made-to-measure’s young blood rising

by markdivision2

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One of the more perplexing questions thrown up by the resurgence of classic menswear is, where’s the young talent coming from? While bespoke and made-to-measure are all nice terms to throw around, talk to any tailor worth his chalk and the same familiar complaint comes up: “kids today are not interested in working with their hands; the craft is dying out with the older generation; my son, he’s a bum on the Facebook all day”. As ever, someone has to do the dirty work of honing their skills like any traditional trade and come up the hard, often laborious way. While certainly not alone, shirt maker and aspiring tailor Sam Hazelton is one standout exception: a clued-up, driven young man with style to burn who has strayed from the well-trodden path of fashion design to embrace a new take on classic men’s tailoring via working with one of Australia’s menswear icons, Sydney’s fourth generation tailor John Cutler. I recently quizzed Sam on what led him there while he knocked up a late summer blazer for me – sand, double-breasted in linen, since you ask.

What’s your background prior to tailoring, and what path took you to this somewhat unusual career?

I discovered bespoke tailoring by accident when a classmate at TAFE mentioned his work experience at a company where they made suits from fabric with gold and platinum thread through it. Curiosity aroused, I sought more information and a conversation with John Cutler led to work experience. I finished the three year Adv. Dip. in Fashion Design at Ultimo TAFE at the end of 2009 and started work at Cutler 1st February 2010.

What influences did you then have as designer? Who had inspired you?

Though the TAFE course is geared towards womenswear, the whole time I was hanging out to do a quirky collection of men’s street wear with a functional, military influence. Brands and designers like Miharayasuhiro, White Mountaineering, Stone Island and Aitor Throup were a huge influence. I was always excited by the fabrication and the pattern cutting; how the garment was conceived, how well it fit, what it was made from and how well it was put together were always what got me going. Bespoke tailoring was perfect for me – I’m just lucky I found it early.

Why choose menswear and not the more common and fashion conscious womenswear?

It was natural for me, having had no interest in designing womenswear – I felt that there was plenty out there for women already; guys were the ones who needed more choice. Also, I feel that what I am doing now is more about understanding individual customers, posing a set of challenges that require a totally different mindset to designing fashion collections to appeal to a broad market. That said, I will learn to cut bespoke tailored garments for women once I have a handle on the men’s, because it necessitates further development of the skill set.

Where do you see tailoring going for men, and what do you hope to offer as a younger man with fresh eyes?

The majority of young men in this country still fear clothing: they fear looking good because it will draw attention to them. But there is also an awakening amongst young men that there’s nothing wrong with wearing clothes that fit – in fact there are benefits! There are entrepreneurs locally and overseas that, whilst not bespoke tailors in the true sense of the word, through image crafting, relentless marketing and providing a great product at the right price are paving the way to a better dressed Australian male. Everyone reading knows the huge influence social media is having on men’s style and in my view it encourages collaboration, eliminating some of the small mindedness that has held the trade back in the past. The web has contributed to customers being better educated about nearly any aspect of tailoring they might have the urge to find out more about, which means there’s little room for showmanship and bullshit – things that some tailors may have relied upon in the past as part of their business model.

Do you think the recent move towards more classic menswear has helped your own development as a tailor, and where do you see this movement taking you?

It’s nice that brands like Tom Ford are informed by classic menswear of decades past, but at the same time I find it disheartening that it takes a behemoth like that to put its stamp on something that’s always been there, but mostly dismissed. But as with local entrepreneurs who are creating successful businesses supplying great made-to-measure suits with great marketing, it has to help fuel the curiosity and sartorial ambition of the young Australian male, which can only be a positive.

Finally, how would you describe your personal style and what do you hope to add to classic menswear?

I love classic English proportioning in men’s tailoring and avoid extremes when I dress – I prefer the way the English cut flatters the western male physique. It’s challenging to make the English style desirable to a consumer who is more influenced by the Italian style of dressing, with its more playful silhouette and lighter construction, both of which are well suited to the Australian climate and our casual leanings. I believe the parameters created by what we call classic menswear are half the fun: with a pallet of garments, fabrications and styles far more limited than womenswear, men are challenged to develop their own sense of personal style, whilst working within a fairly rigid framework – fit is always paramount – and that’s where bespoke will come in. If there’s one thing I would love to bring to the table it would be attainability; with the right model it should be possible to provide most men with excellent fitting clothing that allows them to develop and express their personal style, at a cost that is reasonable and delivers value. That is the challenge.

For more on Sam and John go to jhcutler.com

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