P Johnson: Contemporary, made-to-measure tailoring

Wednesday, April 5th 2017
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In a similar way to Stoffa (covered recently here), I loved the aesthetic of P Johnson tailoring before I ever got to see any in person.

We are all - in our various ways - battling to show how useful, beautiful and relevant tailoring can be to the current generation.

P Johnson, the brand and the style, are fighting this good fight.

The colours are very natural: creams and tans, beige linens and slate-green cottons. 

The make is soft, casual: paired with collared knitwear as much as a shirt.

And it all has a relaxed elegance that you feel - indeed, the brand’s following shows - helps its relevance for that new generation.

It’s a great aesthetic. So what’s the product like?

The tailoring is all made-to-measure - there is deliberately (currently) nothing available ready-to-wear.

Appointments are made for the various showrooms (London and New York, plus four in Australia).

There are sample garments to see and try on; there are further sample garments to be measured in; and then pieces are made for delivery in 6 weeks.

There is quite a lot of flexibility with the fit, although most style points are fairly fixed (only two real options with the width of the lapel, for example).

The style is also quite ‘contemporary’ - shorter jackets, narrower trousers and so on.

Not to any extreme - there is a clear knowledge of the benefits of traditional tailoring - but there’s also a desire to serve a broad range of customers, including the more fashion-focused.

“We have some guys who come in wanting extremely short jackets - women’s length, really - and we spend time educating them on why a jacket is a certain length. But still, they want something that is going to feel current,” says UK fitter James Johnson.

Of course, made to measure means you can theoretically have any length you want.

But the designs and the models are set to certain proportions. If you lengthen the jacket too much - more than 3cm, say - a lot of other things have to change, and the risk of it going wrong increases substantially.

I’ll go into more detail on this in my next post, where I’ll review the jacket and trousers I had made.

Interestingly, P Johnson jackets have three options for a jacket’s structure - its chest canvas and shoulder padding - shown above.

These range from just a couple of pieces of small cotton canvas (black, far right) to a double layer of full-length camel and horsehair and a decent shoulder pad (far left).

However, even the heaviest structure is only equivalent to Neapolitan tailoring in the bespoke world. There is nothing close to British structure.

The tailoring is nearly all made in Italy now, in a factory that the brand co-owns.

“That’s not necessarily what we would have chosen, but it has given us much more control and consistency,” says Patrick Johnson (pictured above).

It had been made in different parts of the world historically, but as the company grew Patrick realised the benefit of being able to manage and control more.

James Johnson (who trained in Andrew Ramroop’s Savile Row Academy) now travels out to Italy regularly to oversee production.

Patrick started his career at Emmett in London, helping to develop a tailoring range there.

When he moved back to Australia, he spent set up his own brand by buying a load of cloth and then spending months on the road, meeting individual clients around the country.

Eventually he opened a showroom in Melbourne, which he and his wife lived above. And then when they opened one in Sydney, they lived above that one too.

“We funded the whole thing with cash,” Patrick says. “No loans, no investors - we wanted to do everything ourselves. It means things have grown slowly, but also organically.”

Patrick originally planned to open a London showroom before New York, but the New York opportunity came along first.

Even now, the London space is only a temporary one - they’re moving around the corner in Soho to a permanent location next month.

“We’ve had to adapt the colour palette slightly for London,” says Patrick. “The creams and tans work better in Australia - and even New York and London are different in terms of their light.”

So in the London store there are more greys and navy, but often with a distinctive view on the cloth - lots of high-twist wools in the formal suiting, for example.

I had a denim-linen jacket made with the mid-weight structural option, and a pair of cream cotton trousers. Full review at the end of the month.

The starting prices for P Johnson in the UK are:

  • Suit: £1200
  • Jacket: £960
  • Trousers: £265
  • Shirts: £145

For discussion of the sweater worn over the shoulders (using Patrick as an example) see post here

I am wearing: 

  • Oatmeal cashmere jacket by Elia Caliendo
  • Green flannel trousers by Elia Caliendo
  • Burnt orange wool tie by Church's
  • Denim shirt by Luca Avitabile

In-store photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man. All other other photography: P. Johnson

Sanforised cotton car-coat. Worn with a navy merino knit and Japanese 360-gramme cotton trousers.

Unconstructed 360 gramme cotton suit, with low-angle gorge and wide-notch lapel. Worn with a merino Milano knit collared cardigan.

Unconstructed 300 gramme indigo double-breasted linen suit. Worn with brushed-cotton shirt and wool-silk grenadine tie.

 

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Nick Inkster

This is potentially very interesting as good MTM choices for casualwear are not easy to come by. I have been using a company called Luxire to make casual trousers ( in Dugdale and VBC cloth ) and shirts; just send them your measures based on their very precise templates. What comes back is extraordinary in terms of quality and value.
I’ll wait until you post on your finished garments, but can see myself giving Patrick a try.

Anonymous

Have you ever had jackets made there? Having a look and might be fun to have a few less expensive knockaround suits made

Nick Inkster

Only trousers and shirts. Fit is as good as any true bespoke, prices extraordinary, and, based on comments from a number of bespoke tailors I have shown the trousers to, extremely well made.

Anon

Certainly my experience as well. I’m fortunate enough to have used many of the Italian tailors mentioned on this blog and I can honestly say that the P Johnson fit is not a million miles away.

For the casual side of the wardrobe I can’t see me using anyone else for the time being. Both in terms of price and aesthetic. As mentioned in the post before, too many young men are dressing far above their age and, frankly, look ridiculous. Sometimes it’s better to be led by a house style. Unless one fancies wearing a sports coat and pocket square to collect your weekend paper, in which case you were already on your own.

Anonymous

Well you shall see me ordering a demo pair straight away! Any advice re fabric selection / how to sift through their site? Last time I ordered a pair of trousers MTM online I thought I was ordering a plain chino and it came back iridescent gold!

Anonymous

Nick
Have you ever had jackets made by Luxire?

Steven Argyle

Don’t bother, their staff have no actual idea about fit and none of them are trained tailors, not even patrick. They just like to walk around with tape measures around their necks and play the part of a tailor, which the average guy unfortunately can’t see the difference

Don ferrando

Are there any more details on the factory in Italy available?

Don Ferrando

Hello.
Could you get already some information about the factory?
Thank you for your effort!

Steven Argyle

Their factory is Sartoria Carrara, which is actually quite small, they only use it for their high valued customers, the rest of their product gets made in China, yet the average customer isn’t aware. They make thousands of suits a year, which is an impossibility out of a small factory such as their’s in Italy, so it is basically just a front so they can claim their stuff is made in Italy when in fact the majority is mass produced in China.

Don Ferrando

Simon.
Can you confirm Sartoria Carrara?
Were you able to get detailed information about the factory?

Parker

A little bit disappointed here, Simon. This company always struck me as the complete opposite of everything you and your blog stand for such as quality, excellent fit and most of all rather classic items. When I look at the pictures is see ill-fitting coats, collar gaps, overly short and slim low-rise trousers, indicating nothing that warrants the label tailoring. At most a mid-range choice or brand for fashionable #menswear types and certainly not for anyone with more than a passing interest in classic clothes.

Gus

Quite right too, Simon. The contemporary aesthetic should be applauded here as there are far too many under-40 year olds impersonating Italian pensioners!

Steven Argyle

The team at P Johnson are no different from any inexperienced sales person at a department store or any other high street brand. Most of them are straight out of school and have no training at all, in fact Patrick doesn’t have any genuine tailoring experience, despite claiming to have some. In truth, he was a sales assistant at Emmett shirts London, which is no different from working at T.M. Lewin.

Mark

I disagree, Parker. The fit of the suits in the pictures is generally fine, the collar gaps you point out occur when the person is turned to one side (I don’t know many suits that hug you so tightly that even when you twist and turn they stay exactly in place) and your comments about the fit being too slim or short simply indicates your own preference versus the preference of the guys in the picture.

There isn’t some unshakeable, objective standard against which all style is measured – that is one of the key tenets of this blog: rules are flexible and sometimes you can break them.

For me, the fit you can get from P Johnson is great – not as good as bespoke, but as Simon points out it’s about half the price.

I return to P Johnson because I like the aesthetic (light, no shoulder pads and casual) – I prefer my P Johnson suits and wear them far more than my Savile Row ones because of that reason, even if my Savile Row ones cost much more and are technically ‘better-made’. I return to the brand because, frankly, people can’t tell the difference from 10 metres away, it costs less and I prefer light, unpadded suits.

Matt S

Though not my style, I think these clothes look very nice. They are slightly fashionable, but not too fashionable. The fashion industry may have lowered my standards, so now I expect a women’s jacket length and trousers with a 6″ rise when I hear ‘contemporary’.

Kev Fidler

My attention was immediately grabbed by the first group photo – those natural tones look very good and in styles I would want as I don’t have call for anything like smart, formal these days. These look like you could get a couple of suits and mix-match the trousers and jackets as well. Good post, Simon and looking forward to the review of your commission.

Michael

I’ve had about a dozen things made by P Johnson since 2012 (I’m an Aussie). The construction and style is unparalleled at the price. However, I’ve three reservations. The first is that everything is always a little too tight. I’m only 5’9″ but have broad shoulders and chest and I’ve always found that their jackets and shirts are always too tight across the chest and the upper back. This leads to that ungainly lapel buckling when the jacket is buttoned. Whilst this can be altered in a jacket, it shouldn’t be that hard to get right first time. Secondly, their trousers used to be full in the rise but, with little or no explanation, they became increasingly low rise (though not silly, High st low rise). Finally, when I go to a tailor I enjoy shooting the sh!t. P Johnson are now so busy that one is shunted in and out of the fitting room like an NHS patient at a GP!

Joacim

Having read about P.Johnson before, I was under the impression that they also offer bespoke, albeit only via their Australian showrooms?
Checking out their older look books, I’d say it seems they’ve gone from a classic to a more contemporary (although not crazy by any means) cut throughout the years.

If I recall correctly, early #menswear tumblr darling Guiodo Wongolini (mostexerentbrog) went from different tailors to basically only using P.Johnson, and his cuts where always on point, never trendy, tight or illfitting.

Mark

Australian newspapers tend not to understand the difference and they just refer to the suits as ‘bespoke’.

Rabster

Though I’m a big fan of ‘soft tailoring’ one must bear in mind that with our office induced deformities nearly all of us could do with some structure in the shoulder .

Simon, be interested to read more about the challenges of fitting rounded shoulders, hunched backs, lob sided shoulders etc .

Simon

Interesting that the tie you are wearing is from someone famed for shoe making as opposed to (making) ties. Any particular reason you purchased such a tie from Church’s and not say Drakes, Hermes etc?

Maximilian

Thanks for the interesting article.
I have three questions about it.
Would you recommend PJT to someone who likes the Neapolitanean suit style, likes his suits casual, wants to upgrade from his suitsupply suits but doesn’t want to spend 2500€+ on a suit, yet before he is more certain about his preferences?
Do you think PJT is in particular a good place for a cotton or linen summer suit in tan/tobacco/brown and do you think the pants and jacket of such a suit could easily be worn seperately?
On most of the pictures the suits look a bit too slim for my taste and the rise of the pants too low. How much wider and higher do you think I could ask for without ruining the look?

Maximilian

Thanks for the quick reply. I understand that of course.
The thing is I will be in London for a week from wednesday on and I was thinking about asking PJT for an appointment (Not sure if that’s even possible on such short notice). Can you maybe just say with one word if you would recommened to go for it now or rather wait until you have posted your review?

Maximilian

Ok, I think I will wait then. Thanks for the advice.

Maximilian

Hi Simon
When are you planning to post the full review for the pieces you had made at PJT? In the article you stated it would come by the end of April already.

Anonymous

As with Parker I question the logic of this; The brand seems to deliver neither higher end luxury re. cloth choice (prices are not far off RTW Italian luxury brands) nor bespoke fit. Not knocking, the fashion sense appeals but the USP seems thin and prices high when compared to others featured here such as W & S. I’m probably more concerned at the ongoing disappearance of the High St. middle ground (Jaeger (closing next week?) Viyella, Austin Reed) – historically starting points for many ‘first’ RTW suits.

Michael

Overall, my perception gained from the comments below is fear of inferiority, misconceptions (or misgivings) about made-to-measure against bespoke tailoring, and at worse, pride and prejudice. Firstly, to many readers who are undoubtledy British or from Mitteleuropa, it’s not another derivative of a standardised made-to-measure company, nor is it an ill-conceived one which is predicated on online suit-ordering, It’s of course, a newer London establishment. Conversely, it’s not comparing or competing against the tropes of bespoke, true bespoke, English bespoke or English tailoring. In one way, the company has defied Savile Row and gone against the tailoring methodology of Savile Row.

Since its beginning, the company has strived to be a modern tailoring company. In a time when traditional tailoring houses have had to weather the storm, where they don’t have an economy of scale, overcast by financial instability and takeover, Patrick himself had forged relationships with family tailors – in its earliest history from The Netherlands and Naples, Italy. In places like Australia where the company originated, the notion of Savile Row, of, bespoke tailoring for many years was doomed to become sails of the past. How can you rejuvenate the idea of wearing tailoring to a new generation of young men who would find exceeding £5,000 for a bespoke suit to be repugnant and taking on the artifice of looking 30 years older than your age frightful?

To previous comments – Maxmilian, Joacim, Don – the only way you can experience something properly is actually visiting the showroom alone and seeing first-hand what the construction and details entail. Years before Simon has now posted about P. Johnson, none of the company’s clients ever mentioned the cut of their suit, so here is an opportunity to see in-person.

The construction (which many will be the line of demarcation) is faithful and time-honoured. Remember, it’s a company which is not based on Savile Row. It lies in modern, custom tailoring: soft shoulders, unstructured, with minimal shoulder padding, cut with an Italian, Neapolitan silhouette.

In a world where much of the tailoring tradition and heritage has disappeared, Patrick has to be thanked for for converging an agile business model linked with Italian factories that would otherwise dissolve.

For anyone that wants to try P. Johnson, do it for yourself, not based on one person’s fitting alone. That’s true tailoring.

Steven Argyle

Simon, are you receiving that clothes you ordered for free, seeing as though you are providing a review and a story on P Johnson? If so, that is something you should disclose. They are trying to enter the London and UK market, a market you obviously have, so I can see why they would have contacted you. They just seem very different from your usual postings, especially since their clothes are mass produced under the guise of “handmade”, which any gentleman even mildly interested in true craftsmanship, would know it is far from it! P Johnson often try and steer the customer in to chosing their no canvas option, saying it is lighter and more comfortable, yet it looks like crap! it looks like you are wearing pyjamas! The whole reason for choosing made to measure is to get a canvas made suit that will last the test of time!

Doug

Simon, I’ve gotten several suits from PJT and love them although I would consider them more casual than other suits I own. I feel like they represent my personality and age very well. I’m currently researching who I am going to get to make my first (and only) black tie setup. I plan to get a single breasted, peak lapel, one button tux in the darkest midnight blue mohair I can find (not a fan of black but also don’t want to be the guy with the blue tux). Would you recommend PJT for something this formal or should I consider other brands (also thinking about WW Chan or Samuelsohn MTM)? Budget is under $3k.

Thanks

Philip

hi Simon

Looking forward to your review of your finished items. Any idea when it’ll be up?

LuckyMe

This is completely ridiculous.
The comments I’ve been reading about P Johnson have some people so emotional that I believe we are all missing the point.
Clothing is 100 percent an extension of the man, the maker, their life and their aspiration.
But what about happiness?
Are we all in such competition to find that Neapolitan in a back alley, that we can’t just appreciate a good garment that lasts and makes us feel good when we put it on?
I mean – I’ve spent $10k on lots of things, but none of it can make my life better.
Find a guy you like, and if it fits you and you have the means to continue then by all means do it.
That Neapolitan in the alley that has been crafting for dozens of years wears his suits to the best of his ability and doesn’t whine about it… neither should you (myself included).

KJ

Hi Simon,

Is p johnson more inclined towards Neapolitan or Milanese style ? Thanks!