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How the rise of customisable fashion has reinvigorated traditional men’s tailoring

WORDS BY BIANCA O’NEIL

Workers are being paid as little as 39c per hour.

With customisation fast becoming a mainstay in the retail fashion world, the high street is making a move into bespoke like never before. Country Road is monogramming its iconic sports bags. Duzenman offers fully bespoke leather accessories, designed by you. And let’s not get started on where it all began; the Daily Edited phenomenon.

Menswear is a whole other ballgame, however. And with spring racing (and peak wedding season) looming, it seems that traditional men’s tailors are sprouting all over the city.

Made-to-measure mavens, Saibu No Akuma (based in Melbourne’s Rankins Lane) have seen the upwards shift. Geoff Lee runs the atelier and has observed the increasing competition: “There’s a huge rise in the industry we’re in right now – there have been made to measure businesses popping up everywhere. Being able to have something that fits perfectly to you – being able to customise the lapels or the fabric… they’re things that really personalise the garment. It gives it more substance. It gives it a story.”

With luxury brands becoming more commonplace, it seems that the new place to find luxury (or even something unique that hasn’t been posted ten thousand times on social media), is in the bespoke tailor. Carl Navè, one of Melbourne’s most prominent made-to-measure tailors, agrees.

“I think its fair to say that the bespoke industry around the world is seeing an amazing resurgence… I believe this is attributed to the diluting of luxury brands, the emergence of the replica and fake brands market, and simply, a lack of inspiring product from many retail brands. Quality and fit plays a big part of it too. As body shapes become leaner, taller and broader, it becomes harder for retail brands to cater to everyone.”

This movement is also part of something bigger – a vocal and growing sector of fashion-lovers who want to see the elimination of wasteful fast fashion practices. As we move away from poor quality, cheaply made clothing, it’s unsurprising that we want more quality bang for our buck.

“[Bespoke tailoring] is not as trend driven, it’s classic – something that you can have in the wardrobe for a long time,” says Lee. “It means it’s more versatile; I wear my suit jacket with a tee, chinos and sneakers, for example, as well as in a suit.”

Navè agrees. “The creation of a bespoke wardrobe allows you to be a part of the process the entire way; to customise even the most minute detail, such as a lining, buttons, and even buttonhole colours, not to mention the array of fabric selection from previous European mills on offer.”

“Where once upon a time men would visit a tailor because they could not find their correct sizing off the rack, today they visit because they don’t want to look like everyone else. It’s about creating an individual sense of style and not conforming to a prescribed aesthetic.”

Certainly, as social media increasingly dominates our lives, a unique style perspective becomes harder and harder to achieve. So how can you make your suiting look a little different this spring racing season?

“Have some fun!” Lee laughs. “A lot of guys aren’t having fun. A lot of guys think that suiting means you have to be formal – that you have to wear leather shoes with it – but you don’t. Try a nice pocket square and some sneakers, just make sure it’s tailored.”

“Spring racing has always been about colour, except for Derby Day – stick to the traditional black and white,” says Navè. “But don’t be boring, it’s not 1920. As for Melbourne Cup and Oaks Day have fun with rich, bold colours, not classic business tones – Flemington is no place for a French navy or charcoal suit.”

“This year, I’m opting for light blue, tan, burgundy and soft grey tones for suits. Your shirt and tie is also a great way to introduce more colour – just make sure your accessories speak up and compliment the entire look. Soft pastels are a great place to start. If you’re ever in doubt, use the flower of the day as a guide to complement your shirt and tie combo.”

Well, there you have it boys. Seems like standing out is the new black.

Follow Bianca’s spring racing journey over at @_thesecondrow, or listen to her podcast at @thefashionpodcast.

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