For gentlemen looking to level up their style, a custom-made accoutrement or piece of clothing from these skilled local artisans will certainly have you standing out from the crowd.
The personal touch: Bespoke menswear
Top off your outfit
Whether it’s a fashionable fedora to go with a suit, or a wide-brim Western to wear every day with a t-shirt and jeans, anyone wearing a custom hat made by Blake Canham-Bennett is guaranteed to make an impression.
“I always wanted to make men’s hats and I think lots of the vintage inspiration came from old movies. Hats are such a nostalgic throwback to that time when everyone wore a hat, but they can also be timeless,” says Blake.
Blake can be found plying the old-world trade of hat making at his Blakesby Hats workshop, located within The Mill creative workspace in Adelaide. Makers of custom men’s hats are far and few between, so Blake has found his way in this niche trade through a journey of self-learning.
After studying millinery, Blake began teaching himself to make men’s hats. He searched high and low for original texts, networked with international hatters and even travelled to America.
Since launching Blakesby Hats in 2015, Blake has been working to refine the traditional artform and has gained customers across the world. He creates fur felt hats inspired by vintage aesthetics with timeless appeal and prices start from around $600 to $850. Although his creations draw on classic and vintage styles, they can be worked into a modern wardrobe.
Custom-made to the half-centimetre, no two hats are exactly the same. Blake uses a steam iron to activate the fibres in the felt to make it pliable, allowing him to stretch it over size-specific wooden hat blocks. Many of his hat blocks are antiques imported from the United States. He can also give new life to old hats and has done so for many Akubras.
A timeless hat can form part of a person’s signature style. “My customers include a lot of creatives such as artists and musicians because their creativity often extends to the way that they dress and musicians generally have a brand about them. One of my best clients is a local blues musician who is onto about his fifth hat,” he says.
“Although some people are still not quite comfortable wearing a hat, they’re definitely making a comeback. It can be a statement piece that stands out from the crowd.”
A stitch in time
Each time it’s slung into a car boot or trudged through an airport for a weekend away, a finely-made leather duffel bag will scuff and slowly develop a rich patina that not only makes it look more refined with age, but also exhibits a lifetime of memories. Leathermaker Sasha Carroll says such a bag is a stylish yet functional accessory that carries a refined sense of nostalgia.
“I love making duffels, satchels and travel bags; classic and nostalgic styles that are like a bag that your dad or mum might have had, made with beautiful leather that never wears out,” says Sasha.
Previously working in retail, Sasha followed her interest in fashion to study shoemaking and fell in love with leather. “I realised it was all about the art of leathercraft, and I accidentally fell for that. My grandpa used to do leatherwork so it’s nice to carry on that tradition. He did saddlery and made belts, and some of my tools were once his,” she says.
When Sasha had her first child, she decided to start a leathermaking business within an old butcher shop and founded her brand The Butcher Byrd. Now with 18 years’ experience and working from her home studio, Sasha’s Australian leather products are sought after.
Her leather duffle bag sells from about $700: an investment in a robust product that not only looks good slung over the shoulder, but should last a lifetime.
“I use good hardware every step of the way, from the thread to high quality zips, while all the rivets and buckles are brass,” she says.
“The value in owning a bag like this is knowing its maker and that it gets better in 10 years’ time. People might be alarmed when it gets marked when they first brush it up against something, but the leather develops its own patina over a couple of years, which is part of the joy of owning it.”
It takes Sasha about two days to manufacture one duffel bag using her specialised tools and machines. As demand continues to grow, particularly with exposure from markets such as Bowerbird, she hopes to expand the business.
“Markets are great because you get one-on-one feedback from people. There is high interest in slow fashion because these products are well made and it supports local artisans and fair-work practices. It’s about meeting the maker and once people see the quality of the bags, they often purchase more of them.”
More and more men are opting for bespoke and custom-made suits like those produced by Mayank Waghela, whose fascination with tailoring began at an early age in India.
Suited to the job
If you were looking for the most premium suit that money could buy, it might surprise you to know you could spend more on the right suit than the cost of a new car.
At Knightsman Bespoke Tailors the most expensive suit – made with a rare fabric – would set you back more than $40,000. Although no one has yet purchased such a suit, there is a rising demand for custom-made garments with the largest price tag so far about $8000.
The responsibility for handling, measuring and fitting such fine material lies in the capable hands of tailor Mayank Waghela.
Mayank grew up in the Indian city of Vadodara, where his family had a sewing machine for any general alterations and repairs that needed to be done. When Mayank wasn’t happy with the design of his school bag he resourcefully decided to design and make his own. It was an experience that developed into a hobby and set him on a path to bespoke tailoring.
Mayank opened his own tailor shop in India before migrating to Australia in 2007. Today, he operates Knightsman Bespoke Tailors, located in Adelaide Central Plaza, and draws on many years of experience in fine tailoring.
“Mostly I have learned through trial and error, which I am still doing and will be learning my entire life,” he says.
Mayank offers a bespoke service, where suits are completely customisable, as opposed to a suit that is made-to-measure. The cost of a luxury suit comes down to the fabric, which Knightsman sources from some of the world’s top mills in the UK, Europe and Italy. There is a huge range of some 20,000 luxury fabrics to choose from and all premium suits are stitched by hand.
After taking the measurements, Mayank drafts the pattern for the suit and sends the information to his team overseas who prepare the material and send it back to Adelaide to be fitted for the customer.
The suits are personalised down to the lining, buttons and lapel. “We are known for customising from scratch. We can specifically help people such as body builders or those who have different body shapes,” says Mayank.
“It’s satisfying to see a customer with a big smile on their face when they put their suit on for the first time.”
This story first appeared in the September 2021 issue of SALIFE magazine.
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