The rise of the online style portal means that even the trickiest purchase for a man – a perfectly fitting suit – can be as easy as turning on a laptop and inputting a few measurements.
Pushing back against the trend to faster fashion, though, are a handful of tailors who are turning back the clock on the retail industry.
They offer men an experience that combines the traditions of London’s famed Savile Row tailors with highly personalised service, to add a feel-good factor they hope will ring truer with discerning men than the simple lures of convenience and price.
The showroom of small tailoring firm Oscar Hunt (pictured below), situated on Melbourne’s historic Hardware Lane, is a far cry from the brightly lit chain stores in nearby Bourke Street.
Leather sofas, Chesterfield armchairs and a dark wood décor that wouldn’t look out of place in a hunting lodge create a space dedicated to masculine comforts.
The finishing touch is a fully stocked bar and selection of spirits that make going to an Oscar Hunt fitting feel less like a visit to your local tailor and more like the kind of bar where, just like in Cheers, everybody knows your name.
Oscar Hunt marketing manager Lachie Watson points out that while there is a focus on capturing a particular aesthetic in the showroom, it is the backdrop to what really sets apart a traditional fitting from buying online – the relationship between tailor and clientele. “The process of a traditional fitting can definitely form a familiarity or camaraderie that retail can’t,” Watson says.
“Each client relationship is different and it’s an association built on trust and honesty. Some relationships form very easily and quickly, others take time to foster. Sometimes, this can even extend outside of just being clientele, hence the saying ‘a tailor is a man’s best friend’.”
Letting the light in
Sydney-based P. Johnson Tailors follows a similar ethos. Based in Sydney’s boutique Paddington district, it feels more like a bachelor pad from the pages of a Bret Easton Ellis novel than one of Sydney’s most sought-after clothiers. Complete with foosball table and lounge setting, the studio floor (below) is a light-filled space where any man could quite easily forget that he was in the middle of a formal fitting.
Tailor and founder of the eponymous label, Patrick Johnson, agrees the experience of going to a tailor should be akin to visiting your closest confidant who just happens to double as a personal stylist. “Clients really put a lot of faith and goodwill into their tailor,” Johnson says.
“It's a leap of faith, so it requires sensitivity, time and a good understanding. We experience sides of people that perhaps not everyone does, a little like a doctor would. We have to know our clients in order to know what it is they really need from us.”
Prior to opening his Sydney studio, Johnson learnt his trade at London’s prestigious St Martins College before being mentored by pre-eminent shirt maker and tailor, Robert Emmett. He acknowledges that while there is a tradition of tailors being considered “man spaces” of a particular look and feel, newer interpretations are more in tune with the modern man.
“Dark wood panelling and whisky is often how they’re imagined,” Johnson says. “We didn’t feel the need to necessarily masculinise our spaces, but instead filled them with light and the things we feel strongly about. We simply want a space that reflects who we are, not what we’re expected to be. We want the experience to be relevant to anyone who walks through the door.”
Curating an experience
The root appeal of tailoring lies in the guarantee that the final result will be perfectly moulded to your individual shape. The owner and creative director of Sydney-based made-to-measure service Mister Mister (pictured below), Daniel Narvaez, believes it’s this level of surety - along with creating a more streamlined shopping experience - that has ignited the interest of modern men in tailoring.
The growing preference for professionally tailored garments is one born of frustration, he says - not only in searching for something that fits correctly, but also for assurance about the quality of the purchase.
“For a long time, the only way [most men] knew how to buy clothing was to visit a department store,” Narvaez says. “[Once there] one is met with too many choices and most guys don’t actually know how certain styles of clothes are meant to fit. Not only is this frustrating, but can also be embarrassing.”
The ability to provide customers with a level of stylistic curation is what truly sets apart traditional tailoring from its digital rival, he says.
“As small as it sounds, the use of a tape measure to take measurements is something that in our modern times is becoming overtaken by scanners and machinery.
“There is something beautiful and natural about letting the tape measure speak. The modern tailor provides a place where a guy can have a chat to his friend – his tailor – speak about what he likes, and get help on developing the perfect wardrobe.”