Your summer guide to suiting up in style

Fashion

As we fast approach the sweltering months of another Aussie summer, the perennial challenge returns – how does one stay stylish yet comfortable in this sort of heat? Forbes Australia sits down with the team at tailoring specialists InStitchu to get their hot takes on elevating your wardrobe beyond the off-the-rack specials.
InStitchu co-founders James Wakefield and Robin McGowan. Image: Supplied
Key Background
  • What started as a passion project between high school mates Robin McGowan and James Wakefield in 2011, has evolved into a giant in Australia’s custom menswear sector.
  • Despite neither hailing from a fashion or retail background, the Sydney natives recognised a gap in the market for custom tailoring with a more accessible price point.
  • Sourcing premium Woolmark-certified Australian Merino wool directly from local producers, James and Robin made the strategic step to redefine the ‘made in China’ stereotype by collaborating with tailors in the Shandong province.  
  • InStitchu was initially envisioned as an exclusively online venture before Robin and James saw the demand for a tangible retail experience for customers seeking personalised fittings and measurements.
  • InStitchu is now the largest made-to-measure provider in the country, with 16 national Showrooms.

So, if like this reporter, you’re stuck in the navy-on-navy rotation and might need a bit of guidance on your next suit purchase, the experts at InStitchu are here to answer some pressing questions.

What are the three staples every man needs in their wardrobe this year? 

Trends might change slightly, but the classics should be your first stop.

The first is a tailored navy suit, crafted from a premium Woolmark-certified Australian Merino wool. It’s versatile, flattering, comfortable, durable and perfect for all seasons, events and needs.

The second is a really high-quality smart casual blazer is a must, also. If you select a fabric that’s a neutral colour–like navy, grey or cream–and in a breathable, functional Merino wool, linen or blend of natural fibres, the blazer will serve you for years to come. Design it with casual details like patch pockets and a soft shoulder and the blazer can be worn with tailored wool trousers for semi-formal events or with chinos or denim for smart casual events or workplaces. Considering the blazer is often the more expensive part of a suit, we’ll often suggest adding matching trousers to your order, so you’ve got a casual suit on hand for relaxed weddings and events, also.

The third is a tuxedo. Given that formalwear trends change so little–Sinatra’s tuxedos are still as relevant and flattering as ever–it makes a lot of sense to invest in a quality dinner suit before you think you need one. Pick classic details like a quality Merino wool fabric, satin lapels, side adjusters and self-covered matching fabric buttons, and you’ll have a perfectly fitted tuxedo to lean on for the next decade.

The classics never change: a navy Merino wool suit and a timeless black tuxedo are still the most popular designs. But we’re definitely seeing more willingness to experiment and have some fun, with fabrics and details: a lot of customers are using decadent cotton-velvets for wintry dinner jackets or linen/silks for summer versions, while linens continue to fly out the door, particularly for summer or casual weddings and events.

We’re heading into another scorching summer  – What’s your advice to anyone shopping for a new wardrobe right now? 

Fit and fabric are key.

Having a made-to-measure suit or wardrobe that fits as it should will give a lot more breathability and comfort as the weather heats up, and choosing fabrics that are appropriate for an Australian summer is crucial.

Yes, linen is the ultimate summer fabric, but you’ll also find a lot of other fabrics that will keep you cool. Woolmark-certified Australian Merino wool–the only wool we use in our suits–is often associated with being a winter fabric, but the opposite is often the truth.

Australian Merino wool can come in an array of weights and weaves, from wintry flannel to super lightweight, breathable and warm weather-appropriate iterations, from corporate navies to formal blacks and colourful party colours and patterns.

Best advice to someone looking to break out of their closet of navy blue suits? 

You’ll never hear us sledging a navy blue suit, because everyone needs to own one! But you’re right that there’s some space to have some fun–a few beers after work can feel like you’re swimming in a sea of navy suits.

Look to seasonal colours for a more individual take on classics: greys and charcoals in winter, in thicker weights and more textured weaves, while lighter shades of blue or creams in summer. It really depends on your workplace and how much you can get away with, but embracing seasonality in your fabrics, colours and design details will offer a lot more variety and personality in your wardrobe.

Best ways to up your wedding suit game? 

It’s a mix of emphasising the classics and bringing out your personality in the details. If you’re the one getting married, you want photos on the mantle that won’t date and will retain their elegance, so a tuxedo, wool suit or linen suit for summery weddings will always be a safe bet.

But have some fun with the details: opting for wider lapels, monogramming a date on the inside of your blazer, and playing with different styles of pockets and construction–these will help capture your personality and the style of the event in tasteful, timeless ways.

On that note, what are the rules when it comes to a pocket square or a lapel pin with a suit? 

There are no strict rules, but we’d generally advise you to consider the event or occasion and the outfit as a whole. For work, a pocket square is completely acceptable, but you don’t want to overdo the details–keep the colours and patterns classic and restrained. If it’s a wedding or race day, you’ve got licence to go a bit bolder, but you still want to be cautious of overdoing it.

Keep the emphasis on one or two splashy details. If the fabric is bold, ditch the accessories or keep the colours neutral and restrained. If the fabric is neutral, you might want to inject some fun into the extras.

Tailoring versus modifying an off-the-rack piece?

Price and the breadth of design options. Modifying an off-the-rack suit will get expensive fast–small changes can add up quickly–whereas it’s built into the price for us, and you’ve got infinite options to make the garment your own, from the size and style of a lapel to the buttons, pockets, linings, cuffs and much, much more.

The biggest misconception out there about tailored suits?

Honestly, it’s about price. A lot of customers think it’s going to cost a fortune to design a tailored suit and it’s just not true. Our business was built on this idea of affordable luxury and the technology we developed allows us to offer incredible value. Our custom, made-to-measure suits start from $699, including all alterations. For a one-of-a-kind suit that’s made-to-measure and covered by our Perfect FIt Guarantee. All of the fabrics we use are crafted from natural fibres, including Australian Merino wool, and made to a specific customer’s designs, like the style of lapel, buttons, pockets, lining and much more.

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