1898-established shirting and suit maker T.M. Lewin is set to enter the Australian market in a significant way this week the opening of its first standalone store in Sydney on Thursday, following earlier entry via department store Myer in February. The company, which prides itself on high quality menswear at affordable prices, is doing so in response to Australian consumers' interest in the product, explains its international director Mark Dunhill, who took time out to speak with Manuscript.
MITCHELL OAKLEY SMITH The business has been in the market since earlier this year, and you now have 9 concessions in addition to this standalone store. Why Australia?
MARK DUNHILL The reason why we're here is that our brand seems to resonate with the Australian consumer, which we worked out through what was happening online. I think there's a big cross-fertilisation between Brits and Australians, with Aussies coming to England to work and vice versa, and they tend to adopt the brand when over in the UK and bring it back in their suitcase, to to speak, and start telling their friends about it. We felt the market was perfectly suited for what we do and that there was an opportunity for us to come out and communicate our mantra of great quality and affordable prices with the same level of service we provide in the UK.
MOS Is the store a reflection of the British store design?
MD What we like to do is create an environment where men can relax - a bit of a men's sanctuary. Perhaps it's a redundant cliche, but many men are still not as happy shopping as women; it's a necessity rather than a pleasure. What we want to do is create an environment where they don't feel like they're in a typical store. If they feel comfortable and happy to spend more time, they are then more likely to revisit us. There's also he cues of our heritage, the arts and crafts feel of Edwardian times, whilst incorporating a little quirkiness and modernism where we can.
MOS And at 114 years old there certainly seems to be some longevity in the brand.
MD Yes, it's been around for a good while. It's a really interesting company because Mr Lewin, the founder, was obsessive about making great shirts for his customers. He was one of the first to do mail order, sending his catalogues around the world, and he was a design innovator, too, being the first to come up with shirts that unbuttoned the whole way down, rather than the smock that pulled over the head. He staked a claim to be the inventor of the modern shirt, and that was his obsession.
MOS History can be a benefit and a border to clothing brands.
MD You're right, it can be a burden, and it can be an alibi for complacency, but brands that sell themselves on their history are in trouble, because no customer is buying fashion because of a brand's history, they're buying it because it speaks to them today. You've got to be relevant.
T.M. Lewin opens this Thursday at 129 King Street, Sydney NSW.