While the concept of what is considered good or bad sartorial taste comes down to personal choice and personality, it’s hard to deny the appeal of a man in a well-cut suit. It’s even harder to deny the appeal of a personally tailored suit, especially when it’s being offered as an affordable clothing option by Oscar Lake, a man who, at the ripe old age of 30, is proud to call himself Australia’s youngest tailor.
“I’m not aware of anyone else my age that is in this line of work,” Oscar begins as he sits down with Makers over a glass of whiskey at the Oscar Hunt showrooms, where the youthful blonde has held the position of head tailor for the past 12 months.
It’s easy for Makers to see the parallel between the tailor and his employers. The retail operation has its own humble beginnings; the once itinerant fashion brand was born out of temporary showrooms in both the Cullen and Olsen hotels before finding itself a more permanent home in the Melbourne CBD, while Oscar studied fashion design at Box Hill and was working in womenswear before making the decision to plunge into a more traditional trade.
“I thought that bespoke tailoring would be the most difficult thing I could do,” he says with a chuckle, “so I decided to learn how to do it.”
The young tailor spent the first five years after graduation working in Armadale before joining the ranks at Oscar Hunt. The way he tells it, the decision to move in to made-to-measure seemed like a no brainer.
Oscar: “I felt like the move to made-to-measure would be a smart one as the bespoke community here in Australia is decreasing in size. (Mine) was a decision to try and work with a business that is at the head of the new frontier of suiting, where service is still the most important aspect. We can produce something that is as close to bespoke and handmade but with less cost and more efficiency, but retaining the same amount of style and quality.”
It’s an important distinction to make: few and far between are men with the money – or even the desire – to opt for truly bespoke suiting. As American author, Meg Lukens-Noonan came to explore in her awarded book, The Coat Route, this most traditional of all tailoring schools is a dying art.
Made-to-measure offers the next best thing: where bespoke involves hand making a pattern for each individual, made-to-measure finds its niche in creating individualised alterations from a pre-made pattern. It takes a keen eye to distinguish between the two.
Tailors like Oscar, while not preserving the skill of bespoke, are at least helping to keep the dream alive by drawing new clientele in to the realm of tailoring with an option that finds itself occupying the high ground somewhere between off-the-rack and a true bespoke service.
Oscar: “We’re able to tailor for men with unusual body types and help them find clothing that they wouldn’t generally be able to find somewhere else. We’re selling a luxury product, meaning that our clients expectations are very high and they expect a good quality finished product.”
Oscar Hunt’s new CBD quarters tell the tale of a successfully growing business and – for Oscar, at least – the reason behind the rising appeal of a service that embraces both tradition and the day-to-day financial realities of the working classes is clear.
Oscar: “If you’re looking at a man across the room in pretty much any suit, regardless of how expensive the fabric is or how much they’ve paid for it, it all comes down to the fit. And if it fits well, a man will feel more confident.”