. And once you start them off, you can’t shut them up about it.
Not heritage, location or sustainability
Just as enlightening are the criteria we don't include.
First, not heritage. It doesn’t matter if a brand is one year old, or a hundred.
Heritage can be useful shorthand because old companies tend to produce more classic clothing, and produce longer-lasting, quality products. But they don’t necessarily, and we’ve already covered both style and quality above.
Heritage is worth highlighting when it helps preserve knowledge or craft. A lot of expertise is locked inside these multi-generational companies and their staff. That should be protected.
But heritage can too often be a smokescreen. It’s irrelevant today how old Louis Vuitton is, or Acqua di Parma. They’ve been turned into something else.
Second, I don't care about location. The priority is quality and style, whether from China or Chesterfield.
Yes, being made in England or Italy is still a fairly good marker of quality. But only fairly good, and getting worse every year.
The best argument for location is the same one as heritage: the preservation of skills, through protecting people, who cannot move to the other side of the world. Plus maybe the environmental costs of shipping.
Which brings us onto the last area: sustainability. This is incredibly important, but I think is a question to put to brands rather than a reason to include them. The methods of rating someone as sustainable are not clear enough yet to rule people definitely in, or out.
But it is something everyone needs to answer for.
Those are criteria for a brand to be featured on Permanent Style. It’s why we cover Rubato and Loro Piana, but neither Suit Supply nor Prada.
I spent many years as a magazine editor, with regular editorial meetings where we decided what would be covered in the next issue. I learnt that just as powerful as how you cover things is what you cover, and what you therefore exclude.
Hopefully the points above will make it clear why I make those decisions today with Permanent Style.
Photography: A visit to the (smaller) Saman Amel atelier in Stockholm - a brand that definitely complies. Shot by Milad Abedi