The Australian lifestyle and climate lends itself to a softer, lighter style of tailoring. But I also thought the clothing should be comfortable and elegant,
Patrick Jonhson

Fashion is normally seen as a vehicle to create an over-the-top statement that fills the pages of glossy magazines. Clothes that literally ‘lift-off a page’ is sometimes deemed more important than clothes one actually feels comfortable to wear. For Patrick Johnson, owner and creative director of P.Johnson Tailors or PJT as it is often referred to, comfort and as importantly, style, are cleverly intermeshed. Loosely having an Italian feel (clothing is manufactured in Italy), the men’s clothing collection has grown exponentially in the last few years. Now with showrooms in London, New York, Melbourne and in Sydney, where Johnson calls home, P.Johnson has established an important niche in the market for fine men’s clothing that border on couture (without the hefty price tag).

Stephen Crafti caught up with Johnson before he headed off overseas.

Patrick Johnson gets close to his stomping ground every time he visits his showroom in Soho, London. Not too far away is Central Saint Martins (CSM), one of the worlds most prestigious fashion schools, where Johnson was enrolled. “I didn’t graduate from CSM. I only lasted there a few months,” says Johnson, who opted to go full time working for a tailor. “But I kept up my pattern-cutting at the college throughout the time I lived in London,” he adds. However, during the few months he was there, he learnt one of life’s most important lessons in the fashion industry. “It (CSM) taught me that there really are no limits with what you can create. There are no boundaries whatsoever.”

While fashion magazines and catwalk shows are inspiring for young and emerging designers, like the late Alexander McQueen who fine-tuned his skills by working with tailors (Anderson & Shepherd at Savile Row), Johnson wanted to learn as much as possible about clothing construction, specifically tailored clothing. “I wanted to know how this part of the industry worked, top to bottom.”

After seven years in London, and missing home, Johnson returned to Australia. However, rather than trying to emulate the classically cut English-style three-piece suit, Johnson was steered by the more relaxed way of living Down Under. “The Australian lifestyle and climate lends itself to a softer, lighter style of tailoring. But I also thought the clothing should be comfortable and elegant,” says Johnson, who thought he could also contribute to Australian men dressing better and as importantly to the process of getting dressed.

Those who visit any one of the ateliers will appreciate the fine service, as well as the beautiful interiors designed by Johnson’s partner, leading interior designer Tamsin Johnson, whose work also takes her overseas, designing luxurious abodes for New York clients, as well as being responsible for the ateliers and showrooms of P.Johnson. Although these ateliers and showrooms have a distinctive feel, each space is different. “The spaces really need to feel and look like they’ve always been there. But the spaces also need to be pleasurable to be in, for both clients and as importantly, staff,” says Johnson.

Walking in to the Melbourne showroom in Thomas Street, Windsor, is akin to visiting a private home of grand proportions. After making an appointment, customers are greeted on arrival and served refreshments in the comfort of a chesterfield in the lounge. Fabrics can be explored and a couple of visits ensure each garment, whether a suit, a pair of trousers, or a shirt, fit like a glove.

“The business has evolved over the years as it business has grown internationally. However, my motivations are the same. I love helping men feel good and comfortable about themselves while also keeping artisanal craftsmanship alive and relevant,” says Johnson, who sees his business as being niche in the industry, with clients who are highly educated, and who typically have a great deal of knowledge about the product. “I always think the simplest things are the most difficult to achieve,” he says.

While Johnson is passionate about designing menswear (he hasn’t ruled out designing for women in the years ahead), he also understands the reluctance of some men when the word ‘shopping’ is mentioned. “Like most men, I can’t stand shopping but at the same time, I love clothing. So the idea is to create an environment where men can shop in a very relaxed way. We don’t have pushy salespeople bent on getting that next sale. What is important is that our product and the service our customers receive is exemplary,” says Johnson, who sees the process of creating a successful business as beyond repeating a few successful designs each season. “It’s about using the latest and most appropriate technology to come up with something new each season, but only if we feel it’s relevant to our clients,” he says.

Australia isn’t London or New York. And those in the know also appreciate that Sydney and Melbourne have subtle differences in the way men dress, due to their climates as much as their cultures. “Climate and lifestyle play a large part in what we do. Australia, for example, has a strong focus on the coastline and many of clients regularly travel. These wardrobes need to be trans-seasonal, often layered for maximum versatility,” says Johnson. “In New York, you truly have four seasons, so we need to design specific pieces for each season.”

This writer was fortunate to be measured for a simple black linen shirt and a pair of moleskin trousers. Even though both items are beautifully understated, the personalised fittings and attention to detail are as close to couture I am ever likely to experience.


Words by Stephen Crafti.

Lifestyle & Design

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