Working Style – Issue 17

Have you ever had a suit made to measure? Working Style director Graig Douglas tells both men and women there’s never been a better time.

 True love involves the expression of your authentic self, and although clothes don’t make the man, a bespoke suit gives him the freedom and confidence to be himself. Leading New Zealand menswear label Working Style are experts in made-to-measure, and say that once you go tailor-made, you won’t want to go back. 

The brand began humbly enough. In 1987, Chris Dobbs was fresh out of university and killing time before getting a ‘real’ job. He’d always been into clothes, but wasn’t a big fan of the shirts on offer in New Zealand. Drawing on previous holiday-job experience in a fabric warehouse and a clothing store, he enlisted his mum to help organise a cooperative of sewers in his small home town and started making and selling shirts to his mates. 

Armed with not much more than a great idea, he and his flatmate began selling to office workers door to door, which confirmed that there was a market for their products. They took out a loan from the bank and opened their first menswear store in Auckland’s Parnell. Thirty-two years later, it’s the hub of what’s become a five-store empire. 

Working Style’s director Graig Douglas is at the helm of this iconic shop and loves working both face to face and internationally with customers, some of whom he’s served since his early days with the company 15 years ago. “Working Style is very inviting and social,” he says. “The culture has come to embody our brand — genuine and hard-working but a little bit irreverent and fun — and this resonates with our clients. In this age of online shopping, they find that welcoming culture really unique and compelling.” 

Their made-to-measure shirt and suiting service takes Working Style’s off-the-rack attire to the next level. “There’s so much to made-to-measure in terms of design, but I believe it’s in the personalised service that it shines,” says Douglas. “It’s a collaborative process where customers can bounce ideas around and benefit from our years of experience. When they see those ideas come to life, it’s pretty satisfying for all concerned, and one of the highlights of my job.” 

Douglas has assisted more than 400 weddings over his career, and advises grooms: “If there was ever an excuse to treat yourself to a custom-made suit, your wedding is a very good one. For many want to go in, and of course we can tweak this with tailoring to achieve a very good fit and look. However, if there’s time and scope to go custom-made, it should be a priority. Look at the number of clients who’ve tagged @workingstylenz on Instagram to see what can be achieved.” 

The cuts and patterns for Working Style’s garments are developed by an Auckland-based design team, with made-to-measure suits then crafted by master tailors in Portugal, a country whose rich sartorial heritage makes them global leaders. At an initial 30-minute fitting, more than 40 measurements and adjustments are made to create a suit pattern that flatters flawlessly. Options abound for jacket, shoulder, lapel, pocket, cuff and waistband styles, linings, buttonholes and monograms. The fabrics available read like an excellent adventure: New Zealand merino, Mongolian cashmere, Persian silk, Turkish mohair, Italian cotton and Irish linen from some of the world’s finest mills. 

It is an opportunity to craft something deeply personal. “Recently, a customer’s fiancée brought in a label she’d had embroidered with a little love note. We installed it into her groom’s beautiful cashmere jacket when we did the final tailoring as a nice surprise the two of them shared,” Douglas says. (Women can now be even more involved, asorking Style now offers a custom-made suiting service for women, with a bride among the first takers.) 

Including two to three fittings, the official make time for a suit is around eight weeks, but Douglas recommends starting three to six months out to allow plenty of time. He, Chris or the crew sometimes join grooms on their wedding day to help style their look. 

“If you own a fantastic piece you look and feel good in, you find ways to wear it,” says Graig. “Even clients who don’t wear a suit regularly tell me they’ve got consistent use out of their wedding outfit.” 

Although Working Style’s clothing has evolved over the years, the idea underpinning it – classic with a twist – remains the same, as has their goal to help the wearer be their best self. “It always makes me smile when customers try on one of our suits and can’t believe how well it fits,” says Graig. “There really is nothing like slipping on a garment that’s been made just for you – you feel a million dollars.”

Words—Philippa Prentice |  Photography—Coralee Stone