What exactly is ‘style’?
Brian Marshall, Director of luxury lifestyle boutique The Luxe Company tries to get to the crux of the matter.
It’s an age-old question that has so many subjective answers. Everyone has an opinion but let’s try to by-pass subjectivity and aim to get to the essence of what style actually is. So, where should we start? Maybe it’s easier to start with what style isn’t. Well, in our humble opinion, style is not fashion. That’s another can of worms entirely. In the words of Yves Saint Laurent, ‘Fashions come and go. Style is eternal.’
So, if we’re ruling out fashion then the same rule must surely apply to fads and trends. Whilst it might be #trendy to be trending who can remember what was trending last week? No, style is indeed a measure of longevity that fashions, fads and trends can only aspire to. And that takes us off on a new tangent; aspiration. If style is anything it’s aspirational. It’s what we look to as an example of something we covet or someone we admire. Style is fluid as well. It can be applied to a thing, a person or even a concept. Style has something fashion does not – it has its icons.
Think back to times gone by. Who would argue that the likes of Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Audrey Hepburn or Coco Chanel were not the sheer personifications of the concept of style?
Perhaps these days the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig and Beyonce have picked up the style baton and, just maybe, added a touch more swagger to it.
Architecturally and conceptually, the art deco movement of the 1920’s and 30’s is still widely copied and influences many an interior design to this day. Our fan print china pieces are a case in point. That can’t be easily said of 1970’s disco culture. Proof again, if it were needed, that style has longevity.
It doesn’t take a great deal of thought to come up with other products that have acquired a place in the style hall of fame.
Whether it’s an Aston Martin or a stainless steel Alessi kettle, they all, people, concepts and products, have two things in common – they’re all considered to be ‘cool’ (well, perhaps the kettle is the exception that proves the rule!) and they’re all ‘designed’. Don’t kid yourself that the aforementioned individuals weren’t designed, or ’styled’, sometimes by themselves as their own greatest creation, but often by those around them such as the studios. Their greatest trick was to convince you that it was effortless.
So now we’re getting to the key to the answer. Style is ‘cool’ and ‘cool’ is therefore stylish. Wasn’t Steve McQueen the King of Cool? Design, however, differentiates between the mundane and the exceptional. The classic Alessi kettle is a case in point. How often do you stop to admire a kettle these days?
The Philippe Starck ‘War of the Worlds alien’ tripod juicer was another classic item in the style files that also proves design trumps functionality, (it was a very messy juicer!), when it comes to style.
Armed with this enlightenment we can start to consider what style really is and how we can apply it to ourselves and our own environments.
If style is cool then it surely follows that cool colours must be stylish. Perhaps that explains the recent emphasis on cool palettes within the home.
If style trumps functionality then in our aspiration to be stylish we are buying items for how they look within their environment rather than how well they perform, if indeed they are expected to perform at all. Take some of our own India Jane serving trays as an example of an intentionally functional item that is purchased just as much for its decorative value as it’s apparent usefulness.
But beyond all this we think that style is in fact uniquely personal. It’s a way of telling the world how you want to be perceived, tribal affiliation if you will, from how you dress, the car you drive, the wines you drink, places you go and the way you decorate. It says ‘this is me’ to everyone you encounter and that’s why we say you make a ‘style statement’ with everything you own. How you carry off your style is another matter entirely. Do you do it with grace, panache or flair? They’re all different. Questions for future debate no doubt.
Sure, your style can be eclectic, classical, formal, informal, casual or even grunge, (though that’s only cool until you’re about 21!), but it’s your style, whatever others may think. Perhaps it was Gore Vidal who summed up the idea of style so eloquently when he said, ‘Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.’