Forget sporting logos and conservative training gear with no soul – the folks behind The Practical Man, a new retail space for men in an alleyway off Flinders Lane, bring a concept store that's giving leisurewear a curated run for its money.
Blurring the line between leisurewear and fitness attire, The Practical Man is an urban oasis where you'll find labels you may have never heard before. And that's the whole point according to founder Brett Webster who also runs a pilates fitness studio and has a background in fashion wholesaling and buying – having worked for Hugo Boss in London.
"People don't want to be a billboard for brands anymore," says Brett Webster.
"Sportswear is so much more than that and there's an audience that want something unique, less in your face and that can sit between your fitness and street style look without overthinking it," he says.
The training program
Webster started the business with friends Simon Cozens (an engineer) and Jon Weller (a personal trainer) to get Aussie blokes to think about the clothes they train in – taking them from high performance sportswear to street cool in a few sharp moves.
The store opened 14 months ago and relies on word of mouth, social media posts and tourists to track them down. There's a neon sign, a gallery-like layout and geometric artful twists that reflect its website styling.
They stock labels from the USA, Japan and Europe and add grooming and accessory products in the mix.
"When we came up with the name for the store we were thinking in terms of clothing that's also about comfort," says Webster.
"It's not just hardcore technical sportswear, the clothing we sell is also about leisurewear that's ideal for travel too."
Scouting for new brands
Webster travels three times a year sourcing new brands, discovering emerging ones and flicking through magazines to see what's the latest buzz. Some of the biggest ones in store include Spalwart and Paris brand Satisfy.
"Spalwart was started by two fashion guys who brought an old shoe factory to life using the same original molds to make canvas shoes," he says.
"They use the shoes as the focal point and now are doing clothing to compliment the shoes rather than the other way around."
Let quality do the talking
Spalwart doesn't care for a huge social media presence and relies on folks like Webster to spread the word.
"When guys come in our store they love to hear about brands like this and for us to tell their story," he says.
"They aren't over egotistical in what they do – they focus on being well made and the good quality product does the talking."
Another label you won't find easily is Satisfy from Paris.
"Satisfy has got an intense rock 'n' roll style you don't usually expect to find in running gear," he says. "They do tie-dye and moth hole pieces that are occasionally pink and silver patterns. I like how it's far from conservative and our buyers want this sort of point of difference."
The Practical Man was also recently included in Monocle Magazine's top 25 retail stores to visit – the inclusion proving a huge success according to Webster.
"We found a gap in the market and have started servicing it," says Webster.
"Concept stores like ours don't exist in large numbers. We choose carefully and curate our spaces like a gallery would. We also stock slow fashion – those brands who don't necessarily reinvent the wheel season in and out but rely on beautifully crafted pieces in smaller runs."
Know your audience
Other brands in-store include Ron Dorff, Reigning Champ, Iffley Road, Buckler's Remedy, Brickwell, Duske, Falke and grooming products like Fulton & Roarke.
"Typically the menswear landscape is pretty same-same in Australia. Walk into any menswear store and they all have same portfolio of brand. We want unique designers you can't get here easily or buy online easily. We're a destination and hopefully an eye opening experience as well," says Webster.
"The customers who shop here want to see us do well, spend big and support us. It's a great feeling when what you believe in is working."