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
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.
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.
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