Makers of Melbourne

Welcome to Makers Of Melbourne – the ‘go to’ guide for our technically integrated age.

Makers Of Melbourne has been created to consume and assimilate Melbourne culture. We're male focussed, but not male specific, sorting through the dross to weed out the creative stars, standout events and stylish folk that make this city unique. 

MOM aims to embrace all facets of what makes this city a creative hub. Our aim is to inform without condescending – to keep you abreast of what’s going on without regurgitating Press Releases & to seek out this city’s sub cultures to give our readers the inside scoop on what’s REALLY happening with the people who make Melbourne Melbourne.

Filtering by Tag: Sarina Lewis

Interview: Michael Albert, Smart Alec Hatters


“Hats for me are the completion of an outfit. When everything is considered then it becomes the full-stop at the end of a great sentence.”

                                                                            -       Michael Albert

Two things become fast apparent during a face-to-face meeting with Michael Albert, owner of premier hat store, Smart Alec, on Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street.

Firstly, the man has style, from the tips of today’s red Converse clad toes to the brim of his self-made pork pie hat. And secondly? The self-described “serial dandy” (“I have 30 vintage suits and can go for a whole month without wearing the same shirt twice”) is relentless in his quest to see men leave behind teenage fashion trends and reclaim a complete approach to dressing well.

Michael: “For me introducing men to hats is about championing the cause of a forgotten accessory. I see gentlemen in the street and, no matter how well they are dressed, if there is no hat then I just see something missing.

 

He has no hesitation in calling out lazy fashion choices, having a stern word to men for dressing as boys, and recalling the horror of his partner at over-hearing recent comments he directed toward a baseball cap-wearing browser.

Michael: “I said, ‘You don’t live in a caravan, you’ve got all your teeth – what do you wear a baseball cap for?’ And his wife agreed!”

The one-time artist and builder (“I have made things nearly all my adult life”) stocks head candy from around 10 different manufacturers, though prefers to make the glamorous specials himself: think pirate hats or the traditional fez, smaller run, presumable harder to sell pieces that speak to his more adventurous clientele.

Because for Michael, style is about much more than looking good: it’s about power, reclamation and maintaining an edge against those that would hold you down.

Michael: “As a brown fells in Australia I have used my style to disarm people – they can’t pigeon-hole you and that is to your advantage. And I’d like to think that young and old men are rediscovering that a nice suit is your friend, not an instrument of oppression in the way it was used when I went to a private boys school.”

And, if nothing else, a great hat just might increase your chances with the ladies.

Michael: “I had a lovely Indian man in his 60s come in. He bought a hat, went for a coffee and came back to tell me that the pretty young French waitress said he was perfectly coordinated.”

Not a bad return on investment.

 

 Smart Alec Hatters

235 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.

ph: (03) 9416 4664

e: info@smartalechatters.com.au

Interview: Patrick Martinez

 

“My family were blue collar working people. I didn’t know anyone in galleries or whatever. I use that difference as ammo: to keep working and pushing and keep it honest.”

-       Patrick Martinez

Patrick Martinez

Patrick Martinez

When local shoppers of the Los Angeles-area supermarket, El Tapatio Markets, took to the their ritual visit in October last year, they could have been excused for failing to notice, well, a little subtle redecoration.

Forget a new chocolate display, this was a full-scale, contemporary fine art installation: from the neon works casting subversive comments on life as we have become accustomed to living it, to the mixed media works camouflaged by our own indifference (think a plaster and paint Tupac ‘cake’ slipped in the dessert cool freeze). 

The artist was Patrick Martinez, the exhibition was “Break Bread” and the sentiment is something Makers sits with him to discuss off the back of his compelling Carbon forum as he prepares to return home following a brief visit to Melbourne.

"break bread market installation" - A one day site specific installation in a market context 2013   - Photos by Brandon Shigeta.

"break bread market installation" - A one day site specific installation in a market context 2013

 - Photos by Brandon Shigeta.

In a new art landscape where widespread interest in graffiti is being used by street artists as a launch pad in to an artistic career, Martinez presented as something different: a young artist of incredible focus for whom graffiti simply served as a small step on the climb up the fine art ladder.

Patrick: “The graffiti stuff, it’s place in my art was kind of like putting together a piece with colour and composition and subject: I was doing my drawing, then it was marker drawing and then it was a spray can that I picked up and then I was 22-years-old and always doing canvas work. It’s part of the journey.”

The “journey” is something Patrick has been on since sketching his way through a childhood filled with likeminded artistic family members who, despite their gifts, never succeeded in converting their creative passions (photography for his father, painting and sculpting for his grandfather and uncle) in to viable careers. 

'A dream deferred' - Neon 2013

'A dream deferred' - Neon 2013

But perhaps it was his mother that most influenced him, a woman with a passion for objects that got him thinking about the way we use decoration to construct the set that works as the backdrop to the performance of our lives.

Patrick: “She would buy things that she thought would enhance our house, but it was not quite right – china that was not great or mirrors with frosted bouquets of flowers that were meant to imitate a Rococco frame. She was just trying to work with what she had and that was interesting to me: people really try to dress up their situation and that stuff is inspiring to me if anything.”

Perhaps it’s this genuine curiosity and lack of judgement that (for the most part) saves Patrick’s works from falling victim to cynicism. In its place there is a spirit of the quizzical observer who is keen to present us all with a different perspective on life’s more mundane freeze frames. 

'Bread, butter, milk and eggs' - mixed media on acrylic plex and neon 2012

'Bread, butter, milk and eggs' - mixed media on acrylic plex and neon 2012

Patrick refers to it as keeping his gaze on “the phenomenology of his surroundings”. And it is this idea behind the art – as opposed to the catchy neon light box works that have garnered him such attention – that he prefers to think of as defining his artistic vocabulary.

Patrick: “I understand that right now, with technology, the neons are easy to digest. The internet is visual. It’s a perfect square to fit instagram which, as a medium, just kills for that stuff. It’s seductive. Having said that what I find interesting is the way that social media and the internet just gets it and multiplies it. But it’s not really my signature.”

So while we’re all busy regraming his incisive commentary – Pawn Your Dream For A 9-5 – Patrick is birthing his next powerful expression.

'Tough love' - Melted down hand guns, hard plastic, metal (bow) automotive paint with flake and clear 2012

'Tough love' - Melted down hand guns, hard plastic, metal (bow) automotive paint with flake and clear 2012

Patrick: “I love to be in my studio and just have my ideas and some of them are set and some of them come at me and I am taken aback – I will have to work on that piece.  Right now I’m working on an eight-foot by sixteen-foot piece and it’s huge but I had to stop because I was slammed by inspiration for another piece, and then I’m also working an a sculpture right now. It’s just about continuing to create and find that relationship in what it is I’m creating.

'Savage Journey To The American Dream' - mixed media on plex and neon 2012

'Savage Journey To The American Dream' - mixed media on plex and neon 2012

Interview: Mark McNairy

“I’m trying to make things for people who think for themselves.”

- Mark McNairy

Mark McNairy is a contradiction in terms. He is a designer who expresses discomfort with the term, a man of incredible brand pulling power who is distrustful of conventional brand models, an artist (though he would no doubt dispute the term) operating in a commercial world.

It’s mid-morning when Makers catches up with him at the Blackman Hotel in advance of his appearance at Carbon Festival, Mark having flown in from New York via Hong Kong the night before.

He is quick to profess his unease around interviews, and says Saturday’s public speaking engagement will be among his first (a challenge to his “fear” of the format): but while clearly uncomfortable at being in the spotlight, his reticence shields a clear and authentic creative purpose.

Mark: “I’m basically making things for myself. To me, it’s not a business and I’m lucky that I can make a living by my hobby.”

It’s more than good PR speak. He tells the tale of his first collaboration, a shoe design for Keds, the Dunlop Volley of American footwear culture. There’s a genuine smile as he recalls the project.

Mark: “For me to have my name on a sneaker that I had when I was a kid, that was the ultimate. And that’s how it started.”

The “it” Mark refers to is his prolific schedule of collaborations that operate alongside footwear and clothing releases under his Mark McNairy New Amsterdam label. Along with the current marriage with Woolrich, Adidas and Pharrell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club have been joint projects with retailer Club Monaco, shoe brand Bass and American optical company Garrett Leight among others.

Mark: “I have too many ideas for my own collections. When I had my company McNairy Brothers before working with J.Press I was known as Mr Sample by my business partners because I made way too many things. I hate working with plans; my brain doesn’t work that way. Tell me to design 12 things and it’s the 13th thing that could be great. I make what I want and they can edit.”

Invariably, what Mark wants is what the world will be clamouring to wear. His design style is typified by a reworking of the classics. Take the latest collection, where wool suits were made street-ready through a relaxation of the fit and a roll of the trouser cuff, while grey pinstriped pants were given a casual edge courtesy of subtle cargo pockets.

It’s for this reason that he professes to a lingering discomfort with the term “design” being applied to what he does. He insists he is a “maker”. Certainly the word implies a more organic process, an impression Mark strengthens by admitting he can rarely switch off from the ideas that bombard his brain. (He carries a pen and paper always.)

The notion carries through when time comes to talk branding, the topic of the Carbon forum Mark is joining in on. Interesting, then, that he appears to barely believe in the term.

A lot of what should be written next was taken off the record by Mark, who is clearly torn by his desire to remain true to his creative urges while navigating the necessities of commerce. The question is thus: how to steer clear of the pitfalls of becoming a corporate fashion juggernaut (a fate that has befallen many a once-cool fashion house) as the demand for his designs increase?

Mark doesn’t answer the question except to highlight his disdain for the brands that have walked that path before him. One gets the strong feeling it’s a journey he won’t be taking.

Mark: “I know you’re supposed to have an end goal but I still don’t. I just make things. I make things for people who can think for themselves. I learned through trial and error never to put all my eggs in one basket, which is why I’ve got a good thing going now with the different collaborations. I guess I just care too much (to sell-out) and, in the end, that’s a good thing.”

Interview: Stanislava Pinchuk

It’s not an exaggeration to suggest Stanislava Pinchuk is one of those artists who represents Melbourne as we love to imagine the city to be: daring, cultured, intelligent, interesting and wholly unique. The woman who began as a graffiti artist gracing the city with her ethereal, large-scale illustrations pasted to brick walls and doorways has moved on, while retaining (at least in spirit) the tag that informed her earlier work – M-I-S-O.

 Makers of Melbourne catches her on a sunny weekday morning just as news of the worsening crisis in her familial homeland of Ukraine hits the wires. It seems a world away from the quiet green of her plant-filled, seventh-floor studio within the iconic Nicholas building.

 But Stanislava knows the falsity of geographic distance: the world is an increasingly small space and it is artists like her who transcend language and culture through their art that help make us aware of our connectedness.

 She is broad in her reach, travelling frequently, spending months at a time in Tokyo and soon to fly to Paris to work on a book project with likeminded ‘creatives’. At 25 she is an artist on the make, a figure to watch who is breaking ground right in the heart of our city. In the midst of this busy schedule, she took time out to have a brief chat.

Can you talk us through a little bit of your progression as an artist: the development of you from a graffiti artist to the place where you now find yourself?

I'm not sure if it was really like that – I always drew and did a lot of things in between. Graffiti was just one thing I did between many others, so it wasn't such a linear progression. Unfortunately, it was just something that had to drop off after a few really gross legal experiences. One day I'll come back to working in public and, hopefully, illegally – just at the right time and place. 

 You also take a very freehand approach to tattooing, doing it by hand: it seems there is a really strong marriage between this arm of your art and the pin prick works you are increasingly becoming known for.

Yes, absolutely – it's pretty much the same technique, hammering holes in one by one. Both require the same fastidiousness and precision, so both are unforgiving if you make a mistake. It's just a question of wearing one with you wherever you go, as opposed to having it housed in a museum or home. 

To me, both mediums are very much a reference to what is historically understood as 'women's work' – things like embroidery or lacemaking. Like the pinhole works, they are technically difficult and physically demanding mediums that work to produce something quite subtle and beautiful. I think as skills that they are pretty undervalued.

Tattooing to me has always been a really similar idea: in most cultures with ritual tattoo it is most often women tattooing other women within the community. To me, it plays so much with the tension between physical pain, technical demand, and decoration and beauty. 

The Nicholas building is such an iconic space in the city's arts scene - what is it like for you to have a studio in that space as an artist? How does it fuel your inspiration?

I really, really love the Nicholas – it feels like a beehive, and you never know who you will bump into in here. It's a pretty special place, and it's got some really amazing, weird tenants. I'm pretty versatile, and can work anywhere – so I'm not sure if it fuels any inspiration directly – but it's definitely good to bump into the friends I have in this building and visit each others' studios, swap tools and talk shop. 

 Tell us about the relationships you have with some of the past and present artists in the building - you mentioned that your studio once belonged to Vali Myers?

Yes, my studio once belonged to Vali. I never knew her, but I'm a huge, huge fan. It sort of ended up mine by accident. But it's so wonderful and I get the best visitors – Vali's friends coming up and just hanging out and telling me stories. Funny, smart, totally free people: the best company. It's the greatest thing to inherit with a studio. I feel pretty lucky. 

Where do you spend your downtime in Melbourne - which parts of the city do you most relate to?

Fitzroy! To be honest, I barely get any downtime, so when I do it happens in my own neighbourhood. I've lived here for a really long time, and it's hard to imagine ever moving. Usually it's drinks and chess at my friend Andre's studio, or at The Napier pub; it's a real gem, and I hope it never changes.

Interview: George Glasgow Cleverley Jr

“We are the shoemakers’ shoemaker.”

                                        -       George Glasgow Cleverley Jr

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It may be a cliché, but in this case it is a hard one to avoid: certainly whatever the heir apparent to G.J Cleverley, George Glasgow Cleverley Jr, does not know about bespoke shoemaking is – inarguably – hardly worth knowing.

He arrives in Melbourne hot off the back of Los Angeles’ Oscars week, having fitted a host of big name entertainers for the event, as is attested by his attendance at the legendary Vanity Fair Oscars party in the week before our chat. Yet George Jr is far from starry eyed – being part of a family company that once shod Winston Churchill, working with the likes of LA luminaries must be par for the course.

As the company’s chief executive and creative director, the near 30-year-old (“I’m 30 next month”) carries both the legacy and the knowledge of more than a half-century of English craftsmanship in his head. Makers of Melbourne chat to him during a 48-hour fly-in visit to fit his bespoke Melbourne clients out of Fitzroy’s Double Monk, the representative of a family business in an industry that has few left to speak of.

George: “We are one of the last family run shoe businesses out there: Church’s is now owned by Prada, Berluti is run by the LVMH group. It’s just my father and I. Our shoes are made the same way as they were 100 years ago. We do the process by hand, drawing around the feet of our customer and taking 15 or 20 measurements. The shoes take six months to reach the fitting stage and it’s really like a drug – once they’ve ordered a pair they always come back for more.”

Needless to say the hefty price tag (bespoke shoes run upward of AUS$5000) means the company’s relationship with the rich and famous is much in evidence.

Alexander McQueen wore a pair of Cleverley boots when he was knighted by the Queen of England and the more loyal clients each have their own style named for them: among them the Chow (a streamlined monk named for American restaurateur Michael Chow), and the Churchill (no explanation needed).

George flips David Beckham’s wooden block in his hands as we talk – the mould around which the soccer star’s shoes are formed.

George: “I’ve been in this business by default forever. My Dad is 63 and he’s been in shoes since he was 15. I was 17 or 18 when I got my first pair. They were Chelsea boots in black calf. I still have them, which is not unusual for a Cleverley shoe – in New York we had a guy who came in wearing a pair that was made in 1968.”

He is justifiably proud of the heritage, citing theirs as the shoe brand of choice for designers the world over, from Ralph Lauren to the CEO of Bulgari.

George: “My Dad always used to say to me that you should always spend the most amount of money on your shoes and on your bed, because if you’re not in one, you’re in the other.”

GJ Cleverley




Makers Of Melbourne Fashion Panel - VAMFF Cultural Event

Makers of Melbourne kicked off its annual series of men’s style discussions with a bang on Tuesday night, hosting tailoring, literature, design and arts luminaries from London, New York, Melbourne and Sydney – each with a unique take on the historical, social and cultural context of men’s fashion.

Journalist Sarina Lewis from Makers Of Melbourne moderated the style panel discussion, 'Fashion Maketh The Man', hosted by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), as part of the 2014 Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival cultural program.

Panelists included Roger Leong, curator fashion and textiles from the National Gallery of Victoria; Sydney-based bespoke tailor John Cutler; fashion and denim designer Roy Christou; celebrity stylist Philip Boon; plus online via Skype, author of 'The Coat Route' Meg Lukens Noonan (USA), and from Grenson shoes, Tim Little (UK).

A few curious facts we took away from the 90-minute panel discussion:

1.     Man’s current obsession with body sculpting finds an echo in the original Dandies who padded the breast and shoulders of their suits to provide the classic ‘V’ shape, a look to denote masculinity.

2.     The term ‘bespoke’ originates from the traditional idea that a fabric has been spoken for by a client – be+spoke. It is much more than the idea of made-to-measure, pointing to a relationship and exchange between tailor and client.

3.     Buttons changed, not only approaches to tailoring, but the very fabric of society: the importance of children in the modern family is said to have occurred as a direct result of reduced baby mortality rates courtesy of clothing and blankets that could be buttoned for extra warmth. Apparently we only grew attached when we knew we could keep ‘em alive!

Keep abreast as Makers of Melbourne continues throughout the year to profile the cultural cogs in the Melbourne landscape – personalities that influence how we dress, and how we think of ourselves and our city.

 

 

Interview: Roger Leong

“Every generation wants to define itself against the previous generation. Men of my age have been wearing jeans for decades and the younger generation wanted to find themselves against that. So they won’t wear jeans – they will dress up. And that’s really where we are seeing the popularity of the Neo-Dandy movement.”

-       Roger Leong

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A conversation with Roger Leong, NGV Curator Fashion and Textiles, offers a serious fashion education. Forget paying thousands for trend forecasting: the man who has spent his professional life studying fashion in an historical context knows that, when it comes to trends, it all stems from where it’s been before.

Roger: “It’s a really difficult thing to say why certain fashion’s become popular, but it is certain that fashions return – and that the cycle of men’s fashion is much longer than women’s fashion. But of all the fashion that has come and gone, my favourite era is definitely the first half of the 19th Century.”

Roger describes it as “the Pride and Prejudice period”, when men moved from wearing opulent embroidered silks draped in less sophisticated cuts (“often in fabrics more elaborate than that which was worn by the women”) to embracing the idea that clothing should enhance the male form through pattern cutting and manipulation of cloth.

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Roger: “Tailoring for men walked hand-in-hand with a growing interest in athleticism – an interest in disciplining the body and creating a well-built, muscular frame, an idea that hadn’t existed before.”

He points to George Bryan “Beau” Brummell as the movement’s key personality, a man who modelled himself on Greek statues, who focussed on the fit of his clothes from the exact proportion of a pocket to the width of a lapel.

For Roger, this is where the current landscape of men’s fashion finds its most direct connection.

Roger: “That early era of tailoring really was about the refinement of the craft and I don’t think really fundamentally that things have changed much since then.”

Roger Leong, Curator – NGV International Fashion and Textiles.

 

 

Interview: Alex Cox


“We are seeing a real trend with athletes pushing style boundaries and that has changed the mindset of the common man in how they relate to fashion.”

-       Alex Cox

Alex Cox is something of a champion for the cause of men’s fashion in Melbourne. As client development manager for Events Melbourne, it was in part under his jurisdiction that 2013’s inaugural Mr event (as part of Melbourne Spring Fashion Week) was born. The idea was simple: to give men the chance to cluster around the fashion stage, so often an arena presumed to be the domain of women.

Alex: “We appreciate that a lot of people within the industry have a passion for design and for fashion, but the average city worker also wants a way to get in to that space and learn a little more and that’s what Mr was all about. It gave us the chance to educate in a more general way.”

It’s an interest Alex sees as growing, in large part as a result of the trend of NBA and NBL athletes taking to the style scene with the same panache as they once dominated the hip hop space. Think Russell Westbrook with his geek chic approach or Kevin Durant with his penchant for preppie sweaters and slim silhouettes.

Alex: “Maybe the common guy has always had an interest in fashion but has not known how to take the next step and that’s where these athletes have given them a nudge. The pursuit of style no longer feels like a feminine thing.”

Men’s style blogs, too, he believes, have helped to give men’s fashion a much stronger street presence.

Alex: “These are real people – not models on the run way – and it gives guys a lot of different touch points. It’s a space where they can take away elements of other people’s fashion and apply it to themselves.”

The scope for entertaining the male population’s growing fascination with fashion and the accompanying demand for education is, he says, what will ensure that the Spring Fashion Week Mr event will continue to remain a highly anticipated event for the men of Melbourne.

Story: Sarina Lewis

Melbourne Spring Fashion Week: Mr Event

Interview: Tom Riley

“Tailoring is a European tradition. In Italy men have that history of wearing tailored clothing and fitting it well. We are trying to cultivate that here – to change the way men dress in Australia so it’s not so contrived and highly orchestrated. It is a gentler way of wearing tailoring. Not so robotic.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                       - Tom Riley

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Wine making is not the normal career path taken by most professional tailors. But then Tom Riley is perhaps not someone often referred to as a traditionalist. He is young, for a start. At 35 he is not possessed of the grey hair or black-rimmed specs often attributed to the cliché.

As he describes it, the switch from the vineyards of Penfolds to the secluded South Melbourne outpost of P Johnson Tailors is a natural transition.

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Tom: “In wine you kind of balance and compose something and in tailoring you balance and compose something, so it is really just a general interest in finery and aesthetics. There are a lot of layers to both professions. They are both complex and aesthetically oriented.  They both inspire travel – which I love – and they are both very European centric in sentiment and origin.”

The last is a salient point, particularly given Tom’s view on Australian men’s fashion. He laments a tradition of suiting here that he sees as being in contrast to our lifestyle and climate and – along with his friend and mentor Patrick Johnson – hopes to inspire the men of Melbourne to embrace a little Southern Italian style.

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Tom: “Southern Italy has a softer, sportier, even a bit sexier approach with light weight colours and very light weight construction. It’s a prime example showing suits don’t require being utterly formal. That you can wear some of these things with trainers and driving shoes, all the way through to a finer brogue.”

Ultimately Tom is hoping to see the men of Melbourne apply a little less effort. It is a cultural shift – a thought process that needs to evolve so a softly structured suit becomes as familiar as the more relaxed pant and shirt combo. Tom has faith the wheel will turn.

Tom: “If a guy dresses naturally they will look better and wear it better. It’s about being sensual with the cloth and the cut without being uptight or overly orchestrated. There are a lot of good dressers out there, but I think the standard could lift a little bit.”

- Sarina Lewis

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