It’s hard to believe Tim Cecil when he says he had trouble finding a suitable place to shop. As the great, great grandson of Henry Buck – the founder of Melbourne’s iconic menswear retailer Henry Bucks – Cecil grew up in the thick of tailoring and menswear, working in the family business as a buyer and merchandiser for 15 years. He left Henry Bucks last year, taking time off to travel and clear his head before returning to work on his own menswear boutique, Modern Classic.
The store opened on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy in April and stocks items from well-respected but hard-to-find European and American labels. Cecil has an eye for fit and detailing, applied here in a range of relaxed staples that don’t stray far from his personal style. Cecil admits to filling the shop with what he would buy for himself.
“Retail is a difficult industry, so I think it’s particularly important for independent businesses to have a viewpoint,” he says, referencing menswear boutiques he admires in Tokyo’s Omotesando and Harajuku neighbourhoods. These are boutiques that aren’t afraid to delve into the super niche. “The Japanese do retail like nobody else,” he says. “They really pay attention to detail and focus on the craft.”
Modern Classic is definitely niche (you might not recognise the brands in-store unless you’re attuned to specialised menswear labels), but it’s also approachable. Rather than buying brands’ entire collections, Cecil picks what he thinks are the best individual products in their category (the best everyday T-shirt, woollen knit, bomber jacket etc.), with a focus on pieces he sees men buying again and again.
Here’s a smattering of what you’ll find at the moment: selvedge jeans by Swedish label COF Studio, handmade (but very reasonably priced) desert boots by Astorflex, chinos by US label Save Khaki, original workwear jackets by Vetra of France and cotton-jersey tees by New York based Alex Mill.
Casual and semi-formal pieces occupy the front of the store along with CIBI homewares and Monocle books and accessories. If you’re looking for something extra special there’s a space at the back of the store dedicated to custom, made-to-measure suiting and denim jeans. The suiting is done in Italy, shirts are made in Poland, and denim is crafted in Japan, all by small-scale specialist producers.
Cecil has watched menswear tastes in Australia evolve over the past decade, citing a rise in confidence and savvy that allows boutiques like his to exist.
“Before, Australian men sort of flew under the radar a bit,” in terms of their fashion choices, he says. “But menswear in general changed with blogging and when people became interested in and more aware of what was going on globally.
“Australia is the third-biggest market [behind the UK and US] for Mr. Porter,” he says, referring to the online luxury fashion retailer for men. “So it’s not that people aren’t wanting these products – it’s that they can’t find them. People want to discover new things and have an experience in-store. That’s where there’s real opportunity.”
126 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9086 9836
Tue to Fri 10.30am–6pm