OK, so Howies opened a store in Carnaby Street – their first in London. Which is great. I hope they do well. But I have to admit their attitude to the city – and to London in particular – has been mostly negative. Indeed, their catalogues in the past have regularly been virtual tracts for country-side life, waxing lyrically about how fabulous it is to live by fields and go biking in the woods at lunch time. Which it is. Trouble is, the vast majority of their customers don’t live this life, and it sort of pisses me off when they so blatantly bite the hand that feeds them.
Of course, many of their more vitriolic rants against the city (“We’re flying in and out for a day – it’s all we can cope with! – to do our sale” etc.) have been removed from their site – although one raging against big money remains, which I hope their new owners Timberland don’t mind about.
As I say, I hope Howies do well. I love their products and the rest of their ethos. But it’s an attitude to the city that is quite prevalent: we’ll go on and on about how shit it is, about how noisy and how grey and how unfriendly and how violent – but hell, it’s where the money is, so we’ll happily plunder it for its wealth.
I love the countryside – I’m off to darkest Wales this weekend – but let’s not pit city and country against one another. Everything in the city is raw material from the countryside – rock, stone, ore – that has been processed by human hands into metal, glass, brick. But where is virgin countryside now? Everywhere has been managed. Everywhere has our fingerprints on it. We simply need to ensure that those prints are lightly made.