The way clothes are sold in Australia is broken.
“They’re expensive. The service is bad. Often they’re a season out of date,” says Patrick Johnson, providing an uncompromising assessment of the modern retail experience. “When you look at the chain companies, it’s overpriced crap.”
Johnson is one half of P. Johnson Tailors. Along with business partner Tom Riley, the Sydney-based tailor has been working to change perceptions about what men should wear and how they go about purchasing it.
“I want to help Australian men dress better.” Johnson says. “When you wake up in the morning and look at your wardrobe, I want that process to be really enjoyable but also uncomplicated.”
P. Johnson started in 2008. Back then it was just a trunk show: Johnson, his wife’s old VW Golf, and the Hume and Sturt highways, as he motored between clients in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne. “I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have any money. I had to go wherever people would see me,” he says.
He would eventually set up showrooms in Sydney, Melbourne (run by Riley, who became a business partner in 2009) and New York, with London following suit in September. But that spirit of the trunk show has never left the business, and every eight or nine weeks you can find P. Johnson setting up shop in a hotel room in Brisbane – or Perth, Adelaide, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta – servicing a dedicated bunch of regular clients.
“Once you start developing those clients you can’t really stop,” Johnson says. “You need to maintain it. We’re a really big country. So having stores in every city isn’t practical.”
Tomorrow and Thursday you can book in for appointments with P. Johnson at the Hilton Brisbane on Queen Street in the CBD. For Johnson, the 45-minute sessions are about understanding what each client needs. “The basic thing is to have a chat to see what you’re after,” he says. “We talk you through some samples and then size you up. Then we come back eight weeks later.”
Johnson says Brisbane, like any city, has a particular style. The origins stem from its rural heritage and the saturated light – heavy with humidity – that colours the Queensland capital. “Queensland men are willing to wear a little bit of colour and they do it really well,” he says. “I think Brisbane actually has a really good style. It’s reasonably classic but quite fresh. I love that.”
As for a permanent showroom, Johnson won’t provide any firm plans. “We’d really love to,” he says. “It’s about finding the right partner to do it with. You want to be there forever. You need someone who will service the clients and become part of the community.”