One of the biggest casualties of The Bat Kiss has been men’s fashion.
Research from Roy Morgan suggests that almost a third of all working Australians have been working from home since the start of the pandemic. With no need to scrub up for the office, many men have taken advantage of the situation to dress down in a big way: more baggy jeans and less snappy blazers.
Indeed, with so many fashion brands going under and no vaccine in sight (just yet), we’re worried that the humble suit will be yet another victim of 2020. What’s going to happen to Australian suit culture if work from home continues indefinitely?
DMARGE had the chance to speak exclusively with some top Australian tailors and pick their brains about where the future of suiting lies.
“There has been a lot of talk over the years of the ‘suit being dead’ and heralding the smart casual or casual office look,” Miles Wharton, Aussie style authority and founder of The Bespoke Corner told DMARGE.
“Nonetheless, if you consider the various menswear categories outside of activewear, the sartorial or tailored wear category is one of the only categories growing year on year. Why is that? Do the media have it wrong? The answer is YES – completely and utterly wrong.”
“Suiting is evolving and has always evolved… what is the essence of ‘going back to work’? We are at work, regardless of the location. The COVID effect is not going to create a new fashion trend of wearing pyjamas to meetings. In fact, quite the opposite… Men have had time to review their wardrobe and now look to bolster their assortment to ‘break-out’ of active/loungewear and have a feel-good and look-good array of quality garments… Call it revenge spending or simply getting back to the business of doing business.”
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So suits will exist in one form or another, but what might that form look like?
“Suits will become more relaxed and more casual,” Joe Farage, founder and director of Farage predicts.
“Soft shoulders, more contemporary fabrics and styling that can be worn either as a suit or mixed back as separates. The casualisation of suiting was happening prior to COVID-19… [but] fast-tracked significantly due to most people working from home. Whilst I believe the traditional suit will not be dead for good, it will be more of an event-driven business rather than for work.”
Patrick Johnson, the world-famous Australian tailor, thinks Australian couturiers will quickly adapt to the growing casualisation in men’s businesswear that 2020 has accelerated.
“We have seen a move to more casual clothing for sure. Also [brands] beefing up their web presence so clients can safely access their wares, and more focus on other technologies they can use to keep in touch with their clients and suppliers. For example, we usually would be running trunk shows all over Asia and the US but are now using technology to communicate with these clients. The great news is there are some fantastic solutions available… I see these as a good stop-gap until we can travel again.”
Compared to many other countries, Australia already has quite a laid-back, egalitarian work environment. We’re not longer strictly confined to the ‘business burqa‘: more casual looks are far more common in the 21st-century Australian workplace. We also benefit from being a season out from the Northern Hemisphere – we can take note of the latest businesswear trends in Europe and try them on ourselves six months later, adapting them to our environment as need be.
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“Australia has always had the luxury of letting the Northern Hemisphere test colours and styles… making the mistakes and highlighting the winners,” Miles Wharton explains.
“[Our] milder temperatures… also offer a more substantial depth in one’s wardrobe. [We don’t] have to worry about 4 seasons and can focus on mainly two or one and a half!”
The flexibility of the Australian wardrobe and our unique climate means the way Australian tailors design and create clothes are very different from those in other parts of the world. It’s a unique skill set and aesthetic: one that will place Australian designers ahead of the curve when it comes to bouncing back from the trials and tribulations of 2020.
“Australian couturiers have a fresh, adaptive and unique approach to everything we do,” Joe Farage proudly relates.
“The world has now woken up to the importance of supporting artisans. With Australia having two significant events this year, first the bush fires, then The Pandemic, I truly believe there has been a very strong shift to supporting our own and shopping for products that are Australian owned or even better, products that are made in Australia.”
“These times have put the focus on where your money is spent and the importance of supporting local,” Wharton concurs.
It’s a no brainer – the best way to keep suit culture alive in this country and to keep on top of trends as a consumer is to purchase suits from local tailors where possible.
The consensus is that while business attire is certainly getting more casual and working from home does threaten the suit somewhat, there will always be a need for a quality suit (or two) in the Australian man’s wardrobe.
“As much as some of us are enjoying working from home, people need the energy of other people, we are social animals and a video call is a poor substitute for a chat at the water cooler. The suit will always have a place,” Patrick Johnson concludes.