Could the arrival of Dutch label Suitsupply be the figurative fire local brands and designers need to lift themselves out of their current plateau?
With its first Australian store now open in the enviable location of Martin Place - the unofficial sartorial heart of Sydney - the menswear brand is primed to make its mark on gents amped for quality suits and clothes at prices that won't make their wallets wince. It also happens to muscle in on a robust market that to date has been dominated by local labels M.J. Bale, InStitchu and Patrick Johnson's relatively new Suit Shop.
And while these companies have been integral in the general lifting of Australian men's sartorial standards, they've been somewhat guilty of resting on their design laurels in recent times.
But Suitsupply may be the kick they need to pick their feet up.
"We have a very strong relationship with this country," says Nish de Gruiter, Vice President of Suitsupply who was in Australia to see the brand's launch into bricks and mortar.
"I think, a brand like us, we put a whole new energy to the existing industry, which is a very stuffy tailoring world."
It's easy to see de Gruiter's words translated directly into reality as soon as you enter the store.
Variety is the spice
A full spectrum of suits (look, navy is a classic staple but when that's the only option you're not doing yourself any favours) light up the back wall in an array of fabrics - wool, silk, linen, blends - that de Gruiter says are defined by their price points.
"We have three price points in the collection – Blue, Purple, and Red Line," says de Gruiter.
"Those price points are identified by the thread on the end of the sleeve and blue is that entry point."
For guys are going to their first job or straight out of university and need a starter suit, Suitsupply's Blue line starts at $399 and has all the basics. The Purple line is for the man who already has a few suits in the closet and starts at $469. The Red Line starts at approximately $640 up to $899 and made using super 150 and 140 fabrics. (It was the Red Line that was voted number one in a blind test hosted by the Wall Street Journal.)
Yet the Suitsupply business model isn't a unique one.
Online service InStitchu has been giving Australian men well-priced option for quality tailoring since 2011, back when it operated out of a small studio above a Sydney cafe. Now with nine showrooms, including a newly opened wedding showroom in the heart of the Sydney CBD, founder Robin McGowan says he welcomes the competition, confident that it can only broaden an already rapidly growing customer base.
"Brands working collectively or competitively can help shift consumer behaviour," he says.
"Trends and fashion can change and that can be driven by one brand which can, in turn, change others eventually. It took Uber to change the way Taxi's presented themselves and improved their service."
Broadening the offering
Patrick Johnson's decision to move into this middle market reflects just how hungry consumers are for quality that doesn't cost the earth. Already famous for his range of Italian-made suits that brought the Neapolitan aesthetic into the Australian mainstream, Johnson's opening of the lower price-point Suit Shop is just smart business and one done by plenty of luxury labels: take an already successful brand and create an offshoot that targets a more economic minded audience.
"Our teams are [still] trained through P Johnson, and our entire focus is on how we can get the best possible value for money for our clients, and the best outcome for them," explains Johnson.
"We don't approach this in an aggressive or salesy way; we work with our clients to get the best result. For us, it's about value and service."
Yet for all this, few brands have really brought the fire of creative energy that Suitsupply has been able to generate in only a few short months.
"We're pleased with the response we've received in Sydney," says CEO Fokke De Jong.
"We came to this market knowing we had a strong customer base for our high-quality and elegant product, and we're seeing more customers get introduced to our brand. People want to feel and experience Suitsupply in person. Our location at Martin Place helps people get to know who we are and the new energy we bring to tailoring."
All about you
Moving forward, it'll be interesting to see how local brands respond to this. Key to that could be the increasing demand for personalisation - both in the wardrobe and the overall retail experience.
"Personalisation [is] something that InStitchu is on top of and will continue to ensure that we are market leaders in," says McGowan. "Custom-made and on demand is a major trend, and InStitchu will continue to deliver this."
"Our approach is to work with our clients to build a wardrobe that's right for them and their lifestyle," counters Johnson.
"We are all so different not only in our lifestyle, but we are also physically different, and it is important that we approach our wardrobes individually."
Where do you go to get your suits? Share in the comments section below.