From houndstooth trousers to Mr Motivator’s leotards, pattern is always a delight

<span>Photograph: Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Getty Images

There’s a Mary Quant exhibition on at the V&A at the moment, which, if you’re able to, I would urge you to visit. If not, and you are more talented with a sewing machine than I am, the website has downloadable sewing patterns.

I would find it difficult to muddle through life without pattern; not in the sense of routine, but actual beautiful, artistic patterns. Once, aged 18 and roaming around Moscow, I spotted an older man wearing an almost exact replica of the blue argyle sweater I had on. I bounded over and suggested a photograph together, and it is now one of my favourites: these two strangers beaming. Neither of us speaking the other’s language, but also 100% conversing sartorially. I think of him sometimes and look at that photograph like one with an old friend.

I went through a strong Pringle phase (and suffered many golfing jokes). Then there was a tie-dye era, but that was probably because I was living too close to London’s Camden Market at the time. I’m obsessed with damask wallpaper, but too poor to buy Osborne & Little, so I order samples and create collages in the hallway. Also, are you truly an adult until you’ve bought well-cut houndstooth trousers?

A girlfriend gave me a beautiful Persian rug which, as The Big Lebowski’s The Dude would have it, really ties the room together. I marvel at it daily. There is a blog dedicated to one man’s quest to document every single one of Wetherspoon’s carpets (there are 950), which are differently and interestingly patterned, and created on old-fashioned looms.

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I love design classics: the Memphis Geometric pattern dominated the 1980s (see Mr Motivator’s leotards). Think brightly coloured, random squiggles and triangles, dizzy with the fun of it all; the Pride flag, even if Hannah Gadsby did describe it brilliantly as: “A bit busy. No rest for the eye.” (The original flag was designed in 1978 by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker and the colours were coded. Hot pink – not in the current version – was for sex; yellow for sun.) There are the patterns nature gifts us. The glittering, shimmering sun on the surface of the lido. The insane plumage of a Mandarin duck. And, my God, what did we do to deserve giraffes, leopards and tigers?

As a kid, I was transfixed by Magic Eye picture books, making marbled paintings and kaleidoscopes. As an adult, it’s the rose windows of cathedrals and the work of Matisse. I’m not Scottish and have no blood ties to France, but is a life lived without tartan and Breton stripes really a life at all?

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