Given that there has historically been a very limited market for high-fashion menswear in Queensland, what inspired you to open up a menswear boutique, The Cloakroom, in Brisbane? How do you think local perceptions towards menswear have changed in the time that you’ve be operating?
In many ways Brisbane was a really logical place for us to start. We knew the types of guys we wanted to get wearing our product and we believed there was a gap in the market for something unique and personalised. Although it’s much smaller than Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane seems to be a city that responds really well to new things. I think this comes from the city developing its character and going through a lot of change in the last two decades or so.
You specialise in tailoring. What sort of things are your clientele looking for and are they particular to Queensland’s climate, tastes or lifestyle?
One of the things that sets our business apart from conventional retail is that we see ourselves as providing a solution for men and not a business where something is pushed onto a customer. For this reason it’s really important that we get to know each customer who comes to shop with us and essential that we get to the bottom of what it is they’re looking for.
Obviously the Queensland climate has its challenges especially across Summer, so a lot of our customers are looking for something that might be lighter or less structured. We also find that there is a big shift happening in guys coming back to wearing suits the whole year, though often doing so in a more relaxed way; be it in more suitable fabrics, or wearing the suit without a tie.
Tell us how you came to be interested in fashion…
Fashion isn’t really something I profess to know much about. Eight to ten years ago I was doing a bit of travel with my work at the time and saw a lot of things in other cities that we just didn’t have in Brisbane. This was the starting point for The Cloakroom and how it came about. Although much of what we do may sit within the industry known as ‘fashion’ the thing that really interests me is the process of creating a handmade product that is particular to each person who comes and shops with us.
Where do you look for inspiration on matters of style?
Style can be a tricky to put your finger on. In my opinion style is an evolving thing that develops over time and adapts to your changing taste. For me personally I am always looking for new ways to express myself through how I dress. The inspiration for this comes from a variety of sources; be it new fabrics that excite me; how those around me express themselves; the experience of travel; and things I see outside of the clothing world.
What is your most treasured dress-related object or memory?
I am not an overly sentimental person so I don’t find myself treasuring too many things in my wardrobe. What does give me great satisfaction and what stays with me over time are those moments when we’ve made a breakthrough with how we make our product. I can clearly remember five and a half years ago the feeling of putting on a suit that was the result of months of work remastering how we were cutting at the time. In more recent times I’ve had this same gratification earlier this year when we had a ‘eureka’ moment that directly affected and improved how our tailors cut each suit.
Give us three words, people or places you associate with Queensland fashion…
A fabric, a colour, and a person: Linen. Blue. Paul Hunt.
Is there such a thing as a distinct Queensland style?
To be honest I don’t think there is. The internet has made the world so much smaller and style so much more homogenized that it’s become difficult to differentiate. What I do find interesting and unique to Queensland is how we wear clothes, not necessarily what they are. There is a certain nonchalance to how many Queenslanders dress which I think is great. We are interested in what we wear, but not too precious about the way it works together. Maybe this a result of the climate, but it’s something that helps create a look of our own.
Published in Issue 8, on December 3, 2013.