Why suits are no longer made in Australia?
by Clare Sheng
“Do you know anyone who still makes suits locally?” This is a question I get asked on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately the answer to that is no, at least not in Brisbane. There are still a few old fashioned tailors dotted around Sydney and Melbourne, but they are unicorns!
To put quite simply, Australian tailors are disappearing!
I put it down to the following four factors.
Lack of skills
Australia is a young country with a small population, and perhaps never had a large amount of skilled tailors immigrating down under. It takes years and years to master the skill of making a suit the traditional way. The masters have now reached retirement age, but no one had wanted to continue the tradition of handmade suits in Australia. Thus much of the skills traditionally passed down via generations is now lost. To create a bespoke suit by hand generally takes around one to two weeks of full time work. Can you imagine how much it would have to cost to create a suit locally and how many people would be able to afford it?
What about Australian factories?
Local manufacturing has had a steady decline over the last 30 years, and is now rare to see. It is far cheaper to bring products from overseas where the cost of living and standard wages are a small fraction of Australian standards, not to mention a more relaxed quality assurance standard.
You’d think being one of the world’s largest wool producers, Australia would be manufacturing our own fabric. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Fabrics are imported from Europe, America and Asia, after adding on taxes, import taxes, middle people fees, handling etc, you’d be looking at paying $100’s of dollars per meter for a decent quality fabric from a fabric retailer.
Lack of Demand
There are advertisements boasting suits from $150 plastered all over buses. For $800 to $1500, you can usually buy a decent super 120 suit straight off the rack. Social media and fast fashion demands that you wear a new outfit for every special occasion. It is all too easy to choose quantity over quality.
So where can I buy a good suit then?
There are many good suit suppliers in Brisbane, ranging from off the rack, custom made, to bespoke. Yes, they are made overseas, but if you know what you are looking for, there are plenty of quality and affordable suits on offer.
If you love wearing suits, and want to know what is the difference between canvassed and no canvassed suits, what the different fabric numbers mean, and how to get a perfectly fitting suit, you might enjoy The Suit Book – everything you need to know about wearing a suit.