Cameron Carter, AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW LIFE & LEISURE
The rise of online retail has helped produce a bespoke-loving breed of men who feel confident about design up.
In a workroom in Sydney’s upmarket Paddington, Patrick Johnson, creative director of P. Johnson Tailors, is explaining the ins and outs of the relaxed, soft shoulder. “We’re setting a standard in ultra-light suiting with natural shoulder profiles. Whether it’s minimal interfacing or none altogether, we’re trying to get men to view suits with a more open mind. It’s about the suit’s relevance and use in the future.”
Made-to-measure suiting has traditionally been the hallmark of a well-dressed gentleman, with Italian brands and artisans and the English bastions of Savile Row at the forefront of the tailoring industry for decades. But now a new breed of consumers in Australia is on the rise: men of all generations seeking high-quality garments to invest in.
Formal menswear retailing in Australia generates annual revenues of $341 million and is growing at a rate of 3.8 per cent a year, Ibis World reported in February. And, naturally, with this emerging consumer group’s focus on tailoring come the innovators.
Johnson, who offers a seamless, made-to-measure experience with his brand of affordable luxury at P. Johnson Tailors, has a simple philosophy: comfort. The cut of a suit, he says, should ideally be “soft, light, flexible and sporty”.
Between locations in Sydney and Melbourne, and conducting trunk shows in Brisbane, Adelaide and the United States, Johnson has become an influential entrepreneur in the local tailoring market and confirms there is a growing demand for bespoke suiting, with a younger clientele seeking made-to-measure wear.
MJ Bale is another contemporary Australian men’s label offering custom suiting, with a turnaround of only six weeks. Customers can choose from a wide variety of fabrics and personalised details such as the number of buttons, lapel widths and lining. MJ Bale custom suits start from $1500.
Damien Paul, head of menswear at matchesfashion.com, says Australian men are not only specifically seeking quality but have become bolder in their style choices. He lists cult labels Raf Simons, Haider Ackermann and Christophe Lemaire among popular choices here.
“One of the great benefits of the online [environment] is that those early adopting menswear customers, who are looking for harder-to-find pieces, are now able to seek them out in stores beyond their market,” he says. “Australia is one of our top five markets globally for men, and it’s growing every season.”
Matchesfashion.com stocks a range of suiting and workwear from ready-to-wear brands Bottega Veneta, Paul Smith, Lanvin and Gieves & Hawkes, and offers weekly style reports from its in-house editorial team and industry authorities.
“We’ve certainly seen an increase in traffic and sales from Australia over the last couple of years, and we’ve also seen men engaging with our site more – spending more time browsing, reading the editorial stories and increasing the amount they spend,” Paul says.
Brands that led the new-wave procession for a return to formality at the recent men’s collections in London, Milan and Paris included LVMH’s dedicated men’s luxury stable Berluti, French aesthete label Lanvin and British master tailor Patrick Grant for E. Tautz.
Prevalent trends for the autumn-winter 2015 season include a fail-safe colour wheel of greys, relaxed or oversized coats (again in grey and laced with shearling collars), pops of green, layered knitwear and looser-fitting trousers.
If you need to update your look, take a cue form our Italian comrades: step aside from conventional single-breasted, two-button styles and opt for double-breasted jackets. The line of the jacket is smartly extended, thus giving the impression of broader shoulders and a slighter torso. And, despite the overwhelming trend for flat-front trousers and a stovepipe silhouette, single- and double-pleated trousers have made a triumphant return to the menswear vernacular, thanks to Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver of Lanvin and Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein.
A man’s first port of call investment is a classic, navy suit, closely followed by variations in charcoal grey and black. Cut from a fine fabric – worsted wool or similar – a navy suit remains the backbone for a modern wardrobe, both masculine and versatile.
Luxury brands Burberry, Ermenegildo Zegna and Gucci all offer bespoke suiting options in store, while the Australian luxury department store Harrolds, which houses Brioni, Pal Zileri, Stefano Ricci and Tom Ford, has the top end of town in Australia sewn up.
Twenty-five years after first opening its doors, Harrolds has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity since the brand’s repositioning and new store openings in 2010. At Harrolds, international ready-to-wear collections from brands Givenchy, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga sit comfortably alongside made-to-measure tailoring options from some of the world’s premium cloth suppliers and cutters – Tom Ford, Artioli, Caruso and the brand’s eponymous Harrolds Private Label.
Harrolds head buyer Rob Ferris says the Harrolds made-to-measure business has grown in line with the overall growth of the business. “As one gets stronger and our brand becomes more widely known, it raises the overall awareness of the other,” he says.
“Our made-to-measure pieces are produced directly by the brands we stock. Our store consul takes customers’ measurements and requirements, and then the customer selects a cloth. The garment is then crafted at the labels directly, be it at Tom Ford, Brioni, Caruso, Pal Zileri.”
Harrolds has cleverly engaged the most discerning of men with a made-to-measure trunk show program, inviting premium clients to experience one-off measurement and fittings with some of the world’s top tailors.
And, let’s not forget those coveted ready-to-wear lines. For an injection of the latest trends, perhaps an embroidered shoulder-detail white shirt from Dries Van Noten priced at $825 or a double-bonded neoprene top from Balenciaga for $575. “As the Australian market becomes more and more globalised, customers are looking for pieces they have seen on the runway or in campaign images,” Ferris says.
In an interview with The Business of Fashion, Fabrizio Cardinali, chief executive of Richemont-owned men’s luxury brand Dunhill said, “We have also transformed the top floor of our London home, Bourdon House, into a dedicated bespoke tailoring area, managed by one of the best Savile Row trained tailors, under the supervision of our creative director Joh Ray.”
Rival luxury group Kering and its cornerstone brand Gucci have purpose-built a men’s made-to-measure suite, by appointment only, in their Melbourne flagship boutique at 161 Collins Street. Gucci-trained specialist tailor John Theodorakis will walk you through the house’s famed silhouettes while presenting an enviable book of fabrics from Italy’s top weaving mills.
New Formal is the recently launched brand of permanent tailoring from Louis Vuitton. The collection is a new approach to formal dressing, a synthesis of Vuitton’s signature comfort, elegance and sharp fit, with a focus on unique details, materials and construction, featuring two suit styles in both single and double-breasted shapes in a panel of 15 fabrics.
The formal suiting completes the lifestyle concept of the Louis Vuitton menswear wardrobe, complete with made-to-order shoes and belts – a must for a man of distinction. On the topic of leather goods and accessories, do invest in some luxury leather goods, specifically those fashioned to protect your other investments. Leather goods come in all shapes and sizes – notebooks, passport holders, wallets, iPad covers, document wallets, messenger bags and so forth – and make a notable stamp of personality.
With international buyers at the 87th edition of biannual menswear trade show Pitti Uomo in Florence up 10 per cent to a record 24,000 in January, the global men’s category is mapping a positive ascent.
Add to that the recent addition of the now stabilised London Collections: Men schedule, and a call for a dedicated men’s fashion week in New York after the success of New York Men’s Day last month (something the Council of Fashion Designers of America will institute next season), and menswear is proving big business.
FIVE TOP MENSWEAR ITEMS TO REFRESH YOUR STYLE THIS AUTUMN
1. TOM FORD round optical frame, $445, tomford.com
Update your look Monday to Friday with smart black glasses to frame the face. It’s true what they say: people who wear glasses are in fact smarter.
2. LOEWE leather pouch, $927, mrporter.com
Leather goods will get you everywhere. I know a fashion writer who once went for an interview and spent her monthly rent money on a new handbag especially. Today, she’s the editor of that magazine.
3. JAC + JACK Enzo cashmere sweater, $380, jacandjack.com
Nothing exudes luxury like cashmere. Build on your five-day working wardrobe with the simple inclusion of a cashmere sweater to add collegiate-style confidence.
4. BERLUTI Alessandro Capri Venezia leather one-cut shoes, $2584, berluti.com
Clothes maketh the man, but shoes set him a cut above.
5. HUNTSMAN navy slim-fit wool blazer, $3765, mrporter.com
A chic navy blazer is the wisest investment a man can make and Huntsman is the final word in men’s tailoring.