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.
Personally, I would rather cover someone like Scott Simpson, Paul Vincent or Adam Rogers, even if I wouldn’t wear most of their clothes. Because I understand exactly what they’re trying to do.
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
As a regular reader of PS I can’t say I find anything new or unexpected in this article, but I would like to think of that as praise. The transparency of PS has always been one of its foremost sources of legitimacy and the criterias introduced very methodically in this article are frequently clarified in other articles on the site. Well done!
Nice to hear Henry – both that it comes across well, and that we’ve been consistent in representing those principles.
My buying has largely now mirrored your ethos, and the advice you give, even if the final choices are not (always) products you cover that often or at all (partly because of where I live). Though you have covered this point elsewhere, personal buying in line with this ethos is easily as satisfying as it must be to cover along these lines.
Here in Singapore for example I recently came across Yeossal. I’ve had several pairs of MTO hand-welted shoes from them now. Not perfect, but very good, clearly made with passion and care, from a small company that loves shoes and offers good advice. They’re easily worth their price in my view.
When I walk through the numerous large fashion boutique-filled shopping malls here, it can feel like a parallel universe – floors and floors of menswear I don’t want. In contrast, the world you cover here, and which I am enjoying exploring, barely exists at all in those malls. It’s an obvious point to make perhaps, but the world you cover, and that we enjoy, barely exists in front the eyes of most men, unless you happen to live near one of a tiny handful of locations… like Chiltern St. The luxury fashion brand marketing/advertising, advertorial-like print media, and retail eye-balling of the same, just reinforces a loop that must keep many men stuck within it.
While I am here, I’ll mention that The Bridge Coat and Wax Walker arrived in the past few days, and are both worthy of your name. They very much fit your ethos too.
I hope you don’t mind the question, but I’m curious why you purchased the Bridge Coat and Wax Walker given they’ll have limited to no use in a climate such as Singapore’s?
I’m ordinarily in Europe often, as well as parts of Asia that have real winters. And, even – with this pandemic – if it is some time still before I am travelling again, the nice thing about both coats is that they are classic wardrobe staples. Secondly, I lost a lot of weight this year so I’m having to replace virtually everything.
It’s nice to see a fellow reader of PS from Singapore, and I heartily agree with your views and experience of visiting boutiques and shopping malls here. The tips and ‘rules’ from PS has definitely changed my view on menswear, my style and consequently what I feel is worth my time and money.
Just out of curiosity – who is “we”? I always thought of PS as still being somewhat of a one man show (plus photographers)?
Actually a few people have been involved for a while. My father supported many of the early business aspects, including the shop, and still runs all the company-level stuff. My wife has worked on it off-and-on, mostly varying with the age of the children. And a few months ago a friend, Lucas Nicholson, starting working on PS on a more involved basis. Plus it’s always felt more honest to use a plural, given how much those freelancers like Jamie and Alex on photography, George for video and my developer Adam, have contributed to the style and the success of the site.
I would have to say I agree with Henry; you have been clear as long as I have been reading the blog about the ethos that drives it and that clarity of purpose is one of the reasons taking the time is worthwhile. I also agree with your last point about sustainability but where we differ is that I would give it more prominence, not only for manufacturers but also for the purchaser. We all need to think about sourcing and travel miles when we make our choices. Finally, If I may I will pick up your points about location and heritage, for me they are inextricably linked and vital components of the diversity that drives interest and change.
Just great, Simon. That’s why why love what you do.
Don’t have anything to add except a thank you for helping me find the kinds of craftsmen I want to support.
Bravo! A clear, strong statement about guidelines.
One reason why I was attracted to PS was your support of the qualities you highlight in this statement. They are exactly the sorts of things that a discerning purchaser of clothing (indeed, of anything) must value.
I want to add something that I’m sure many of us know: The cost of an item is best understood over time, and not at the initial point of purchase. If one buys a more expensive, high-quality item, it will usually be something that lasts for a much longer time because it is well-made, and can also be repaired or altered more easily. I remember reading somewhere that if you had a pair of bespoke shoes that lasted for 40 years, with mending and recrafting done by the cordwainer, the cost would average to about 50 cents per day! Things manufactured in a cheap, shoddy way have to be replaced frequently, and in the end, the total cost might end up being greater over a period of time compared to that of purchasing a single item at a higher price.
At least here in the United States, the vast majority of the buying public do not care about such principles. They prefer buying cheap things, and initial cost trumps everything else. The big companies that cater to this public have accordingly tried to provide cheap things that are not especially durable, or of high quality.
This is perhaps off-topic, but I would like to pick up on your subject.
I think that the biggest factor in the cheap manufacturing or low prices in clothing is the pace of fashion cycles. The fast cycles make it irrational for medium income consumers to buy things which last longer than they will want to use it.
Even the more classic menswear industry has this, although more subtle and a bit slower. A few years ago, the ideal was more sporty and corporate: slim suits, short jackets, monk-strap and oxford shoes. That Tom Ford-esque taste is now considered tacky.
Now, the ideal is more natural colors, matte fabrics with visible structure, easy fitting garments, loafers and visible socks. Casual elegance. And the suits #menswear people wear are much less corporate than the suits worn to work by lawyers and bankers.
Which will soon feel stuffy and bring back the shiny suits but with wider lapels or something similar. And people will stop using their taupe cashmere polo shirts.
All these changes make it less useful to plan ahead in 40 years time. I think the realistic timeframe would be to expect yourself to like the clothes you have for five years from when you buy it.
I would also like to add that mr. Crompton is very good at acknowledging this feebleness of taste in relation to the actual possible life of a garment. And that the best value for money is most often in the lower end of the price spectrum he covers… the values of the highest quality is more for your own enjoyment. And that quality is not only how long something lasts. (Sorry if I misinterpreted you, Simon!)
I think you make some good points, Peter, but I think it is worth pointing out that while there are cycles in classic clothing too, they last much longer – it’s probably 15 years since the tight-suit look was at its zenith.
And also that it’s very possible to be conservative in your choices here – moderation in all things – and as a result stay largely affected by these cycles. You might want to narrow or widen your trousers every 15 years, but not much more than that.
On the value point, I’d just say that the ‘best’ value isn’t at the low end of what we cover – it’s at the very bottom of the market. Only problem there is, you get a terrible product, even if it’s cheap. So at every level, trading up gets you better quality but less value for money
“And also that it’s very possible to be conservative in your choices here – moderation in all things – and as a result stay largely UNAFFECTED by these cycles”.
Wise words but de facto this is the difference between style and fashion.
In 1965 Bryan Ferry was photographed leaning against his beloved Studbaker in a dark suit, shirt and tie. In a recent interview he said of the photo “See, nothing changes, it’s exactly what I would wear today “.
OK, his ‘65 suit was probably MTM from ‘Jackson’s The Tailors’ wear-as today, it’s bespoke from A&S but the point is correct yet, for over fifty years he has remained one of the most stylish guys around. It’s because of how he wears and accessorises his look.
Something PS should be very devoted to.
That is reassuring to hear. I hope that will be true for the decade to come. I guess some of the slow pace is due to the structure of the classic houses and the way skilled craftsmen work.
I think this article is useful in terms of defining your editorial principles and therefore a degree of transparency as to what you include or not. Something I think some magazines would do well to benchmark.
Keep up the great work.
Whilst what you say is (arguably) right why does that mean everything must be beyond reach by the average person ?
(I speak as someone who through reading PS have moved from £30 high street shirts to Simone Abbarchi MTM. )
Even by buying less and paying more the brands you mention are way beyond my reach.
Saman Amel stuff looks amazing ( some of the best I’ve seen) but the prices are eye watering .
And even if I saved for one particular item I could never wear it with much comfort knowing full well the amount I had paid and being afraid to damage it in any way .
Surely there are some gems out there that are more affordable.
But alas, that may just be the way .
There certainly are some great things, but as mentioned we cover the highest level of quality – as a conscious decision. What you can be sure of is that if you anything on here, it will be covered because of its quality, and it will be spelt out where that quality lies.
It would be great if someone else covered the extra quality you get by trading up to some brands at a lower price, but I’m afraid we can’t cover everything.
I’m in the same situation as you Robin. What I’ve found useful is to take what I’ve learned from PS and apply it to the clothes I can afford.
So I know what good quality looks like and can see (or make an educated guess at) where corners have been cut on the item I am considering. Is the trade-off acceptable to me? If so then I buy it.
I believe I have acquired a good wardrobe this way. Not the highest quality but classically styled, well made and reasonably durable.
i disagree with Robin. a lot of the items in my wardrobe have been influenced by PS coverage, and i don’t spend at the high end of the market. with a little patience and some research i acquired reasonably priced knitwear from No Man Walks Alone and Anderson & Sheppard, shoes from Vass, Tricker’s, and the Armoury, trousers from Incotex and Luxire, and outerwear from Private White and a loden coat which, although not covered by PS, was informed by Simon’s articles on fabrics.
in fact, if i had read PS before my first Luxire order, i would have known better than to try to take trouser measurements on my own and thus end up with an unwearable pair of pants.
I would say the same as Peter K, I apply what I read to what I can afford, and lets me build a reasonable wardrobe in a reasonable amount of time.
At the moment I can afford Suitsupply, Loake and Eton. Eventually I will be able to upgrade those pieces and I think I will be more educated to do so when I first visit a MTM or bespoke shop.
That might exist:
I think the other reason that location is sometimes a helpful proxy is that a brand based in the UK or Italy likely can’t compete on price with China given production costs; so you are probably not dealing with a company that is profit-driven. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is quality-driven, though that is often true.
The converse, of course, doesn’t work. Just because it is based in China doesn’t mean it is profit-driven; there is the flexibility there to be either profit-oriented, or quality-driven. So we need to look a little harder.
To be honest, I think that’s simplistic. No Italian company is not trying to make profits, and indeed perhaps maximising profits.
“My aim, and the aim of Permanent Style, is to look simply well-dressed.” Perfect! Thanks to PS I discovered Private White and Sunspel and have been a customer ever since. There are also other selective PS brands that I will be purchasing in 2021 as a result of PS coverage, thank you.
Great explanation. Seems so simple, yet I don’t know of other publications that have the same guiding star.
You have my sympathies for the amount of irrelevant PR email you must receive.
What is wrong with suitsupply? Maybe they have become very big but the taste level, details and value are good and they seem to run the company in a transparent fair way (they provide names of the mills they use and the info about the product tends to be rich rather than poor). I understand that it’s not at the level of quality of PS but I’m not sure… maybe I’m loosing something
No, you answered your question at the end Fernando, the quality is not at the level cover. A brand has to meet all these criteria to be included.
Frankly I’d question a fair bit of the style as well, and they not exactly passion-driven either, but the quality is the main thing.
I would say there is no need for you to cover Suit Supply, Simon. Plenty of others have said their piece on it, and as you’ve noted it does not fall into what you would like to cover, nor is it to the quality you like to cover. Better you cover what you enjoy, especially since you do so with integrity, transparency, and as objectively as you can.
Though I like Suit Supply, and feel it has served a good role for me in terms of building a base wardrobe of jackets (as has Spier and MacKay) and suits for work and leisure, I know (in part because of you that there is better out there). I think you get only slightly more than you pay for with them at best, but more often than not you get exactly what you pay for. I like their knitwear, but frankly it’s not the best (but I also feel having my fiancee buy me that as a present than something from Anderson and Sheppard).
I’d say the same goes for Spier and MacKay and Pini Parma (though to a lesser degree *note: I especially love their trousers). Unfortunately, there is no one out there that covers that level the way you cover the high-end, but perhaps one day. In any case, I appreciate the perspective you bring (even if I don’t always agree) as you’ve taught me a lot and helped me develop some of my style.
Perhaps there could be a corner of the blog where readers can signpost good quality at a lower price point. Perhaps a forum tread ,for example. It will be a handrail to true bespoke.
I think the other forums do an OK job of that Peter. I’m not sure having another forum here would help matters really – unless it were more consistently managed, which is where some of the others fall down I think.
Also, to a certain extent every post on here is a forum thread – particularly the way readers use old ones consistently, by asking questions there, and often lead the next post by the questions they ask in the comments
Yes. I thought of that whilst shaving. It would need to be moderated quite(very) strictly.
You do a great job in building the framework . Similar to other comments,I’m finding the path to quality and style a very enjoyable journey
Simon, thanks for an excellent site that I started reading quite recently. However, I have the same dilemma as some others, as a civil servant most of your suggestions are simply priced beyond me. A couple of years ago I started buying MTM suits (now at my second) from a local brand here in Stockholm (Blugiallo), so that’s that, but I find it hard to track down other brands or stores. You wouldn’t know of any other blog or person or something on the web that points to more affordable clothes, but still made with passion and style?
No, sorry Peter
Simon, do you apply the same criteria to whom you allow to advertise on your website? You have a living to make so isn’t there a temptation to host some of those brands you wouldn’t necessarily endorse in your articles?
Generally I do follow the same principles, yes, though there will be small exceptions sometimes, with quality for example.
I’ve been very fortunate that the site, its advertising and products, have been successful enough that I don’t have to make those kind of compromising decisions. It also makes a massive difference not being driven by growth – I know from my previous life in publishing how much that pressure to show growth can undermine editorial decisions.
Great piece Simon.
Even though you’ve explained (clearly) much of this in the past and on occasions justified (when you shouldn’t have to) what you cover and why – I think that “our size also means we can’t cover everything” and “It would be lovely if there were another site that covered cheaper products as effectively” really sums it up.
Even though I’ve found Natalino (as an example –
I’m sure there are many others) to be an interesting brand and would be interested in your viewpoint over a pint – it’s simply unrealistic for me or anyone else to expect you cover it. I’m sure we could all reasonably
agree there’s plenty of style and passion in their brand – but we could all obviously agree it’s not “the very best” – and that’s what PS covers. Having said that, even though you might not cover these brands or even name them – I actually think what you do cover overall helps those small independent brands who are trying to do things “better” become known and accessible. This site ultimately brings up the level of knowledge overall. Where people learn of Berg and Berg (and others) at your stated entry level – it almost naturally opens up the tentacles to other brands without even saying their names, who although may be outside the threshold of what you cover, are still doing things far far better than the wastage of fast fashion and the ad spend of the big brands. In my view it all helps lift things up and makes you think more.
I think on occasion because you cover what you cover so effectively, people yearn for you to cover other areas aswell…
I’m really glad to see your point about sustainability. Such an important aspect of consumption these days
Simon, did you too read in the news the other day that global human-made mass now exceeds all living bio-mass? Rather impressive, although perhaps not in a good way. All the more important to buy sustainably, and I believe that well made, lasting clothes is a part of that. It seems better to spend money on tailoring, than on more stuff, doesn’t it? Maybe you could include a little bit of sustainability in your coverage?
Thanks Peter, yes I did see that. It helps put things in perspective rather.
We have done some pieces on sustainability in the past – see this article in particular looking at different aspects of menswear. And this one on the experience of improving it at big companies.
I’m not sure what direction to take more coverage, except for more investigative work on brands. What do you think?
Thanks Simon, interesting pieces. I am not an expert on sustainability in any way… Maybe you could make it a topic when you report on everything else rather than a topic for special pieces? Maybe asking manufacturers about environmental concerns as a natural part of the rest of the interview? Or discuss vintage clothing, or how one can make a suit or coat last longer? I like your capsule concept. Buy less, buy better. etc.
Sure, I can certainly highlight that more when covering brands, good point.
We have covered vintage clothing quite a lot, as well as singing the praises of old beautiful clothing (‘how great things age’) plus there has been a regular series of pieces and videos showing how to look after clothing.
I assume you’re a fairly recent reader, and haven’t seen those pieces?
Hi Simon, that sounds great. I’ve read some of that, but not all.
Thanks for this blog, and for looking at these things as well.
No problem. Do leave follow-up questions on any of those posts if you want to
I thoroughly enjoyed the article you made on the sustainability of cashmere a while back. I would really like seeing more of that kind of articles: comparing fibres and materials in terms of sustainability and quality. I think sustainability should be an integral part in fabric guides and so on, as for me, the article on cashmere made me decide not to buy new cashmere and limit myself to second hand knit ware.
Good to know, thanks Leo
If I think of PS-covered clothes that make me wish I were 50 years younger and 50 times better heeled, so as to acquire some, I picture (say) Michael Browne tailoring and Fukuda shoes. What such clothes share, for me, is flair. Wearing them one can, as Italians would say, *fare figura* beautifully. They’re highly distinctive just as top haute cuisine is—an analogy I very much like and owe to PS. Fernand Point, Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse—one voyaged to them for a culinary inventiveness that built on and beyond quality, permanence, and passion. However, I don’t see the virtues of distinctiveness and flair, necessary virtues for me, in this rundown of PS guiding principles. I generally favor gmmthose principles, though why one should cherish being ‘unobtrusive’ I won’t try to fathom; but for me, they’re centrally inadequate as they stand. I suspect they’re inadequate for you, Simon, based on my having read a very large number of your columns.
Nice point Penn. I would certainly miss it if there were never that element of flair – it always has a place in the wardrobe. But at this basic level of criteria, I don’t think flair is a requirement, as there will be many brands I think worth covering that don’t have so much of it.
We do also dress in different things for different occasions and moods, I guess, and I couldn’t wear Fukuda and Michael Browne every day. Today I am wearing a PS blue oxford shirt and ecru jeans from Blackhorse Lane. And this is obviously just me, but I get just as much pleasure from the fact that I know others will like what I’m wearing, or think it looks good, without being able to point to something obvious.
For gmmthose, read those.
Whilst I fully support the ethos spelled out above it’s a bit of a pity to forget your own heritage, saying you’d never cover the likes of Suit Supply when in the beginning you covered them on numerous occasions https://www.permanentstyle.com/2008/02/an-interview-with-suit-supply.html
I appreciate you’ve gone on a journey and have now outgrown certain brands and so look down on what you once supported. Many long term readers now doubt have enjoyed the journey but not all of our budgets have grown as yours have. I therefore echo the pity that the next Simon who still covers mid budget items isn’t easy to find.
Yes, the site has changed a little since those very early days. Sorry that there’s no equivalent today.
Simon, I echo alot of the sentiment from other commenters below, specifically that you have done a great job covering quality brands over the years, and have done alot to educate consumers globally. For that, I salute you. However, I have two thoughts.
1/ Personally, for someone who is covering top-end quality products, I think there is a very critical element that you have missed out, which is service. Service is a critical part of the offering from many of the great brands featured on the site, and can be hugely value-adding, and yet it doesn’t get the attention it deserves from both yourself and readers. Good service is hard to come by in retail these days, so some doesn’t yet know the value that it can add to the shopping experience, because they have never come across it or thought about it properly. It is worth paying another £100 on something that cost £1500, if you get excellent service that helps you avoid mistakes, gives you a memory of a positive shopping experience, and have great after service. Good brands does it well online too. Luxury brands don’t sell their garments like it is a commodity – they invest in service – so let’s stop thinking about value for money in terms of just price + quality + style and add service to the mix. I personally would also love a post on tips and tricks of how to buy online and where to find the best servicing online.
Passion is great, but if it doesn’t translate into a good quality / stylish garment or good service, it doesn’t add value for consumers ( just imagine a snobbish brand owner rudely schooling you on why you should buy his top-end garments that he is passionate about).
2/ I disagree that venture capital run brands are the worst. They are near the bottom of the list, but at least they (usually) run businesses rationally and thus tend not to be destroyers of industry profit pools. Sales, growth and celebrity endorsement are all good and necessarily things for the industry to flourish (or just survive).
In my view, brand owners that competes solely on price in an unsustainable way does a disservice to the industry which is already starved of capital. If they managed to change the fairly rigid P&L structure of retailing, to offer a better price for the same value, good for them. That is seldom the case and often they price compete for five years, puts good brands out of business, and then quits the industry given their unsustainable business practices.
Thanks JW, great points.
I echo your points about service, and mentioned that at the start – “they must help customers through all of this, from educated purchase to long-term care”. I do think it’s something really worth paying for, particularly in the long run. It’s not universally the case, but I do think smaller brands tend to do this better as well. And of course it’s a reason to pay for a bricks-and-mortar store too.
Your points on pure price competition are good ones. And you’re right, there are new start-ups all the time that are doing little more than that.
The thing about VC-backed companies that kills me is the timelines. You just cannot grow that fast in 3-5 years and meet these other criteria.
Forgive me please if I’m amused that in this particular discussion, Simon, your shirt/jeans should be in the Brummel colour scheme of blue-and-buff, two centuries’ worth of classic chic. More to my earlier point, I wasn’t so much addressing your editorial decision about how to define the purview of your blog, the criteria of PS coverage. Rather, I was thinking of the normative force of your criteria in shaping how your readers think about menswear, whether or not it makes the editorial cut for PS. The hierarchy of values that I myself, at least, bring to my choice of what to buy for my wardrobe varies according to how I plan to wear the clothes, but the maker’s passion never enters in save as it produces aesthetic results or, at any rate, aesthetic potential, and I have no use for dull clothing even if 1000 hands labor over it at 30 stitches per cm. It’s in that buyer’s context, not your editorial criteria for inclusion, that I was urging central attention to flair, if I want to pass muster with the only audience that cares deeply and reliably what I look like: myself as my imagined outside observer.
Thanks Penn, that makes sense. I do think the maker’s passion is often what leads to those aesthetic results – in Michael and Yohei certainly, and with 100 Hands just in a separate kind of beauty, the detail and the decorative rather than the line and the shape.
Personally I find fashion most interesting and relevant when it’s more than just for some imagined and biased observer, but that’s entirely personal.
Me too. I enjoy its history, psychology, aesthetics, and—with much insight from the reader comments on PS—its sociology. But as to the way I look, what I buy, and how I think I present myself, that imagined, biased observer makes the crucial decisions, I hope non-solipsistically.
I may have a skewed vision of your influence as a devoted reader of this site. But it strikes me that you may be in a unique position to start to hold brands accountable (and you do it seems) for their conservation and sustainability efforts.
When you’ve written enough on the subject, i’d love to see a ‘guide’ or ‘category’ on the site. It could serve as some remedy – in the short term at least – for the lack of methodology in evaluating brands.
Thanks Miles. I think that is exaggerating things, but I’m sure I can do some good.
I think Miles can be quite right. If one looks at the way Robert Parker* changed the international wine business, it shows that a trailblazing, more systematic and well-respected informal authority can have a considerable impact on consumers and producers’ priorities.
*Well, not single-handedly, but you are definitely not alone in requiring some level of sustainability)
Excellent article, Simon. It’s a sign and an affirmation of what I’ve come to expect from PS. While most of the brands you cover are out of my price range, I’ve found that I can apply your eye to my style and shopping with results that I can be happy with. Please keep up the diligent work!
Nice post. Regarding location I am curious why North America bespoke is largely ignored (save for the Armoury in NYC). I believe half your audience is from the states. Shops in London/Naples are great (with the occasional trunk show in NYC), but how many of your readers can fly across the pond for a sportcoat? Bespoke is struggling here and a blog such as yours might give a much needed boost to a stateside bespoke tailor (assuming they met your standards). Have you ever considered writing a column on a shop outside of NYC? I’m not referring to a commercial MTM set up but a true boutique bespoke tailor. Certainly they exist. There is one in my city but they are rare for sure. Possibly you have in your archives but I may not have seen it. Really applaud what you do here. Thanks.
Good bespoke in the US is just very rare, unfortunately. If you have a read of our in-depth piece on New York bespoke, for example, there’s really very little there – old guys that are mostly passed on now, and a sprinkling of young ones without much experience yet. Plus Len Logsdail and some English outposts.
I know there are bespoke tailors in other US cities, but as with a lot of smaller places in Europe, the quality just isn’t that good. Given how often the European tailors travel to the major US cities (at least until recently) – and usually don’t have to pay VAT – they are normally the best option.
Chris Despos is one tailor we have covered, but there are very few like him.
regarding brands you cover, do you have an opinion on Barba Napoli Shirts or Luigi Borelli? I’m sure you know thoas but I havn’t found and coverage from your side.
I haven’t tried either, though I know the Borelli product a bit. We wouldn’t really cover them as a RTW shirt or tailoring, it’s really more MTM or bespoke
Could you give a short opinion on their quality?
Not really – it’s been a while and I don’t own either myself. Sorry
I notice you hardly mention Isaia. I do like their jackets very much. They seem to me to be well made, and fit me nicely. However, I think they are too highly priced, so I only buy them when discounted.
What is your opinion of that brand?
We don’t cover much RTW, and most of what they do is RTW. They are also quite highly priced, as you say – you could get better value MTM from the brands we cover.
But most of all I don’t like the style. It’s too flash, tight and short. It was never my personal style, but to be honest right now it’s looking more and more like a style from a previous era.
Having grown up around the business of menswear, starting as a teen and continuing until age 70, working as a retail seller, wholesale seller, retail manager-buyer and speciality store founder owner for the last 40 years, I came to much the same conclusions about the clothes as you. While phrased a bit differently-we referred to it as the 4 F’s-Fabric(start with a quality textile)-Fit(good pattern work, exact cutting and sewing) Function(practicality, durability and adaptability ) Fashion(style adapted to current era). If a garment had all 4 ingredients, it was worth consideration. The price and value determination came at that point in the process. We also liked inside/out brands (those that built the products and then priced it out) for creativity and quality. Your writings seem right on point to me.
Could you advise which brand’s knitwear you are wearing in one of the photos. Its like a camel crew neck and you are facing away from the photo.
It’s from Saman Amel – see tomorrow’s post on their new ranges
Hi, Simon, may I ask would you think that Brioni is also a Brand which has sustainability and a permanent style?
Brioni has generally had a nice, classic style, yes.
Unfortunately it suffers from the same problems as most big brands, which is that there is little connection between the creative force of the brand, and the customer. You mostly speak to salespeople who know very little. And they don’t deliver value – their clothes are overpriced. I know this specifically because we’ve used some of the same manufacturers.
Simon, good afternoon!
It is very interesting that you try bespoke from for example Brioni and make up about this process whether it is comparable in quality to smaller brands. What about price and service. After all, the size of Brioni is nothing more than a consequence of their former commercial success, only after the success with suits did they diversify the business into a lifestyle brand.
And now, apparently, none of the representatives of sites about men’s style wants to try to sew a classic suit from them and share their opinion. And Brioni itself is in no hurry to share its prices for bespoke, perhaps it is comparable in price with, for example, Gaetano Aloisio.
Maybe you try to sew something at Brioni?
Weirdly, I am actually already in the process of trying something with them… Update soon
And one more point to that subject, Brioni probably owes the opening of a full and large sartoria to the success of its bespoke suits among the international public years ago and it takes decades, I suspect that for example both Sartoria Dalcuore and Rubbinaci, as soon as they grow to the required scale, will also start investing in the factory at it best or outsource at worst (in fact, we already see something similar in Rubbinaci).
That’s way nothing wrong to try Brioni bespoke in my mind compare to competitors.
Thanks. It will be interesting to see how it turns out
I know that I am very late in leaving a comment to this article. But may I ask two questions.
* I buy my knitwear from Thomas Smedley, Luca Faloni, Malo, Pini Parma and – I dare to whisper it – Suitsupply. You state in the article that you will not cover Suitsupply but – to my untrained eye – the quality of their products seems good to me at a fabulous price point. Is there any specific reason that you do not cover them, apart from their size?
* I further found that you have not rated Pini Parma, the quality of which I find very good, and Malo. While I guess that Malo might be a bit exotic in Britain so that not covering them is entirely reasonable, are there reasons why you did so far not cover Pini Parma.
Please do not take this as a critique of your marvellous webpage, which I find most helpful.
– On SuitSupply, I haven’t tried the knitwear. But, if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth reading here about the Uniqlo knitwear, to get a sense of where money is saved.
– No, no reason I haven’t covered Pini Parma. It would help if there were retail in London, but I can certainly try and cover them. What would you say they offer that a similar Italian knitwear like Luca Faloni doesn’t?
Thanks for the quick reply.
(i) Pini Parma has a permanent seasonal concept – that is, many of their current items are also offered the next year in the same season, I believe. This is quite different from Luca Faloni.
(ii) Also, Pini Parma uses more pure cotton, and the designs – of the polo shirts, for example – are quite interesting yet classic. See https://www.piniparma.com/collections/knitwear
(iii) In some ways, I consider Pini Parma a higher quality 40+ Suitsupply and the website conveys that well, I think.
I’m also considering buying a grey suit from them (Loro Piana 130 wool, full canvas) for 890 EUR, which I’ve heard is a fabulous price for the quality they offer. Of course, if it fits well, I would still have to go to my tailor afterwards to get it tweaked (or send it back if it does not).
I’ll read the article on Uniqlo, but I’m not sure Suitsupply (4x the price of Uniqlo) is comparable. To my untrained eye, the quality of Suit Supply’s Merino knitwear is no worse than, say, John Smedley’s – at least not by much. But this is a topic where a professional opinion – like yours – would be very interesting to me.
I sometimes wonder whether the dislike of Suitsupply is rooted in a certain snobbery due to their aggressive approach and marketing, which however does not taint the quality. In contrast to e.g. Prada, that you mention, Suitsupply is however certainly not overpriced in my opinion and might even offer better quality.
That’s really useful on Pini Parma, thank you. Interested to hear how the suit fits, and the quality.
On the knitwear, no I wasn’t suggesting that the Suit Supply is the same as the Uniqlo – just that there are quite a few things a maker can do to cut corners that aren’t necessarily obvious. And of course that some might not care about as well.
On the marketing of Suit Supply, yes I think the way they market themselves is probably a factor. But that also tends to translate into the tailoring, as far as I’ve seen on others. Eg they will fit things tight and short because that’s the slightly showy, slightly cheap look that comes across in the advertising too. I wouldn’t be attracted to them for that reason in any other category of clothing that required any design input for the same reason.
Thank you. It is certainly true that Suitsupply fits rather tight and short.
Whether that is slightly showy and cheap depends on the perspective and stature, I believe. If you look at Italian brands, more popular in my hometown of Vienna than English brands, many of them fit tight and short. Thus, what might be considered well dressed in London does not necessarily translate 1:1 to more Southern European countries.
Further, for me – think very slim avid runner and cyclist, on the shorter side – anything that is not sufficiently slim fitted looks quite baggy. That is the reason that many English brands do not fit me very well (John Smedly standard or Italian fit being the exceptions). By contrast, putting the muscular Daniel Craigh into such tight clothing – as is done in the Bond movies – looks not very distinguished.
I don’t think it’s so much a question of location – the Italian tailors I use, and brands I respect, would also not fit that tight or short. And many English brands go for the tight/short look.
Good point on physique though, certainly. I can see how that fit works better for you. Although even then, if you were to have a suit made by them, rather than off the rack, I suspect they’d try to fit it tighter and shorter still on you.