Make It Better

There's barely a handful of fully bespoke tailors left in Australia but, having polished his craft on London's Savile Row, Rhys Twist is preserving the tradition.

“Bespoke” has become one of the most misunderstood words in the English language. Today we’re offered “bespoke vacations”, “bespoke cocktails”, even “bespoke pornography” (a growth area in California apparently). Endlessly misappropriated, “bespoke” has turned into a marketing catch-all that’s wheeled out for the flimsiest degree of personal modification. 

Yet in its true context of tailoring, the promise of bespoke is a wondrous thing. Essentially, what it denotes is a garment that is constructed totally from scratch and made for you and you alone. Mercilessly labour-intensive and highly skilled, it reflects the pinnacle of the tailoring profession.

As a bespoke tailor, Rhys Twist is therefore a rarity. The 31-year-old served apprenticeships at J.H Cutler and Valentini in Sydney, before a stint at Oscar Hunt and then heading over to Savile Row. Now back in Australia, operating under the name Twisty The Tailor, Rhys put down his shears to reflect on his craft.

After Coronavirus, I think people are going to be a lot more cautious of where they’re spending their money. Hopefully that shifts people’s perception from quantity to quality and encourages them to invest in well-made garments that actually last. Perhaps there’ll be a little more appreciation for what actually goes into a garment as opposed to purchasing something mass-produced off the rack. That’s my hope anyway, but time will only tell. 

I also wonder if Covid-19 will make people start wanting to dress up a little bit more. Speaking in the middle of COVID, everyone’s working from home, they’re wearing sweatpants and casual gear most of the time. The TV host Jimmy Kimmel recently started this initiative called “Formal Fridays” that turns the idea of Casual Fridays on it’s head. Everyone dresses up in a suit to then go and work at their kitchen table. It’s certainly an interesting idea.

My earliest inspiration for tailoring came from watching old tap-dancing films, particularly Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. It all grew from there. There’s a scene in Singin’ in the Rain, where Gene Kelly is wearing high-waisted, grey flannel trousers with a white collared shirt and a burgundy knitted jumper and he’s just walking around with such grace and elegance. I remember seeing it and thinking: ‘’That’s definitely where I want to be at.”

It used to be the art and construction that I loved about tailoring, but now it’s more mathematical. I love seeing how we take the measurements of a three-dimensional figure and then calculate how to translate them into a 2-D pattern. That involves trigonometry, geometry, sometimes even a little bit of algebra. It’s highly technical, but that whole synthesis really inspires me now. I love watching that whole process unfold, from the client initially coming in to pick out his cloth to watching him try on the garment for the last time. That moment is the final tick at the very end of the journey that we all work towards.

Every man should have at least three suits in his cupboard. I would definitely suggest a navy blue suit - you can wear that for business, casually or to weddings. A black suit is another all-rounder, a bit like a lady’s little black dress. After that a grey or charcoal suit can also be fairly versatile. From there, you can go into something a little bit more jazzy like, say, a Prince of Wales check. But my three top picks to start off a suit wardrobe would always be a blue, black and grey.