Opportunities for Australian women to sit down with an expert to discuss what they want to wear, how they want to feel in it and how they want it to accommodate their lifestyle have been limited. Until now.
A fleet of fledgling Australian made-to-measure labels is ensuring the designer’s hand is across all aspects of creating a garment. And shoppers are benefitting from the superior service, fit and personalisation this makes possible.
It’s also a reflection of a wider shift in customers’ consciences; shoppers are making more discerning choices about what they want to wear, seeking more value and longevity in their wardrobes.
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“I think there’s [been] a shift away from fast fashion,” says the founder-designer of sustainability-focused Melbourne-based label Arnsdorf, Jade Sarita Arnott. “People [want] to have more value in the pieces, embracing their own bodies and realising what suits them individually.”
Here are five local labels rejecting short-lived fashion trends and mass production in favour of timeless pieces that will fit you perfectly, made with meticulous attention to detail.
After a decade, custom-suit specialist Patrick Johnson has debuted a made-to-measure womenswear label – P Johnson Femme.
Book in a 30-minute consultation at the label’s new Sydney showroom in Paddington where a senior tailor will take your measurements and study your posture before discussing how you want to wear your suit. “You come in and we go through the whole conversation about your life, your habits, what you like, what you don’t like,” says Johnson, who will help you select the fabric, buttons and threads, and talk you through the personalised lettering options.
Your bespoke pattern is then sent to the Femme workshop before the garment is finished off in the Sydney atelier by a team of in-house seamstresses. A final fitting will address any further changes needed.
P Johnson Femme will open a showroom in Melbourne later this year, with P Johnson's Windsor showrooms taking Femme appointments for now.
Ex-investment bankers Rannia Al-Salihi and Supriya Dixit launched this made-to-measure denim label in December last year. First Principles offers one fitting at its Little Collins flagship store in Melbourne. Everything else happens online. The customer is in control at almost every stage of production, and can customise – using an iPad – the style, cut, hardware and waist height for the perfect pair of jeans. Within four weeks your denim will arrive on your doorstep.
“The idea came a year ago when I was going through the tailoring process for my fiancé’s suit for our wedding,” says Al-Salihi. She felt the experience of being fitted for a suit desperately needed a tech upgrade. “We spent an hour and a half measuring every inch of his body, [and then] not being able to access that information again to re-order a pair of trousers was disappointing.”
You won’t find any merchandise on display at the store. Instead you’re greeted with rolls of fabric, denim swatches, threads, buttons and zippers in a space that resembles a tailor’s workshop.
In a hidden garden in Melbourne’s east, P Johnson alum and local designer Emily Nolan is offering one-on-one appointments to measure up your dream suit. She launched her eponymous custom-suit label in March this year.
“It’s like the old Le Louvre days,” Nolan says, referring to the popular Melbourne fashion store. “Le Louvre was all custom, before off-the-rack existed, and you had a real relationship with your tailor or seamstress – like you would with your butcher.
“I want to offer a new approach to the way women dress and think about their clothes. It should be fun, freeing, and it should resonate with you on a personal level."
Nolan offers up to 28 private appointments every four to six weeks. “The E Nolan Dressing Room is an open dialogue about what [customers] want to wear, with a tailor’s knowledge,” Nolan says.
Launched by Jade Sarita Arnott in May 2017, Arnsdorf is sophisticated and seasonless. The label specialises in simple silhouettes anchored by a playful twist (think white shirting with scalloped necklines and asymmetrical cuts). It uses sustainable, and often leftover, fabrics, from hemp and organic cotton to linen.
While it sells mostly ready-to-wear, Arnott recently, and quietly, introduced a made-to-measure service. Traditionally, “the only time [women] can get something made perfectly to their measurements is their wedding,” says Arnott. “You should feel that way every day. So we introduced this extra service so people could have their clothes fit like a glove. It encourages longevity … if something fits you perfectly.
“No one can fit into these strict categories of size six to eight. We wanted to make it more inclusive. We’re one of the [few] Australian brands that go up to size 16.”
Clients can make an appointment to visit the Emporium or Brunswick Street stores in Melbourne to meet with the label’s in-house stylist to chat through which off-the-rack look they want to customise. There’s the option to swap out fabrics and play with cut and fit. At a second appointment with the production manager measurements are taken and materials selected. “They might like the shape of a dress we’ve previously done in linen, but then they’ll do it in a duchess-silk version for their wedding.”
Alongside made-to-measure, Arnsdorf also offers complimentary in-store alterations. “All our staff have been trained in fitting with dressmaking skills, so they’re able to measure up our clients, take in hems or cinch looks in at the waist, play with sleeve lengths.”
Arnsdorf is opening stores in Sydney soon.
Fiona Myer established White Story in 2016, and introduced a made-to-measure tailoring service, specialising in bridal, earlier this year.
Renowned for minimalist, well-designed basics, White Story uses a luxury Japanese cotton blend for most bridal gowns – a supple material that can be sculpted easily. Myer’s design smarts were honed during her post as a Myer trend forecaster, and later in her own consultancy business, Fashion Futures, where she predicted global trends across colour, fabric, design and prints.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on September 3, 2019. Some details may have changed since publication.