“Growing up in South Australia, you either become a doctor, a lawyer or a winemaker,” says Patrick Johnson. “I’m chronically dyslexic so winemaker it was.” That was until a freak chemical accident while working at a vineyard led to sulphur dioxide poisoning and a change of career path. You might think there wouldn’t be a great deal of common ground between making wine and making suits. But both require a similar sensibility: an appreciation of quality and an understanding of a nuance. And both appeal to those who enjoy life’s fner things. In a sense, Johnson was born to it. He grew up on a 4000-hectare sheep farm near Adelaide and has a natural feel for merino wool – so much so that earlier this year he won the Australian Woolmark Prize for his innovation with the fabric. During the past eight years, P Johnson Tailors has developed its own signature style of suiting which is softer, lighter and more comfortable than most British or Italian constructions. In doing so, Johnson has arguably created ‘Australian tailoring’ – a term that until recently might have been considered a laughable oxymoron. Having established a successful business in Sydney and Melbourne (including suitshop. com.au, his separate venture for entry-level tailoring) this year Johnson, now 34, set up shop in New York. Which is where GQ caught up with him. GQ: Where does your interest in tailoring come from? Patrick Johnson: My stepfather was a fantastic dresser. His dressing room was like something out of The Great Gatsby – everything perfect. I’d sneak in and move a shoe and he’d come down an hour later and say, ‘Who’s been in my dressing room?’ GQ: How did you get started?
PJ: I was studying at Central Saint Martins [fashion college] in London, working three jobs to afford it. I was literally on my way to apply for a job in a pub and walked past
this shirt shop. I stopped and a guy just started talking to me. He turned out to be [Jermyn Street] tailor Robert Emmett and I ended up working with him for seven years as an apprentice. GQ: Was it always the plan to set up a tailoring company in Australia? PJ: I met Tamsin, my now wife, in London and it got to the point where her visa was running out and she had to go back to Australia. I thought, ‘I really like this girl but is it possible to be a tailor in Australia?’ GQ: Clearly it is.
PJ: It’s actually been an advantage. Firstly, we produce the best merino wool in the world. Secondly, we understand we’re not at the centre of the world in terms of tailoring so we’re able to take in all these influences from Britain, Italy and Japan to create something that is appropriate for our climate. GQ: What are you like to work for? PJ: This always sounds weird when I tell people, a bit culty, but everyone who works for us meditates twice a day. If you’ve been with us for a year we pay for the course. As a boss, if I can make you a little bit more relaxed, why not? If you create a happy environment with all the people that work with you then it comes off to the clients. GQ: How else does your approach differ?
PJ: Getting a suit made shouldn’t be an intimidating process. I don’t like snobbery. My wife is an interior designer and we make our showrooms comfortable spaces: just chill out, have a coffee, talk a bit and see if we’re on the same page. It’s a very Australian approach to doing things. GQ: So it’s not a hard sell. PJ: We actively discourage guys from buying more than one suit at a time. Some guys come in and go ‘I want 10 suits’ and that’s madness. Like, ‘Come on mate, let’s enjoy this process.’ One thing I learnt from Rob was not to be in a rush – have patience, take your time and always give your best. Our focus is on being the best, not the biggest. n
“WE MAKE OUR SHOWROOMS COMFORTABLE SPACES: JUST CHILL OUT, HAVE A COFFEE, TALK A BIT. IT’S A VERY AUSTRALIAN APPROACH.”