Marco Siracusa sees luxury menswear brands falling into two distinct categories.
There are those he calls "up in lights", namely Gucci, Prada, Tom Ford and so on. Then there's the crop of more "underground" but equally luxurious brands he is harvesting for his new Melbourne menswear store, Masons.
Names such as Ami, OMC, Maison Kitsune and Resolute denim. And that's before he reels off the suiting brands he's secured exclusively, including Corneliani.
In conceiving Masons, named for the art of carving something beautiful out of stone, Siracusa wanted to differentiate his Flinders Lane offering from other retailers along the Paris end of Collins Street.
"They do all the brands that are up in lights, which is great. You need to have that as well. We decided to bring product that's a little more underground," he says.
"People are very brand conscious but there is a large number of people looking for the next tier. There's a customer who doesn't understand clothes who will buy a brand because they see it in a magazine."
Return of service
Central to Masons' philosophy is a return to a full service retail experience, something Siracusa feels has eroded in Australia since the onslaught of online shopping.
"We're going back to old-fashioned retail as opposed to online where you click, click, click, and it happens. This is a more lifestyle experience," he says.
The experience at Masons includes everything from a fully-stocked whisky bar, to free at-home wardrobe consulting and valet parking at the nearby Grand Hyatt for top-tier customers.
And while entry to the black-level loyalty program is by invitation only, there are entry-level tiers offering benefits including complimentary alterations.
Sense of space
Cox Architecture has converted the 430-square-metre space, formerly the home of New Zealand label Zambesi, from a warehouse feel with white walls and dark floorboards into series of three "pockets" to showcase streetwear, modern classic and classic apparel.
"In every pocket we wanted to create an experience as opposed to shopping in one shop. There's more of a journey as opposed to walking to a whole store," Siracusa says.
The plush back room, which has turquoise carpet and lots of dark timber, can also be closed off for private shopping appointments for VIP clients.
As the son of a seamstress and nephew of tailors, it's fair to say Siracusa has fashion in his blood. He honed his love of retail working for free on Saturday mornings at Harrolds, where he eventually got a full-time gig. Except for three years when he worked in "mid-market" menswear, Siracusa worked continuously for Harrolds' owners, the Poulakis family, until 2015, when the company began to venture more into women's wear.
He says there's pressure on all retailers to evolve. In Masons' case, that means constantly finding new brands. Next to arrive is Jil Sander, with more to follow.
"In 1992, if the stock was old in Australia, nobody knew. Today, if the stock is old, people know. You need to be current and on point all the time. If your colour palette is not right, it's not going to sell. The consumer sometimes knows more about the product than you do," he says.
Supporting local talent
Masons currently stocks 25 brands, including six exclusively, but Siracusa says supporting Australian designers is part of the Masons strategy. He also has plans to foster relationships with local design schools to unearth new talent.
"We have some really good talent in this country. The problem is they don't have the finances to do a collection. [Retailers] don't support our own industry enough."