Savile Row suit-fittings hit Melbourne
The art of bespoke suit-fitting and tailoring is enjoying a resurgence in Melbourne.
Stop holding your gut in and pour a celebratory beer. Those uncomfortable, skinny-fitting suits that make you walk like Tony Abbott after a triathlon are about to be retired to the back of the wardrobe – for at least the next seven years, anyway.
If the Fall 2016 fashion shows from Europe and the US are anything to go by, things appear to be loosening up a tad.
Stripes are also making a comeback, with John Varvatos going so far as to cover the catwalk in striped fabric. Tom Ford has also welcomed back pinstripes, Prince of Wales checks, and waistcoats with fob chains. And Gucci decided we'll all be wearing 'botanical' suits.
The latest looks
Robin McGowan, co-founder of made-to-measure tailor Institchu, says the super-slim look is no longer in fashion. "This year we're already seeing a move away from this cut as men begin to embrace a more relaxed suit," he says. "They will still be slim fitted, but certainly not skin tight. And in line with the slightly looser fit, we'll also be seeing wider lapels and longer jackets and pants."
McGowan also says a more subdued colour palette will be evident this year. "In 2015 there were a lot of bright blue fabrics around. It was the year of the bright navy suit. That is on the way out as we move towards greyer colours, especially charcoal, and I think men will start to look towards various shades of olive green as well."
Mix and match
Mixing it up could also be on the cards, as men experiment with different fabrics and textures, often at the same time. "Why stick to a suit of just one fabric or colour?" McGowan says. "Pair a navy blazer with grey or charcoal trousers for a more individual look. It's all about finding your own individual style. Stripes, patterns, subtle weaves; it's all possible."
Popular menswear store retailer M.J. Bale has recently opened a bespoke suit tailoring service in Melbourne's beautiful Emporium building. Speaking to Executive Style by phone from Italy, founder Matt Jensen says he has noticed a resurgence in double-breasted suits and jackets, along with a wider notch lapel on single breasts. "Trousers with pleats are also seeing a surprising return," he adds.
Jensen agrees suits will remain slim, but not skinny, as people look towards comfort and a more conservative aesthetic. Shades of emerald and khaki green are going to be popular, he says, as well as earthy tones (think sand), monochromatic greys and muted blues.
"As for fabrics, I'm seeing bold windowpanes and vintage-inspired checks for suits, and wool/silk blends for jacketing."
Seven year itch
Bespoke tailor John Cutler of J.H. Cutler has been around long enough to see trends come and go, and come back again. He has been dressing Australia's movers and shakers (including five prime ministers and the Packers) since 1971.
"Suit fashion is a seven-year cycle," he says. "I believe it's driven by the big manufacturers to keep people buying their products. The general public suddenly believes that the tight-fitting jacket they are wearing just doesn't cut the mustard anymore, and so they feel the need to buy something else.
"The tight-fitting suit with its slim, short trousers has been on trend for a while now, and so we'll see things getting wider again. On the catwalks in Europe we're even seeing bell bottoms. I don't think we'll quite get to that here, but suits will definitely get easier; lapels wider, and more room across the back and shoulders."
Cutler says if you want to get off the fashion merry-go-round, your only answer is to buy a well-made suit in a classic cut that will span time. What does such a suit look like? Take a look at Cary Grant in the 1930s and 40s.
"Jackets are fitted but with more room in the chest and across the back," he says. "And they are of a sufficient length that you can just cup your hands under the skirt of the coat. Lapels should be around 10cm wide and trousers are easier around the front, with one or two pleats, and little wider in the knee. The cuff should be around 17.5 inches."
Cutler advises to steer clear of so-called trendy colours and patterns and opt instead for a classic navy blue and a mid-grey in a bird's eye or flannel fabric.
"In Australia's climate you can keep the material quite lightweight, no more than 280 grams per metre. Choose a wool that is soft and light, but durable, and the suit should last you up to 20 years."