Getting older and becoming more invested in the world we live in, I find myself considering what it means to consume conscientiously. It’s something that informs how I live, the ways I am a consumer, and particularly the thoughts behind design.
And it is inherently selfish. It’s a decision to, as often as possible, take absolute joy in the things I consume. Just that one perfect coffee, a perfectly poached egg. Being able to prepare, conserve or maintain the things that really bring you joy bespeaks the sort of person I hope to be.
When we make something new, I want it to have the same appeal. Something that is worth the investment. An investment that, more than financial, is one of time and effort. I want the things I wear to be worth the wearing. I want them to age in the ways that the garments of Menswear’s golden age have.
I’ve long held the idea that a garment broadly and prominently displaying a brand logo is one that can’t stand on its own merits. A controversial and potentially confrontational position to hold, but I have this feeling that brands often come to replace style and value in a garment with the associations to a brand. “Style by association”, rather than inherent style or value in the garment.
I feel that every garment should, divorced of cultural associations or brand recognition, feel substantial, valuable, of inherent quality.
I recently sat down with a friend and contemporary - Simon Crompton of Permanent Style. While our aesthetics differ greatly from one another, Simon is always someone I enjoy speaking to because he is invested in our industry as a consumer rather than a maker.
A perfect example is the humble pair of 5 pocket denims - I often liken a pair of jeans to clothing’s great equaliser - it is that perfect garment that, when done well, is at its worst factory fresh on the shelf, and after a sometimes painful adolescence, matures into a garment so fitted to the wearer, so indelibly marked by their life, that it gets a little more beloved with each wear. When they are at their best, they ready to be retired, for fear that each new outing may prove their last.
No amount of chemical aging can mould a pair to the wearer quite like honest wear. The millionaire will never be able to fake a pair quite as nice as those worn by some kid who has just the one pair in rotation. The great equaliser.
A lifetime's fascination with old garments, the heavily worn, adorned, customised and cherished, has lead us to pursue that quality in our garments. The ones we make, and the ones we buy. It’s an approach that needs some commitment - it’s not easy to sell a thing that requires a commitment beyond the financial. Chinos so stiff they stand on their own, but that will be like butter on a warm knife with a few years of wear.
Dressing conscientiously can take many forms - a respect for the audience, being aware of stepping softly in a room when required, and letting our presentation cushion each step. It can mean supporting the small makers, the family businesses, and forming relationships with those companies fighting the good fight.
But at its most pure, dressing conscientiously is an exercise in respecting, if not cherishing, each and every garment we purchase. Letting them grow with us and putting a little more into them than we take out.
You can watch the full Permanent style interview below, or head across to the PS webite