Mitchell Oakley Smith, MANUSCRIPT
James Gatenby headlines a new campaign for Australian menswear label Brent Wilson.
For the first time since the early-2000s moment of Sass and Bide, Ksubi and Willow (all of which have been invested in, sold or shuttered since), Australian designers are building serious, well-respected businesses, ably assisted by online shopping and programs such as the Woolmark Prize. Menswear, however, is a considerably smaller and younger operation locally, and beyond the bigger tailoring houses such as M.J. Bale and Herringbone, it’s challenging for menswear designers to get a leg-up. Brent Wilson, of course, is a rare exception to that rule, having quietly and determinedly built a recognised name and successful business over the past decade.
“I went in very unaware of the work involved,” explains the designer of his evolution. Having begun his namesake label as more of a hobby, with merely one or two stockists, after leaving his post as menswear designer at Wayne Cooper, his game-changer, so to speak, was the opening of his concept store in Sydney’s Galeries Victoria, just down from Incu, which helped to build his customer base. “That’s when it really started getting serious, and from there more stores began looking to stock me,” he explains. “I had to begin treating it like a real business because of the expenses of running a store and the importance of delivering on time.”
Mr Wilson’s point of difference is his approach to the market. Rather than pitching his label at the luxury end, he offers well-made, modern pieces (the average cotton suit sells for approximately $300) that, because of their accessibility, customers can afford to play with. “There is a massive gap in tailoring that crosses over so that the individual wearer can interpret it,” says the designer. In store, his staff encourages customers to mix up their combinations of jackets and trousers. “We offer a full wardrobe, and while suits are a big component of the business, it’s important we have everything available.” Having recently joined department store Myer, for which he supplies to five of its stores nationally, Mr Wilson is looking to further expand his business with the opening of a branded Melbourne concept later this year.