Until several years ago, Australian menswear was the part of the nation’s wider fashion landscape which most languished in obscurity. For the average bloke, clothing was historically low on the totem pole of subjects worthy of serious appreciation. A visible interest in fashion and lifestyle was often considered frivolous; emblematising (in the worst case scenarios) a kind of socio-cultural elitism at odds with a national identity that mythologises convicts, swagmen and other salt-of-the-earth types.
Thankfully, over the last half decade, change (of the socio-cultural variety) has engulfed Australia like a gnarly wave off the shores of Bondi; and the local men’s clothing industry is all the better for it. The most interesting brands — often helmed by designers with rich cultural perspectives brought home from abroad — manage to distill the best aspects of the national identity in a euphemistic sort of way. So whether it be tailoring, leisurewear or a pair of the best damn boots in the world, you can rest assured that the end product is infused with the trademark style for which so many Aussies themselves are known. Charming, easygoing and entirely lacking in pretension, here are 5 of the best Australian menswear designers that you can pick up online now.
Social media: @pjohnsontailors
Specialty: sartorial menswear that’s made in Tuscany and designed with a unique Aussie edge
A brand that has become a case study for independent menswear designers everywhere, P JOHNSON was initially conceived (in 2008) as a made-to-measure clothier specialising in soft Neapolitan-esque tailoring. Since then, Patrick Johnson’s eponymous brand has expanded to a scale unrivalled by most other Aussie tailoring houses: with its domestic showrooms (in Sydney and Melbourne) joined by outposts in New York and London. Amongst cognoscenti, P JOHNSON has a distinctive reputation for light and breezy garments. The house’s original focus — on custom made suiting — has become more holistic in recent years, culminating in the release of an entire RTW collection that was picked up by MR PORTER in 2017.
Social media: @christian_kimber
Specialty: an elegant amalgam of sport and streetwear that captures the quintessence of “Melbourne” style
Christian Kimber is an English designer who lives and works in Australia’s cultural capital of Melbourne. A veteran of London menswear institutions E.Tautz and Selfridges, Kimber set up shop (literally) in Australia with an eponymous brand that began by offering suede loafers and accessories. Now, several years on, he has a dedicated following amongst menswear nerds who favour eclecticism: evident from the fact that the brand’s sneakers sell almost as well as its metropolis-inspired pocket squares. For AW 2018, the eponymous designer presented “A Week in Melbourne”: a fresh but resolutely untrendy collection of casualwear which reflects the new Australian man. Modelled by writer Adam Baidawi, standout pieces include a blouson of Japanese mélange cotton (known for its interesting spectrum of flecked neutral tones) and the “Byron” mid-top — trainers constructed in a manner more reminiscent of traditional footwear. In a nutshell, if you’re after well made gear in which to do typical Melbourne stuff (e.g. coffee crawls and gallery retrospectives), Kimber sets the gold standard.
Social media: @lbardishoes
Specialty: traditional moccasins that truly earn their “made in Italy” stripes
At first glance, L’bardi fits in neatly with various other “affordable luxury” retailers (including the likes of Faire Leather Co and Velasca Milano). However, the former’s unique strengths come sharply into focus when you look at the product. The brand’s signature item is the driving shoe; and unlike most fashion labels that purport to, L’bardi uses a production process that is exclusively Italian. Skins are sourced from Italian tanneries, workers hail from in and around Florence and the shoes themselves are assembled in Tuscany. Italian-Australian founder Andrew Longebardi incorporates very subtle references to his background as a Sydneysider, though the main draw here is undoubtedly the excellent balance between price and quality.
Image courtesy of The Hounds.
Social media: @r.m.williams_official
Specialty: elastic sided boots that are a perennial favourite of almost everyone who has come into contact with them
Although R.M. Williams is a bona fide cultural icon within Australia, the Adelaide-based bootmaker has steadily broadened its global stature since 2013. Arguably Australia’s greatest heritage brand, it has repositioned itself in the last few years as a luxury house with vast multi-demographic appeal. Thanks to models like the “Craftsman” (a Chelsea boot fashioned from whole-cut yearling or kangaroo leather), they’ve earned a reputation as the brand that’s equally at home in the city or the outback.
Social media: @trunktailors
Specialty: made-to-measure tailoring that is equal parts substance and style
Once upon a time, finding quality tailoring in Australia was an endeavour requiring Herculean exertion. Even firms that did good work were invariably inflexible on style — championing the kind of boxy corporate livery that nobody from a country located (approximately) a mile from the sun would consider wearing. Thankfully, times have changed and the number of Aussie brands providing solidly made value-driven tailoring has increased exponentially. Trunk Tailors is among the best of these: offering fully canvassed suiting with strategically deployed handwork, styled in a manner pertinent to its Melbourne locale. With each garment custom-made, Trunk travels internationally to meet its clients: catch co-founder Homie Yang in Hong Kong later this August for the brand’s inaugural Chinese trunk show.