Putting the Art in Sartorial
Meet the first Australian menswear brand to join the ranks of Mr Porter. Spending an afternoon in the stylish company of P Johnson
Established in Sydney by Patrick Johnson in 2008, Australian label P Johnson’s presence in London saw them relocate from their original pop-up store in Soho to Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia in autumn 2017.
Patrick wasn’t originally destined to become an MTM tailor. He started out in wine, studying to become an oenologist before a freak accident in the winery resulted in him contracting sulphur dioxide poisoning. He developed a serious allergic reaction that stopped his career in its tracks. Inheriting an eye for style from his stepfather, he spent seven years learning the craft of tailoring in the UK, swapping the grape for the (measuring) tape. The rest, as they say, is history.
The brand is a living personification of the man himself, and bears all the hallmarks of relaxed elegance: in essence, dashingly suave, soft tailoring, with cropped pants and a cashmere pullover draped nonchalantly over its shoulders. “After all,” Patrick evangelises, “you should be able to wear a suit in the same way that you wear pyjamas, unconsciously”. The emphasis here is very much looking the part no matter the occasion: whether you wear the full suit (or any manner of its deconstructed forms) formally or casually, with shoes or sneakers. If the nod of approval of my teenage son is anything to go by, it’s a precursor of how the next generation will approach tailoring.
I caught up with showroom manager John Glass, a native New Yorker who met Patrick during his tenure in the Big Apple, to get under the skin of the brand. As well as overseeing day-to-day business affairs, John is a trained fitter having completed a three month intensive course in Australia. Head tailor James Johnson overseas measuring (himself an alumini of Andrew Ramroop’s Savile Row Academy) and advises clients on the various construction elements and the detail options available: three chest piece weights for the canvas for example, one of which is almost completely uncanvassed. Four main shoulder expressions, including an unpadded shoulder. For internal linings read fully lined, buggy lined or completely unlined, including unlined sleeves if desired. Peak, notch and shawl lapels are among a host of finite details on offer. The whole process takes around eight weeks from the initial appointment and first fitting. If alterations are required on the second fitting, add on an extra week. In the meantime, Johnson will have travelled out to Italy to oversee production.
P Johnson have their own atelier, Sartoria Carrara, in the coastal hinterland of North-West Tuscany, a region rich in artisanal acumen, twixt sea and mountains. It is here that they hone their skills in garnishing lightness, simplicity and wearability in their garments. The resultant threads and yarns are subsequently softer and lighter, offering greater comfort than many British or Italian equivalents. The palette is sophisticatedly muted, an amalgam of creams, beiges, blues and greens. “We love the way different fabrics react to light in the different cities where we have showrooms” interjects John, “the beautiful golden light of Sydney; the vibrancy of New York and the somewhat more demure London version – they all make us re-examine texture and the appearance of cloth”.
Aiming to tap in to its surrounding media, entertainment and creative industries, the showroom, designed by Patrick’s wife Tamsin, is akin to walking in to contemporary art gallery, or a tailor’s shop curated by Wallpaper magazine. It features work from European artists, specifically a collection from Catalan mixed media artist Antoni Tàpies, alongside avant garde European furniture and standout pieces from Jacques Adnet, Adolf Loos and Italian architect Gio Ponti. In what John describes as ‘a pleasant but informal experience’, antithetical to the privacy of Savile Row, it’s all open plan with blankets of natural light filtering through lofty windows. “We don’t want customers to be scared to come in. And there is absolutely no pressure to buy. Have an espresso or beer and a plate of prosciutto and just browse if you want. We were in Soho for a while but it wasn’t quite the right fit” explains John. When this place came on the market, they knew they were on to a winner. It was a former bicycle store but they could see the potential of the place and they quickly went about stripping everything back and installing a sartorial Feng Shui.
The label’s shirt jackets have become a big hit, particularly among local creative and media types: teamed with elastic-back trousers to create a modern-day interpretation of the suit, per se. As John points out, “It’s as if the client is living a lie, wearing elasticated pants to work instead of traditional slacks, but no one is any the wiser.”
Things appear to be going swimmingly for the brand, who recently signed a deal to provide a limited quantity ready to wear range to online menswear giant Mr Porter. If you’re searching for tailoring that has an emphasis on style, comfort, softness and flexibility, beat a path to P Johnson’s door.
Enquiries: P Johnson, 51-52 Rathbone Pl, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1JP / 07585 561974 / https://pjt.com/