Bow Ties Sydney, Australia - Le Noeud Papillon - Specialists In Self Tying Bow Ties

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Review Of Mr. Porter - The Services Of Porter Dowd, Part Of The Team At P Johnson Tailors

Over the past four years or so Le Noeud Papillon has been making bow ties for P Johnson tailors. It's been one of the easiest customers to manage since Patrick, the designer behind P Johnson has a very succinct approach towards bow ties - black satin silk, black grosgrain silk and white cotton marcella. Anything outside of this is not part of the P Johnson oeuvre and never has been. It is a consistent and clean approach and it has meant that we have always been passed on the details of the flamboyant and eccentric customers that were chasing something different.

I can distinctly remember the first time I saw a P. Johnson suit - it was in the second bedroom of a menswear enthusiast's apartment as his clothes were relegated to the empty cupboards in the spare room whilst her clothes took up the master bedroom. Single men, beware, this will happen to you too.

He opened up this Loro Piana dove grey cloth with pin stripe and showed me the interior of the jacket, nothing over the top in terms of the lining construction but it was just a lovely suit. Soft shouldered, which at the time was rarely seen from any other Australian brand, a little de-constructed and not heavily chested for a double breasted blazer, certainly unlike the handle of anything you might have picked up in the stores at that time.

From that point onwards Patrick Johnson was a name which made me somewhat frustrated to hear. In truth, I am one that partly buys into the Gore Vidal line that 'every time a friend succeeds a small part of me dies'. Increasingly Patrick's name would be spoken of around town or, as was happening all too frequently, a customer would present himself to us with his white P Johnson suit bag in hand and say ' I need you to help me find a bow tie to match this suit'. If you can't beat them, join them - and slowly, when I realised that I would never want suits to be my core business and as Patrick did make suits his core business, we came to realise that it was better to work together than against one another - not that shots were ever fired.

Many years have passed and I have made suits with a variety of other tailors to express looks or feelings for the window and blog of Le Noeud Papillon but not once had I gone down the path of actually making a suit with Patrick despite having talked about it often enough over one of Patrick's bitter espressos (that's a jab, but it's not a jab against his business :) ). Finally the time came for me to want to try the services of P Johnson but the moment I walked into the showroom I discovered the vibe had changed, Patrick was now so successful he had moved to New York to expand P Johnson tailors, his poor old dog Winston was moping around  on the floor without his Dad and I was assigned a new chap to look after me, Porter Dowd.

Porter is my kind of tailoring guy. To start with, he's no oil painting Robert de Montesquiou dandy. Rather, he is a straight down the line guy that immediately disarms you because he's not putting on any airs and graces. The next thing to note is that he's well dressed but not in an effete way (except when he ties a sweater around his neck). He wears classic suits in cuts which seem to suit his shape and proportions. He has a sort of round figure which makes you feel like he might catch your drift when you say 'and maybe try to hide that and that'.

The measurement process was very thorough and a funny little mix between old and new world tailoring. An ipad was being held by an assistant as Porter went thoroughly through my torso and trousers, measuring me using a block size which they place on all their customers to base measurements off ( I was on the high side of those sizes). The process was lengthy but it felt very light and breezy owing to high ceilings, a quality air-conditioning system and decent natural lighting with the added benefit that at P Johnson they have wonderfully generous change rooms areas that allow you to really spread out. There's not a feeling that anyone is in a rush to get you in and out like you sometimes feel if you use the services of a city store at lunch time. It's your time and the team seem to acknowledge this by conversing with you in a manner which is personable and informative. There was a constant relay of information between myself and Porter all the way through the measurements to inform me of key observations and ways in which he might tackle a muffin top, the slope by which the trousers might hang on my hips, my shoulders and how how I'd like the suit jacket to sit. It is made all the more palatable when Porter declares that his weakness is beer and that he too has to find ways in which to work with what he's got as a silhouette.

The suit that had triggered me to finally set up an appointment was a navy double breasted jacket dinner suit I had seen a month earlier. It was quite possibly the most exquisite suit I had seen all year - mostly for it's cut and secondly for it's cloth. It was effortlessly chic, neither too outlandish nor too sterile. The double breasted sample seemed to hang and drape so well on the suit hanger, then there was the lovely faille silk in navy that had been used on the lapel which seemed to marry perfectly with the chosen navy super 130's twill worsted wool - it was all just bang on. The only additional change I wanted, which was just my taste at play, was that I wanted to the jacket to be longer than the middle of my thigh as I wanted it to carry a certain 'kapote' look that the Jews get with their Prince Albert frock coats. I am hoping that this will be 'trending' in 2016.

In the end I chose an orange satin fabric for a half lined finish in the jacket as I wanted to be able to wear this dinner suit all year round, including any summer weddings I might be invited to (though the invites were fast drying up and being replaced by kids party invites on my fridge ( :) :( - that signifies mixed feelings ).

My concerns with the programme, as nothing is ever perfect, is that there was demand for full payment up front before commencing the work. Traditionally I am used to 50% as a deposit and 50% upon completion but I am quite certain that customers must use the final 50% balance as a means by which to extort time and additional services/changes out of their tailor. In fact, I know this, as one English acquaintance once said to me 'it's always good to owe your tailor money, that way he'll always take on your next commission'.

My only other complaint is that despite the fact that Porter got the fit 99% right, I was a little disappointed that some things like the width of your trouser band could not be increased. As many of you that read this blog frequently will know, my admiration for tailors like Leng Ngo is that you can literally build your suit from the ground up. With MTM programmes like P Johnson, you can get your fit right, but you may be confined in terms of certain elements you might want to add or subtract. It is not possible, for example, to ask for a new shape of a lapel or to stand over the tailor whilst you work on changes to patterns or workmanship.

However, the argument against using traditional tailors is that often they are dogmatic in their beliefs and can be as inflexible as stubborn mules to changes in construction and design. P Johnson, by contrast, sit on a much more fluid platform in which they can seasonally alter design and construction and in doing so can offer products that a traditional tailor would not offer unless his customer specifically knew enough about tailoring to be able to say confidently 'make this using this material from this cloth company in this shape with this construction'.

Since most Australian men do not have this knowledge, men like Patrick Johnson and his salesman Porter Dowd are the next best thing. They have a style/aesthetic, they have the systems in place to fit any man within that aesthetic and when it comes to bang for buck, they are considerably cheaper than a fully hand-made suit by a Sydney tailor. Though strictly speaking there is no apple for apples comparison, a suit which would cost roughly $1400 AUD from P Johnson would start at $3750AUD from a bespoke tailor.

Anyway, why not try it for yourself and make your own decision. I am happy, I think you will be too.

Porter Dowd
0408 833 161

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