Of all the articles I’ve written and tailors I’ve covered, I’ve probably had more inquiry and interest in this suit from P. Johnson than just about anything else (earlier article here and here). I put that down to the brand having a strong online global following stemming from a well executed vision of modern, lightweight Italian tailoring, being far more accessible to a wider audience than bespoke tailors charging upwards of $6,000USD per suit (i.e. a motivated young professional or those with a reasonable income can slowly build their wardrobe with P. Johnson suits) and a brand which has done a lot to make tailoring cool again. Whilst every man and his dog now has their own trendy made-to-measure tailoring operation, Patrick was among the very first to see the opportunity for this market, execute well and build a successful brand out of it at scale.
The disappointing part, for me, of the first point above is that I know how much interest this article will generate and, unfortunately, my experience in terms of the suit itself hasn’t been a positive one. The suit had to be re-made and even after that, there were a number of issues.
I’ve done my best here to try to articulate the points where we’ve had issues (as well as highlighting what went well) as clearly possible and I’ve split it up into 3 categories – Experience, Manufacturing and Fit to show where things went well or awry.
I know this sounds strange, but putting the suit aside (which, I get it, is the main metric of success in making a suit) this has been the most enjoyable experience I’ve had in bespoke or made-to-measure tailoring. As mentioned in one of the earlier articles in this series, so much of tailoring is still set in dark wood paneled ateliers, with dark leather chesterfields, something bordering on mood lighting and a somewhat stuffy vibe. I still like wood paneled rooms, chesterfields and mood lighting, but it can get a bit much when it’s just about every tailor you see. If the atelier aesthetic of the 20th century (and through until now) was the Catholic Church, then P. Johnson has been the Second Vatican Council. Throw open the curtains, make the atmosphere inviting and think about what your customer might actually want in their experience (points for Patrick for doing a better job than the Church on that front).
It’s such an inviting atmosphere and somewhere you actually want to browse around, talk to the guys and enjoy yourself. In this regard, no one does it better.
After a couple of fittings, the suit was sent down to me and I sent Porter and Matt some images. In my opinion, the suit had to be re-made as there were a number of issues in the fit which couldn’t be corrected with alterations (some issues in the trousers alone were the pleats were now sitting almost completely open, pockets bagging out significantly, skin-tight in the upper thighs, loose in the seat). As I’d highlighted in the article of the first fitting, if, when the suit is cut, it’s based off inaccurate measurements, there’s only ever going to be so much you can do to save it with alterations and it will need to be re-cut from scratch, with better measurements.
In this regard, the response was what I think is a fair and customer focused approach and, after seeing the images, they were sincerely apologetic, immediately offered to make the suit again and agreed that the issues with fit couldn’t be saved.
I came back in and we started from scratch again. New measurements, new pattern. At the same time, I ordered 2 pairs of separate trousers (one brown, one creme) from the same VBC book which the suit cloth came from as I was so impressed with the cloth itself and was confident that the first time around was an anomaly and the issues would be corrected from here on.
This is where the manufacturing issues started to creep in, both technically and in what must be the result of the breakdown of communication between the Sydney store and the factory in Carrara. I’ve listed a number of the issues below as bullet points.
- Of the 3 pairs of trousers which arrived (1 for the suit and the 2 as separates) the pleats weren’t there (i.e. they were made as flat front trousers, when the previous pair were pleated)
- 2 buttons fell off the suit trousers straight away (one was already hanging off and the other fell off as I fastened it)
- On the brown trousers, one button was broken in half but still attached
- One of the trousers had a random zip fly, when everything else was made with a button fly
- The jacket, which had originally been made with a Milanese button hole (and looked great with it) was now a regular button hole (which really bothered me, given how much I liked the Milanese)
Fit (second time ’round):
In terms of fit, again, a number of issues here (but better than the first suit). The thing that first struck me as a mistake which just shouldn’t have been made, was that the trousers still had a ton of room to be taken in at the waist. It’s strange because at least with the first suit, after a couple of alterations we got the waist measurement right, so the new trousers should be pretty close to that measurement. I’d understand being cautious and allowing an extra 2cm just in case (much harder to take something out accurately, than it is to take it in), but it was so much more than that and we’re straight back to the issue with the pattern risking being irreparable. We agreed to alter all three pairs of trousers, I’d keep those (no cost) and new ones would be made, although as they’re cut to be worn high, without pleats they just don’t look right.
Once the trousers were taken in, that resulted in some bunching in the seat, as the extra cloth hadn’t been taken in sufficiently in line with the waist. The main issue, though, was that the inseam was too snug, which makes them pull at the crotch (it’s also slightly uncomfortable and looks awful. I have some images we took of this from behind, but they’re honestly embarrassing and I can’t bring myself to upload them). In addition, the pockets and side seams still sat away from my body, creating extra width and it’s not clean visually (I’ve since had the trousers altered again, locally, and the pockets are better, but still not good). That was the case on all 3 pairs of trousers. Once the new ones were made, all of the issues were largely the same (so, 6 pairs, though I only paid for the suit as I wasn’t charged for the other trousers, due to the issues experienced by that point).
For the waist coat, it sits long at the front, particularly beneath the buttons and I don’t know how that length could have been intentional. That said, if it was, that’s then a difference in design preference and not a fit issue, but for me it’s far too long given the height of the trousers. Other than that, the waist coat is OK, but fairly boxy. It, along with the jacket, doesn’t sit centred on my neck (sits off to the right hand side). This is due to having my collarbone broken multiple times and that side being narrower (every time it breaks, it fuses with a slight overlap). I’m honestly not sure if this may be an unrealistic expectation for made to measure to be able to address that. Bespoke certainly should, but bespoke is much more expensive and your pattern is made individually. In addition, on the inside neck, the stitching completely misses the lining at one point, then finds it again a few stitches later (see second image above). To miss the lining, you’d have to completely take your eyes of what you’re doing, and then get back on track and still not pick it up through quality control. No-one will ever see that, but it’s not the point.
The jacket, overall, is so-so. There’s still too much cloth where the chest meets the sleeve, one rear vent sits more open than the other, the sleeve pitch is out slightly causing wrinkles in the arms, I’m sure the lining colour is now different from the original jacket, the waistcoat lining is a very different colour, and overall it’s still fairly boxy through the waist.
In trying to find a positive I can say that it’s nice and light to wear, thanks to the light cloth and lightweight construction. On a hot day it’s great.
All in all, I’ve worn the suit a handful of times in order the let it wear in a little and assess the fit, but since then, it’s sat in my wardrobe and I don’t expect I’ll wear it much in the future.
I had really wanted this suit to work out. I admire Patrick and the business he’s built, I think Porter and Matt are great people as individuals and are so enjoyable to deal with professionally and the experience of going to a P. Johnson store is fantastic. But all of that can’t compensate for the fact that the process was burdened with a range of administrative and technical own goals, and the finished suit, after all that effort, still misses the mark significantly in terms of fit.
My sense is that, in order to limit these types of issues occurring in future, as a business they’d be better off, even if just for 5 minutes, losing some of the easy-going, casual approach in order to really focus on the fit, what needs to be changed, nailing those changes, then relaxing again. If the fit issues are occurring and the guys are focused, then it’s an issue of not having the technical knowledge of how to get the fit right in the first place. My hope is that it’s the former. Additionally, I’m not sure which end the breakdown in communication is occurring, either. Is the wrong information is being sent to Carrara, or are Carrara are getting the right information then making mistakes, or some combination of the two?
The one caveat I’ll put is that I know a number of other people who have their suits made at P. Johnson, the suits look good and they’re happy with their purchases, so maybe I’ve just been unlucky in this instance.