Jack Loder, 22, might be pursuing a career in one of the world’s most cutthroat industries, but he seems determined to avoid the circus surrounding fashion design. From his tiny, windowless studio in Richmond, Loder is slowly hatching a plan to enter the world of bespoke women’s fashion. But not before he learns as much as he can from those who know it best.
Having recently graduated with Honours from RMIT’s renowned fashion program, Loder found the formal foundation the course gave him invaluable, but craved something more intimate. In his final year he began to assist local hero Toni Maticevski. For Loder, the experience was invaluable. “Just watching him while he was working or looking at the dresses for private clients and through his archives, it was just a really great place to be,” he explains. “To see it was possible to do that with that material or to look at the way that does this, it was a really inspiring place to spend a couple of days a week.”
Following this, the launch of Melbourne Spring Fashion Week in August last year saw the event’s ambassador, Ruby Rose, wearing one of Loder’s designs. Loder admits the whole process was terrifying, but the surrounding media attention meant he had a chance to meet another of his idols: Robert Fritzlaff, the septuagenarian Melbourne couturier. The two hit it off instantly.
As he graduated, it was clear that Loder wanted to continue his education in a more intimate environment, just as he had with Maticevski. “When I was with Toni he didn’t have any other employees; it was just he and me in his studio workspace and if I wanted to ask a question, he had to answer it and he had to show me it and we’d stand at the mannequin together.” With this in mind, he applied for a job with Australian Martin Grant to work in his Paris studio. “I wanted to go somewhere where it was still really small and I could feel like I was actually contributing.”
Although offered the job, Loder ultimately had to decline when his visa fell through. But Fritzlaff, who had sensed Loder’s enthusiasm from the start, contacted him explaining that he had a list of garments he’d wanted to remake for 40 years but had never had the time. As soon as the Martin Grant offer fell through, Loder was on the phone to Fritzlaff taking up the offer.
While Loder has only just begun working with Fritzlaff and his role is as yet undefined, he already calls the experience “blow your mind crazy. I’m just lucky to be able to witness Robert’s process. There are all these extraordinary contortions of fabric and you don’t know how they happen, how it’s possible.”
While Jack acknowledges the difficulty in working in the specialised field of bespoke, he believes there has been a shift in how women shop. “People aren’t necessarily feeling like they need to buy a lot every season and instead they’ll make it a few key pieces. Go to a high street brand to get the trend pieces but get a black pencil skirt made by someone to be tailored to your body that is really good quality and will last forever. There are always people who seek it out and know that there’s nothing better than a dress that ticks all the right boxes.”
For the time being, Loder hopes to continue working with Fritzlaff, before looking again into working overseas. And while he is not yet sure where his career will take him, talking to him it is clear that bespoke tailoring is his passion. He loves the being responsible for each stage in production, from the design right through to hand-stitching a hem and handing it to a client. “Maybe it’s a control thing, but I love being part of every step,” he says.