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An ex-editor defends the FT’s super-rich magazine and the right to show off wealth

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There’s no denying that the title of the Financial Times’ multi-award-winning magazine, How To Spend It, has caught a lot of people’s noses.

When I joined the paper in 1973 (a kid recruit!) to edit a style section in the Saturday edition, it had already been conceived by my predecessor, Sheila Black.

She’d decided to take advantage of the fact that even the most avid FT readers weren’t just businessmen, politicians and industry leaders – they were also mostly men (because they were mostly men back then) with wives and children, who had homes that had to be furnished, that had to eat and be clothed, and generally had a different life.

When I took over, we were in the midst of a severe recession and there was little rampant consumerism.

It never occurred to me that How to Spend was about cost – quality, whether in a shoe, a breakfast bowl or a diamond, was all I ever cared about.

However, it wasn’t long before I got a hint that the title didn’t always sit well with other people. One day an angry letter arrived from a prominent publisher. It was vulgar and an insult to the times we lived in, he wrote. Shocked, I published the letter asking for opinions, promising a bottle of champagne to anyone who came up with something better.

I was inundated with hundreds of letters of support from readers who, almost as one, declared the title fair and refreshing. No one came up with a better name and the publisher, to his credit, wrote me a most charming letter stating that he had been correctly admonished.

TV bed: £37,000

Leopard Skull Replica: £2,450

Leopard Skull Replica: £2,450

Versace Dog Cushion: £1,120

Versace Dog Cushion: £1,120

Bespoke Rolls-Royce: £20 million

Bespoke Rolls-Royce: £20 million

Hermes Surfboard: £7,500

Hermes Surfboard: £7,500

Skeleton Keychain: £79,700

Skeleton Keychain: £79,700

Dolce & Gabbana Smeg Fridge: £25,620

Dolce & Gabbana Smeg Fridge: £25,620

Dolce & Gabbana Jeans: £8,950

Dolce & Gabbana Jeans: £8,950

Cartier Vintage Compact: £20,400

Cartier Vintage Compact: £20,400

But I was thinking of critics like him this week when it was announced that How To Spend It was being rebranded as HTSI. This was a decision, the FT said, as the original name no longer reflects “changing times and priorities” in a world of financial inequality and the invasion of Ukraine. The FT invited readers to “interpret the “S” according to their own deeper interests,” and suggested possible definitions, including “how to store it,” “savour it,” or “style it.”

Because it’s the word “expense” that seems to be the most problematic – something I don’t understand. Some critics clearly think that the magazine is all about conspicuous consumption. But is it only the expenses of others that stand out, when their own expenses are not? Does it become “noticeable” when someone else spends more than you? Or is it ‘striking’ just because someone buys something you don’t agree with?

After all, we all spend money, be it on food, clothing, home furnishings, books or wine. We pay to go to museums, to concerts, the theater and cinema, to football games, to gyms and spas and on vacation.

So I don’t understand why some people are so offended by the idea that a magazine could devote itself to helping readers spend money more wisely, more adventurously and more creatively.

My pages covered the small and simple, but also the beautiful and glamorous. Beauty could be found in a simple mug or finely twisted wine glass, as often as in a couture dress or chic hi-fi.

But of course the world changed over time. It got richer. Yuppies and bonus-lucky bankers arrived. The pages were supposed to reflect some of this, which is why we’d run features on yachts, designer jewelry, and private island resorts (some of our readers seriously needed the privacy).

But while banking still continues, this group’s much-maligned spending patterns also keep many small businesses alive.

Now, more than ever, those who have money need to help keep it in circulation – up to what they need to spend. Because if everyone stopped buying, the world would change irrevocably.

Rocky Rocket seat: £18,890

Rocky Rocket seat: £18,890

Coat Rack Paul Smith: £4,400

Coat Rack Paul Smith: £4,400

Most of us will never be able to afford some of the very expensive things in the world, but do we really want a world without beautiful dresses and jewelry, delicate embroidery, sophisticated cars and watches?

Behind all these things are creative geniuses, highly skilled craftsmen, great engineers, all of which depend on our spending. If no one buys their output, their skills will die. I still run into people who say, “You have no idea how you got my little lampshade shop or my vintage store or shoe design company off the ground.”

I remember the day a sweet young girl came to see me and told me she loved white bedding, but she found there wasn’t much choice so had some nicer versions made in Portugal and guess what? of them? Very nice, I said and wrote about it.

Today Chrissie Rucker runs The White Company, with a turnover of £271 million a year. I interviewed young Natalie Massenet, a fashion journalist at the time, who sat on the couch in my salon and told me how she came up with the idea of ​​selling high fashion over the Internet. As everyone knows, Net-a-Porter is a worldwide phenomenon these days.

So yes, there are (some) readers who can afford a yacht (or three), who have made the money to buy a whole drawer full of beautiful watches and one or two vacation villas. For the rest of us, isn’t it fun to watch what the rich do?

Just think of the alternative to find out why the anti-spenders are so wrong. Imagine a world without that delicious half hour messing around with lipsticks. No joy when you put on a new dress that makes your butt look small. No tender mulling over which cashmere sweater might please your loved ones. It is China under Mao, Cambodia under Pol Pot.

Spending, despite what they say, can be about so much more than just exchanging money. It can be life-enhancing in the most seductive way.

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