WATCH THIS SPACE. WHILE BRIONI MAY HAVE MOVED ON, THIS IS AN AUSTRALIAN WHO’S NEVER FAR FROM THE ACTION – A STYLE ICON WHO EAGERLY ACCESSORISES WITH SOME MUCH-NEEDED SWAGGER.
WORDS RICHARD CLUNE PHOTOGRAPHY RASMUS WENG KARLSEN STYLING BRAD HOMES
“I SAID, ‘I HAVE TO BE MORE PROFESSIONAL, STOP GOING TO FASHION PARTIES AND START WEARING THREEPIECE SUITS.’”
From Nhulunbuy to Instagram, buying to Brioni, and now, to here. Justin O’shea doesn’t know quite what here is, not yet, though it’s a junction, a crossroads – one where the signposts are several. The luxury Italian outfitter and the humble kid from the Northern Territory – Nhulunbuy a watery spec to the northeast of the vast state – parted company last month. It rang out as a shock – one equal to his employment as Brioni’s creative director just six months earlier. Regardless, more people now know the name Justin O’shea than before; the Roman tailor receiving more press than the previous decade. The 38-year-old’s changes may have clunked against the established rules of luxury, but he made things more accessible and did as he knows. It meant suiting and a throwback masculine swagger. And the future will be equally bold and built on what he believes – an extension of his brutish style that keeps pace with every suited step; of his want for men to no longer fear being men. It’s why he used Metallica for his debut Brioni campaign (“because they’re fucking cool”), why he outs Dracula as a style icon, the orangutan as his spirit animal. He’s fond of British romanticist landscape artist Turner and Playboy (and GQ, thanks very much). When he works out – it’s boxing. He doesn’t understand Snapchat (good man) but he knows style – the rugged and the brooding, the beauty of detailed, layered tailoring. In a dingy Sydney backroom bar, O’shea locks his gaze, sips on a Beefeater and opens up about his sartorial story – about finding suiting and what it means to him. As a man. “I was about 26 and met this guy in London, Mr Steve Edge. He had a creative office above the showroom I was working for in Shoreditch – and he was impeccably dressed, every day, and he was just a fucking dude. “Steve was such a legend and I was like, ‘I have to be as slick as you.’ And then one day he took me to this event at St Paul’s Cathedral – and he was like, ‘You have to get a suit, otherwise you can’t come’. So I bought this vintage £15 suit with a blue-silver pinstripe. I had a white shirt with a white tie and I was like, ‘Fuck this feels awesome.’ And then I was sitting with all these people from the royal family and everyone was being really nice to me, you know, thinking I was actually supposed to be there. And I was thinking, ‘That’s cool.’ Then I went home and put on my Dr Martens and my black Tsubi jeans and just fucked around like a trashed crackhead – that’s really how it made me feel. And so that was it – from that point, I said to myself, ‘I’m only wearing suits.’” Things didn’t immediately take. “Yeah, it lasted a month because I had no cash. But I knew I felt comfortable in a suit, and so, when I got to Munich [to work for etailer My Theresa] and started making money, and had this opportunity for a new life, I said, ‘I have to be more professional, stop going to fashion parties and start wearing three-piece suits.’ So I did. Because suits are fucking cool. And I was comfortable. It was authentic. That’s style right there – it has to be authentic, it has to be true.”