European style?

One of the things that I noticed about Shanghai was the great focus given there towards European inspiration. The concession era, between the revolution and the civil war, saw Shanghai as a paragon of style, sophistication and elegance, a Paris of the East if you will, and the current style-makers appear to be latching onto such notions in helping define the current wave of growth towards such similar sources. This means that ‘French’, ‘Italian’, ‘German’ and ‘European’ generally mean not just good quality, but outstanding style… as it does throughout much of the rest of the world at the moment.

There are two great ironies and one paradox.

The first great irony is that it’s more the exports of Europe who appreciate the ‘style’ that we equate as European… not all Europeans! In the same way that not all Australians ride kangaroos to school and not all New Zealanders have known sheep, not all Europeans appreciate the quality and style factors that we give them credit for. “Europeans” are not inherently stylish – it’s just the way they’re branded by our simplistic minds.

After all, just look at the soccer!
Since when did a soccer hooligan embody class, style and sophistication???

The second great irony is that by externalising ‘style’, we lose our capacity to truly appreciate it. Where the Europeans have Dolce & Gabbana, America has Ralph Lauren – the difference is so obvious it’s almost insulting! They ‘compete’, yet there is really no comparison if you look beyond the brand itself and towards the quality of the garments and the style of those who wear those garments. By equating brands with characteristics of style and fashion, we lose our acuity to notice when something actually has aesthetic value at all, and are left with a water-down, second-handed experience of beauty.

The paradox is that we cannot learn to appreciate design and beauty without being exposed to it. Great spaces and great places help cultivate the great thinking that leads to sublime insights and inspired creations… yet we need sublime insights and inspired creations to create those great spaces and great places in the first place! Our values are so often unevaluated, that we are left confused and ill-prepared to deal with unfamiliar situations and conditions.

What is beautiful to you?
Rather than accepting what the critics think or just putting your head in the sand altogether, what do you notice cultivates beauty in your world?

I have some horrible clothes that I just love… I couldn’t throw out my Seniors’ jersey if I wanted to (even though my ex-girlfriends have worn it more than I have!), and I have made far more than my fair share of fashion felonies. Yet, to me, making mistakes is what allows us to see where the lines are and how those lines work together to create the picture before us.

And to get some great clothes, visit Shirts and Suits of course!

Make your life a masterpiece…

(slightly modified but originally written 4 November, 2006)