Sydney and Melbourne-based label P Johnson, led by tailor Patrick Johnson, is making waves in the international fashion world with the release of a debut ready-to-wear collection for luxury menswear site MR PORTER.
It’s the first Australian label to make it onto the site, joining the likes of Prada, Gucci and Tom Ford.
Usually appointment only, fans can now buy P Johnson off the rack for the first time at MR PORTER, as well as at Barneys in New York, where the tailor also offers an in-store, made-to-measure service alongside a ready-made collection.
The new collections mark a shift for the Australian tailor, whose offering has been limited to a custom-tailoring service in his showrooms in Sydney, Melbourne, New York and London.
Among the 24-piece MR PORTER collection are blazers, Merino knits, single and double breasted suits, as well as linen shirts, shorts and trousers. “We worked closely with our network of weavers and spinners, focusing on unique cloths, subtly different things that you will not find elsewhere,” says Patrick, whose favourite piece is a silk twill dinner jacket. “We worked with a weaver near [Lake] Como [in Italy] to develop a soft, slinky cream silk that kind of hugs you without being restrictive. It is elegant and very versatile,” he says of the jacket, which sold out within days.
When designing, Patrick starts with the cloth. It “has a deeply primeval pleasure to it and it is full of endless and exciting possibilities,” he says. Once he is happy with the cloth, the next step is bringing it to life. What follows is “a lot of experimentation, lots of sampling, working with our team of artisans, challenging ourselves to create a collection that is functional, full of beautiful, comfortable, interesting and timeless pieces.”
Patrick’s tailoring has always had an international flavour. He spent seven years learning the craft of tailoring in the UK, before returning to Australia to start his own business in 2008. Patrick wanted to teach Australian men how to dress better, providing custom suits for guys who otherwise thought they were out of reach. Today, he owns the label’s Italian workshop and employs 82 people around the world, including a master tailor based in London who has easy access to the Tuscan atelier.
The London showroom was designed by Patrick’s wife, interior designer Tamsin Johnson. It’s a calm oasis in the centre of the bustling city with high ceilings and classic columns. “We’re very aware of our identity. We’re not British or Italian tailors and our spaces reflect this. No big Chesterfield sofas, dark wood and whisky bars,” says Tamsin. It features work from European artists, particularly a collection from Antoni Tàpies (a Spanish painter), alongside European furniture and pieces from Jacques Adnet, Adolf Loos and Italian architect Gio Ponti.
“The space has an element of classicism while still being fresh, open and bright which has become a bit of a signature with the PJT spaces,” she says.
In Australia, we tend to borrow from European styles. Patrick says this lack of tailoring tradition is, in its own way, liberating. “It means we can look at what the rest of the world does and reinterpret it in our own unique style that represents who we are.”
That means soft, unstructured tailoring and lightweight knitwear, inspired by Patrick’s coastal outlook (he lives in Tamarama with Tamsin and their son Arthur). “The natural landscapes and environments of Sydney are present in the collection's fresh, neutral tones, lightweight cloths and comfortable, relaxed pieces.”
Patrick says he was persuaded to create a collection for MR PORTER after a meeting with the company’s buyers in New York. “They really understood us and our approach,” he says. “It's exciting for us to now be able to dress clients who couldn't previously buy our clothes because they weren't in a location where we have a showroom or that we visit on a trunk show.
“MR PORTER are very passionate, they are the best operators online and we are fortunate to be working with them.”
Not surprisingly, the team at MR PORTER is similarly complementary of its new signing. According to buying manager Sam Kershaw, “P Johnson have truly been the best kept secret for about as long as the 10 years they’ve been around.”
He’s also opening a spin-off of P Johnson, Suit Shop, in Chifley Tower in Sydney this week.
It’s safe to say the secret is out.