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.

Interview: Mike O'Meally

“If you’re good you put your neck on the line – that’s when it shows.”

 - Mike O’Meally

It’s a Sunday afternoon when Makers sits down for an impromptu interview with Sydney-born photographer, Mike O’Meally.

We’re sitting in the front row of RMIT’s Storey Hall where the lensman has just wrapped up a powerful closing speech at the 2014 Carbon Festival. It’s been a challenge separating the artist from a large group of assorted skaters and hangers-on, but with the help of a lone publicist we’ve managed to wrangle the New York-based snapper on to an empty chair.

Working in the industry for 20 years (including a long running stint as the senior photographer for ‘Transworld Magazine’), this 40-year-old’s pictures of professional skateboarders and boxers have received critical acclaim in the art world: he was the subject of a one-man retrospective exhibition late last year at Sydney’s China Heights Gallery, no mean feat for a photographer who began his career operating firmly within the trenches of sporting subculture.

Bobby Puleo Brooklyn, NYC June 2001.

Bobby Puleo Brooklyn, NYC June 2001.

O’Meally holds a firm gaze as we begin talk about his career, a look that makes immediately evident he is a man who doesn’t suffer fools.

“I’m a tough cookie,” he states by way of introduction. “Come on, I can take it.”

Raised in a strong Irish Catholic household, Mike began playing sports at an early age, encouraged by his father.

 Mike: “My dad would play Irish war songs on a Saturday morning as I was getting ready for football practise.”

He picked up a skateboard during his teenage years and, later, enrolled in Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales. It was the beginning of a marriage of passions.

 Family, love and war are all strong themes in the photographer’s daily life, serving as both the foundation of his person and the inspiration behind much of his photography.

 Mike: “There are some others that I tap into with my work, but they’re pretty strong ones.”

Broadway & Astor Place, NYC September 2001

Broadway & Astor Place, NYC September 2001

As we settle further into our chat, it becomes obvious that the skateboarding community has become an extended family for the often-itinerant photographer.

 Mike: “With skateboarding, the skaters are constantly putting their physical wellbeing on the line and you have to earn their trust. You spend a lot of time with them, apart from actually taking their pictures and skating. You have to become a rogue family in some ways.”


Being able to earn the trust of his subjects and put them at ease means that all of O’Meally’s work displays a real sense of what the father of photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson, describes as “the decisive moment”. Documenting not only the world of skateboarding, but his travels to countries as diverse as Egypt, South Africa & throughout the USA, O’Meally’s images stand out not only for their composition, but because he seems to be looking for real meaning in the way people react to their environment & to each other.

He breaks eye contact to check the phone softly buzzing in his pocket. “Sorry, that’s my mate,” he tells us by way of explanation. “How much more do you need, two minutes, five minutes? He’s got a beer waiting for me.”

 It’s the perfect excuse to wrap things up with the artist, an interview challenged by his intensity and cock-sure confidence. As we gather our belongings we ask for one final quote.

 Mike: “Hold your pistol, shoot straight. There’s a good quote for you. As a photographer you’ve got to shoot straight and love your subject.” 

And with that he’s off, ready to join the rogue family that is both the support and focus of his photographic artistry.

Jason Jessee gets dragged by a '50 Ford, San Diego

Jason Jessee gets dragged by a '50 Ford, San Diego


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

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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: George Glasgow Cleverley Jr

“We are the shoemakers’ shoemaker.”

                                        -       George Glasgow Cleverley Jr

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



Interview: Christopher Pickings

“Global economics and the way things are happening in the world are changing people’s perceptions on what quality is. People are wanting to see the craft, to see an actual basis of quality behind something that’s expensive.”

                                                        -       Christopher Pickings

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Legitimacy is written all over Chris Pickings. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he looks every bit the retro incarnation of the old-school butcher’s son, outfitted in his heavy denim and William Lennon boots, a living expression of the working class style encapsulated in his new men’s store, Pickings & Parry.

But – unlike so many of today’s tattooed, moustache-twirling set – Chris proves the rare exception: a person less possessed of romantic notions of nostalgia than a man preserving the legacy of a family that continues to espouse the traditional values of a bygone era. 

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Chris: “My grandfather was a train driver who became a butcher with a shop in a village called East Boldon, a business that my father took over, that my mother ran until she passed away six years ago and that my sister and I continue to run. It makes no money but it’s been in the family for 60 years, it employs people, and so we keep it.”

His words reveal much, of both his working class roots and the strength of character run through with a seam of integrity that serves as the foundation of his personality – a characteristic that harks back to his grandfather’s time. 

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Perhaps it was the early death of his father that instilled such strong personal values: lost to him at the age of 10, Chris spent his teenage years absorbing the legacy that was left to him, continually flicking through his father’s collection of ‘60s motoring magazines and adopting his wardrobe of leather jackets as a way of being close.

It is easy to imagine all those years of immersion have found themselves expressed in Chris’ store, a showcase of classic work wear styles given a modern twist. And all of it set against a backdrop of old-school barber’s chairs, shears humming to the buzz of the 50-year-old Faema E61 coffee machine on the shop counter.

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Chris: “The store is a working class gentleman’s club and I guess that’s what I’m trying to recreate – to change the buying culture back to that idea of working hard for the money and spending it on good things that last.”

He points to his aforementioned William Lennon boots.

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Chris: “These have been made in the same way for 100 years and the great granddaughter of the founder is still the sales person for the company. It’s the same family, the same factory, the same nailed soles.”

For Chris it appears there really is no compromise and you can’t help but feel his last are words imbued with more than a little personal meaning.

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Chris: “In the past people would think nothing of buying a Louis Vuitton handbag just because of what it was, not caring how it was made and where it was made. But that’s like an empty promise. If you buy something that is going to age with you and you can hand it on to your kids… well, those are the things that have a connection to who you are.”

Pickings & Parry

126 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

ph: (03) 9417 3390

e: info@pickingsandparry.com

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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: Nicholas Jones

It’s very much for me that inspiration comes in many forms and as the result of different prompts along the way – literature or music or architecture. Certain things will peak my interest and then I might work away from that.

                                                  -  Nicholas Jones

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Stepping in to the studio of artist Nicholas Jones in Melbourne’s historic Nicholas Building is a little like stepping back in time, and one gets the feeling that’s exactly the way he likes it. A ‘creative’ of stunning originality, Nicholas has made his name birthing beautiful sculptures fashioned from books: delicate, origami-like configurations; elaborate cut-outs; whimsical interpretations of page and word.

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Nicholas: “I was doing a sculpture and fine arts degree at the VCA when, during the third year, I had a total artistic block. That’s when I started playing with books and that’s it really.”

That was 1997. All those years on and his studio is a treasure trove of old and second hand tomes. His latest exhibition focuses on the idea of imagined lands, the result of a fascination with maps and cartography fed by his viewing of one of the first Atlases ever published – a 16th century example of cartography he was lent access to by the State Library.

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Nicholas: “There has always been an attraction to history and the evolution of information and how books are often rendered obsolete five or ten years after being published. Recently my interest has been focussed on the idea of an imagined land – Atlantis or Xanadu – those places where there is something unknown. I find that really enthralling.”

Fashion, too, has formed a part of his art by virtue of its importance to his sense of person, a trait he inherited from his always-elegant mother.

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Nicholas: “Part of the work that I make is about collection and going to markets and finding certain things and that also happens with fashion, with finding something different. It ties in with that idea of presenting yourself, being a curator of style as well as a collector of objects.”

He expresses his love for the notion of a “uniform”, seen in his preference for boots and the moustache he has carried for 20 years. Not to mention his love of timeless fashions bought when the artistic wage was supplemented by a second career: a beautiful Lanvin shirt, a Balenciaga jumper, Pierre Hardy shoes.

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Down and out is clearly not a style choice for this artist, clad as he is in a favoured pair of Crockett & Jones.

Nicholas: “My grandmother still wears high heels at 82.”

He smiles. Expect no less.

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Nicholas Jones’ current exhibition, A Conspiracy of Cartographers, is on show at the State Library in the Dome Reading Room.

www.bibliopath.org

e: bibliopath@gmail.com


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

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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.”

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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.

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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: Brendan Mitchell and James Barrett - Up There Store

“Every man needs a good pair of jeans, a good pair of chinos, classic oxford shirts and white tee shirts. From that point, you can pretty much get dressed with your eyes closed.”

-       Brendan Mitchell and James Barrett

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It’s been three years since Brendan Mitchell and James Barrett decided that Melbourne’s men’s fashion scene was possessed of an Up There shaped hole in the retail landscape. Alumni of the sneaker scene (with a brief pit-stop spent working Paul Smith), the duo established their nirvana in an airy, second level laneway hideyhole, determined to bring quality men’s fashion to seekers of style.

Brendan: “We travelled a lot and saw stores around the world we loved but not everything in one location. We felt the only way we could get there would be to do it ourselves.”

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Consequently the guys are focussed on brands scented with a whiff of exclusivity, alongside a strong serve of quality: think limited edition, US-made New Balance and first imprint Converse sitting next to UK brand Tender and Co (“one guy, all handmade and hand dyed; he pretty much just makes clothes he wants to wear”) and Copenhagen’s Norse Projects.

The product mix speaks to their desire to see Melbourne men embrace style and practicality.

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Brendan: “Melbourne men have nailed black. But colour is good if you know how to wear it – just makes sure its tasteful. Wear appropriate outfits: sneakers and suits do not go.”

James: “And dress appropriate to the weather. If it’s cold outside wear a jacket – not a tee shirt and thongs. We see ourselves as educators: sell them the basics and they get comfortable with fashion, then can come back to look for shirts with more pattern and detail.”

Hook ‘em in with the Japanese made, Up There designed white shirt, elevate ‘em up the style totem pole with a Yuki Matsuda-designed three-piece camouflage suit. All in a day’s work for the boys at Up There.

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Story: Sarina Lewis

Up There Store

Level 1 11/15 McKillop Street, Melbourne

p: 03 9670 6225

e: info@uptherestore.com

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Interview: Thom Grogan

“It’s giving a nod to a fairly classic way of living and dressing, taking care of your appearance without it being over-worked or pretentious. It’s a fairly blue collar attitude as far as a $1000 pair of shoes goes.”

-       Thom Grogan

Thom Grogan, one of the partners behind café and men’s emporium Captains of Industry, gives a wry smile as he says the last, conscious that the ideas of “blue collar” and $1000 shoes presents as a jarring misnomer. But the essence of what he is referencing is there: this desire on the part of a particular consumer to return to the ideals that dominated until the boom times following World War II – that clothing and shoes should be built to last, a necessary investment during a time when disposable income was, for the majority, an impossible ideal. 

Thom: “Right now there is an increasingly larger appetite and audience for products with a traceable history. People are wanting to know where a product comes from and then invest in that – buying pieces that won’t be chucked out for next season, destined to become landfill.”

It’s an approach that translates from food, to clothing and shoes to personal maintenance. Thom and partner Alan Beverley have cleverly played upon demand, pulling together a classically trained barber, shoemaker and denim designer to share space with the café. (The tattoo artist upstairs just sweetens the deal.) Melbourne men are clearly appreciative of their efforts.

Thom: “We find there is a lot of cross-over; Sam the barber is booked out everyday and guys come in for a coffee before going up to get tattooed or buying a pair of shoes. It’s a very traditional way of functioning and it’s appealing to all demographics, from hipster kids to city lawyers and QCs. It has a lot of familiar elements to a lot of people.”

Ultimately Thom views the shift with appreciation, aware that there is still a significant proportion of the Australian male population unsure of how to approach the idea of personal style.

Thom: “We are one of the only countries in the world that you can wear the same thing at 7 years-old as at 70, and it’s not that there’s anything wrong with that… but there is…”

He laughs when he says it. Looks like Captains still has some market share to grab, yet.

Captains of Industry

Level 1/2 Somerset Place, Melbourne.

ph: 9670 4405

Story: Sarina Lewis

Interview: Philip Boon

“A stylish man has to be unique. I’ve been on best-dressed lists over the years and I think they tend to be very generic and put up only one kind of look. I truly think a stylish person is someone who is not afraid to stand out.”

-       Philip Boon

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The rain is teeming as Philip Boon ducks in to a high-end bike store-cum-café on Commercial Road. We shake it off, ordering tea as he laments his show of footwear: a pair of vintage army surplus military boots. Disappointing stand-ins, he frowns, for the Comme de Garcons black ankle boot he would have worn had the weather not, well, rained on his parade. A former fashion designer, one-time PR industry notary and, for the past 16 years, a stylist to the stars, Philip has a unique insight in to what rates (and what doesn’t) on the fashion radar.

Philip: “My grandmother used to say you always dress from the shoes up, and Melbourne men are doing that. I like that we are seeing more colour; that men are looking to tans and greens. And I think that navy shoes, at the moment, are amazing.”

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Stand out fashion gets a big tick from this creative director and stylist, who is free in his admiration for avant-garde dresser, Richard Nylon.

Philip: “He’s totally over the top and most people find him freakish and scary but – for the average man – that is really the final frontier: to get over the need to conform. The Dandies have always been the best dressers in history because they are not afraid to stand out.”

Still, that doesn’t mean there are no limits. For Philip, the idea of a white shoe that is not a trainer is possibly a step too far.

Philip: “I bought a pair in 2001 and ended up having to spray paint them silver (he laughs). There are possibly exceptions, for men with good physiques and very simple, clean lines of clothing.”

You have been warned.

Story: Sarina Lewis

 

Philip Boon - Creative Director & Stylist

Represented by: missbossyboot.com.au/philipboon

Follow Philip Boon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Thanks to  à bloc Bicycles

 

Interview: Huw Bennett

“For us it’ about bringing back a bit of sensibility in to the way men dress, working out what defines a real man’s wardrobe in our eyes and then putting our efforts to interpreting that look through the style scope of our brand.”

                                                                         -       Huw Bennett

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Huw Bennett laughs a little when, on the phone from Sydney, he takes the time to explain how Vanishing Elephant was birthed six years ago. The one-time business studies student, who dropped out of university to pursue an internship at David Jones, found the vision for his own company shaped through early years working “the rag trade”: from time spent at Mambo following its buy out, to his days at Ksubi, watching how guys with great ideas and great execution could still lose their way.

Huw: “We had thoughts that we could do something else – something that wasn’t on offer – by producing shoes with an aspirational look about them but with a price point that was affordable and realistic. It’s a minor cliché, but basically shoes with soul that used good quality materials that are ethically sourced (we know where all our leather comes from) that weren’t going to be English or Italian or American made.”

Initially occupied with wardrobe staples – think desert boots and derbys – VE was encouraged by its initial success to reach further, making play with texture and colour. He admits their designs often walk a fine line (when does ‘more’ become ‘too much’) but sees the Australian men’s market is increasingly more receptive to reaching a little further, though variations between Sydney and Melbourne do show themselves.

Huw: “I think Melbourne men have always been a little bit more adventurous with what they will wear especially with shoes. Sydney will probably embrace a trend more fully, but whether that’s better is debatable. I guess in the end people dress better for the seasons in Melbourne because they understand what the seasons are – having a great knit or coat – and that’s a style aspect I am only recently seeing in Sydney.”

He just hopes the current fashion return to sportswear doesn’t see Aussie guys fall back in to the “comfortable” hole of dagginess they have begun to crawl out of. Currently going back to beautiful basics with a focus on interesting leather and classic shapes, VE will continue to do its best to provide a stylish alternative.

Story: Sarina Lewis

Vanishing Elephant

www.vanishingelephant.com

Shop 14, Albert Coates Lane (QV Building) Melbourne

ph: 03 9639 3869

e: qv@vanishingelephant.com

 

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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 an 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 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 life a little bit.”

 

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Interview: Theo Hassett

Theo: “I stopped by Oliver Moore’s in New York late last year and they had a dusty shelf down the back with shoes that may have been gifted back to the makers once the client died, or perhaps when they had no use for them. They’d all been well worn and the making was just incredible…I spent hours in there photographing the details. I walked down Madison Ave past Berluti…Lobb…to me, nothing came close.

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There is a growing discernment of quality and craftsmanship in Melbourne. It is a discernment that extends its tendrils into many things, digestible or inanimate. Theo Hassett is a bespoke shoemaker. It is his job, in attempting to craft the highest quality shoes possible, to be as discerning as he can be. There are no shortcuts in the process and no compromises that will not go unnoticed in a pair of bespoke shoes. For their owners, they are the things they are stepping into and out of, wearing them for hours, days, weeks, years and potentially decades. Van Gogh painted them worn and battered after years of wear with due appreciation. They are something to digest.

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I walk the set of stairs up to the first level of the Captains of Industry building to visit Theo. It’s an unassuming entrance. The café is operating in the bustle of the day. His workshop is through a crevice of a door flanked by a white ladder displaying belts, wallets and finished shoes. For over three years of work in this place, Theo has proven that if you can make good work out of a demand that is only increasing, there is an opportunity to exist and thrive.

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Interview: Annie Abbot

“When I’m in Italy and am over there taking snaps of all the shoes then posting them online, people back home are just fascinated by that. I think we in Melbourne are just so curious with an appreciation of the craftsmanship that goes in to making shoes – more than clothes. As an object of wear there is so much presence in that three dimensional form.”

-       Annie Abbott

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We are early to a mid-morning appointment in High Street, Armadale, the location of shoemaker Annie Abbott’s latest retail space. But she is too busy to stop: the clients that have become devoted to her bright takes on classic brogue. loafer and Chelsea shapes are keeping her attention well occupied. Eventually she breaks, taking the time to talk before a scheduled trip to Italy the next morning.

 

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Annie: “What is Melbourne fashion? It’s about an embrace of new design and new designers. We are celebrated more here than in other cities. People like a point of difference and they like to get in to the fibre of where something’s coming from.” Annie retells her story: her years buying at Net-A-Porter when the online behemoth was but a start-up. Her time spent in production for an Australian footwear company. Her desire to strike out on her own, building the types of shoes she knew Melbourne would go made for under her Habbot brand. Shoes that are finely detailed, elegant but wearable.

It’s this aesthetic she sees being played out by Melbourne men as they embrace their individuality and up the style stakes.

 

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Annie: “There’re two things going on. First is an Italian approach – that relaxed but tailored approach that has purpose and intention. Nice shirts and relaxed pants finished with a good dress shoe. The other is a kind of preppy-ness in an awesome framed glasses, crazy Victor Rolf kind of way; a bit more quirky ended with a brogue or Chelsea boot.”

The common theme, as Annie sees it, is in the personalisation. Taking a story and making it ones own with personality that is playfully and thoughtfully inserted. The result of a citywide style confidence that the men of Melbourne possess in spades.

Habbot

www.habbotstudios.com

1011 High Street, Armadale; Royal Arcade Bourke Street Mall.

ph: 03 9822 8484

e: shop@habbotstudios.com

 

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Interview: Jess Wooten

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The fragmentation of production in modern assembly lines has evolved since the Industrial Revolution. To think of the T-Model Ford being produced with the locality of the sources for most of its working components, compared to a Holden Commodore, made up of parts produced thousands of different hands and eyes from all over the world, signals a deeper type of splintering.

I meet Jess Cameron Wootten at the start of a working weekday, after he has just opened the door to Wootten Cordwainers. My eyes trace around the gallery-esque white walls of the retail space adjacent to his workshop. It's usually open on the weekends only, with all the production happening in the workshop within the days closed. Today is an exception, for a little while.

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It's not long before we, as two shoemakers in our own right, embark on discussing the existence of his Australian shoemaking business that produces its shoes totally in house. Jess trained as an industrial designer prior to pursuing his dream of Wootten, developing the upholstery materials and working within a portion of the interior of their cars. The desire to be more connected to a product, to be more invested in the sum of its components, compelled him to birth Wootten. He says he ew tired o enlost in the sea of anonymity and at times invisibility within the company.

I find that it's difficult not to be political when it comes to things that defy the common-sense of the modern capitalist market. Why should one avoid being political too,  when the logic of keeping costs low and output high thwarts many visions from succeeding as ideas versus economics?

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"I guess you could call it adaptation rather than submission, what we do here" Jess answers mesays. Jess' own father worked a long time ago for the Bulgarian master shoemaker, George Koleff and today Jess continues the tradition of craft through Wootten. Here in Prahran he has assembled a miniature production line, employing three shoemakers, as well as overseeing and contributing to the major stages of construction of the footwear. As much as possible while retaining the level of quality required for his shoes, he sources local materials, but he notes at the rarity of them and also of the equipment required to produce shoes in a factory setting. "There is a true shortage of the machinery itself required to produce shoes here in Melbourne- most of it has left in containers landing to equip overseas factories with things that we used to do here."

I queried him on how he feels about taking shortcuts in the shoemaking process to minimise production time. "There are things that you simply can't fake and even if you do it's going to show up later down the track" He says to me, with a committed look. It runs deeper to attention to detail. The black burnishing of a toe on a pair of dark brown brogues may also need some dark brown and burgundy wax in the burnishing to give it its subtle aesthetic beauty. There are many reasons why handmade shoes will always have more appeal.

Jess is aware that in order to survive in the present consumer environment, where shoes largely prevail as disposable items, his main concern within a role that is usually acquainted with producing a low volume of finished products, is to produce an adequate quantity of shoes to make the business expandable.  His father's approach as the bespoke shoemaker, hand stitching every thread involved and taking every slow way possible, has been shown to Jess to be more worrisome and exhausting in today's environment. "It doesn't mean that those ways are entirely excluded from my practice, as in hand welting, but they aren't the requested norm. To produce shoes in that way at stomachable prices for the Australian public, is to heavily deflate the cost of what the shoes are actually worth.  Granted that, in finding the balance there are certain compromises that I'm not willing to make."

 We squint and scratch our heads, labouring over thoughts of what is possible in the future of shoemaking in Melbourne.  Consumer culture is changing at a increasing pace. Compile the fed-up-with-plastic consumer, the arrival of more and more high calibre English shoes in Melbourne within the retail setting, a renewed interest from younger generations in traditional shoemaking- and you find a signal that change is abounding.

Until then there is work to do and this is exactly what Jess will do when I leave. Tooth and nail.

Wootten Cordwainer and Leather Craftsmen

www.wootten.com.au

20 Gratton Street, Prahran

Ph: 9532 2611