Fashion as a topic is often dismissed as fluff, but it can be the quickest route to cultural understanding. I remember being struck when I moved to London from New York in the late 1990s by the dramatic sartorial contrast between each city.

Women on either side of the Atlantic were dressing for different lives. In Manhattan, perfectly blown-out hair, polished nails and a sleek Armani or Donna Karan suit were standard professional armour. In London, it was all about deconstructed jackets paired with embroidered velvet boots and hair that hadn’t seen a brush in days. The look was more creative, but also less powerful...

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