Followers of P Johnson’s womenswear label, Femme, know the aesthetic is more Katharine Hepburn than Katy Perry. Light-blue herringbone linen trousers, woven in Italy. Extra-fine merino wool waistcoats in white and oatmeal. Pleated wide-leg pants in silk. It’s all about pared back elegance and sophisticated restraint. It’s something of a surprise, then, to enter Femme’s first standalone showroom, a corner two-storey terrace in Paddington, and find lush colour, whimsy and theatre.

“The interior is a contrast. People walk in and they’re like, ‘Well, this is a bit unexpected!’” says founder Patrick Johnson, whose relaxed brand of custom-made suiting has come to define Australian tailoring.

As soon as you enter through the front door, framed with stained glass, and step onto the pink plush carpet, there’s a sense of quiet and privacy – as if you’ve stumbled upon a secret salon in the backstreets of Paddington. The showroom itself has seafoam-coloured walls, plenty of marble and the Johnson signature: distinctive works by top Australian artists. An antique chandelier is ever-changing – mainly because customers seem to be constantly bidding for the one they see hanging.

Never miss a Sydney moment. Make sure you're subscribed to our newsletter today.


“We wanted to create a space that’s a little bit special and a little bit more ‘theirs’,” says Patrick about designing specifically for women. “I didn’t want a ‘retail’ retail space in a big shopping strip; I wanted it to be more intimate, with a bit of privacy, where we can peel back the onion a little bit and work out what it is our clients really need.”

Patrick’s wife, Tamsin Johnson, one of the country’s most sought-after interior designers and antiques dealers, has been an advisor to Femme since its inception and as with all the P Johnson showrooms, she conceived and designed this one.

“My aim was to create something powerful and strong that feels like it has been around for a long time, rather than a gallery-like, conventional or fashionable retail space,” she says. Every element has been carefully chosen with this in mind. For example, its mirrored ceiling.

“It’s awkward and at first unsettling, but [it] helps explode the room. In a sense, I wanted it to feel as if there were no walls at all, but instead a feeling of infinite information for the viewer.”

Similarly, a bold Coen Young painting “fractures the space and violates the otherwise more dressy and formal sensation of the room”. And the Chinese screen in the front room? “It’s from the Qing dynasty, and is unexpected, somehow having a dialogue with the elaborate scagliola walls.”

If you can tear your eyes away from the surrounds long enough, you’ll find what you came here for in the first place – double- and single-breasted blazers, slouchy trousers, silk kaftan dresses and cashmere coats. Johnson has developed cloth specifically for his women’s range: glazed Irish linen, brushed Italian cottons and cashmere flannel among them.

The womenswear side of the business is a relatively recent addition – it launched in 2019. Yet, as Patrick emphasises, “It is something that we believe in very strongly”.

“I am designing women’s tailoring for women, not men’s tailoring for women. I wanted something that women can wear unconsciously and effortlessly, but still feel elegant and that element of sexiness.”

The difference between P. Johnson and its Femme label is distinguishable even in the atmosphere of the showroom. “Women want a lot more privacy when they’re taking time to look at themselves in the mirror, whereas a man will just stand there and go, ‘Cool, this is great!’” Patrick says. “It was important for us to create an environment where our clients feel like they’ve been heard, they’re not being rushed, and can be very honest with us if we make something they don’t like. [They know] that we’ll do anything to get the right results.”

That includes getting the ambience of the space just right, with special care taken to ensure the lighting isn’t too overpowering, and that the acoustics are balanced. “It’s not trying to be too cool, or to intimidate,” Patrick says. It’s a user-friendly space – and he hopes the clothes are the same. “The biggest waste in clothing is making clothing that’s not worn, and not worn to death.”

A showroom in Melbourne is on the horizon, while New York (where Johnson already has a men’s showroom) and Jakarta (a regular stop on P Johnson’s trunk show circuit) are also under consideration. If and when those spaces materialise, they’ll no doubt be as inviting and charming as the Sydney offering. “You don’t want to look like everyone else. That’s just boring.”

P Johnson Femme
The Terrace, 2 Elizabeth Street, Paddington
0409 091 485

Tues to Sat 10am–6pm