Last week I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to interview the founder of M.J. Bale, Matt Jensen.
So first off, what sparked your interest in designing menswear?
When I was playing rugby at school and university I was always pretty interested in designing the team kit. But the big moment for me was when I was working in banking in London and it became clear when looking at what was available there on Savile Row and Jermyn St that there was a significant opportunity in Australia. Another reason why I chose tailoring specifically was that, as the son of woolgrower, I’ve been passionate about wool my entire life so an opportunity to extend that passion into a career certainly made sense.
Why do you believe MJ Bale has been so successful?
It’s quite simple really. Firstly, we have been quite lucky that although we started during the GFC, we launched a menswear brand just as the menswear resurgence both globally and in Australia began to take-off. But really what sets us apart is being proudly Australian owned and operated, being a pure-play menswear brand with authority and expertise, and having an unsurpassed value proposition in the Australian menswear industry.
Where did you draw inspiration from for your latest collection?
I’m always thinking of creating new collections based on the Australian man’s lifestyle, with an emphasis on those that travel. In this particular instance, the collection was influenced by my time working in London for four years after graduating university. London has and always will represent in my mind a very significant type of masculine elegance and we have attempted to imbue that in the new collection with beautiful woollen coats, cable knit jumpers, double-breasted suits etc.. Hence also the name of the campaign – The Return Of A Well-Dressed Gentleman
What part of your job do you find to be the most rewarding?
I’m lucky enough to work with a great team, both in our head office and at the retail level around our 48 locations. We have a very diverse range of personalities and that certainly keeps things entertaining on a day-to-day level. In terms of rewarding, seeing a customer still wearing a piece from one of the very first collections always strikes a chord and demonstrates that we are here to stay.
Where is one place every man must visit in his life?
Florence. One of, if not the most beautiful cities in the world with a rich cultural history and certainly its fair share of well-dressed men.
Who is the most well-dressed person you have ever met?
Prince Charles. I met him at a Woolmark event a few years back – his custom made suits were impeccable. He knows what works for him and he sticks to it, plus he is the perfect patron for the Campaign for Wool, given he is rarely seen not in tailoring.
If there was anyone in the world you could dress, who would it be?
James Bond would be an awesome project to work on given the style and most importantly, the functional requirements of 007.
Could you explain the concept behind your new tailoring service?
We introduced the Dressing Room concept to create a by-appointment area where customers could come for private fittings, mainly for weddings or custom tailoring. Emporium Melbourne is the home of our newest Dressing Room, a shop within a shop - with whisky, champagne (for the ladies) and the same service we’ve become known for around the country.
Lastly, where do you see your brand in the next ten years?
Difficult to say exactly, but our goal is to be a truly global business. We open our first store in New Zealand in March with another to follow in July, so one would hope that in ten years we have stores in key markets such as Hong Kong, the UK and the US. Also other categories are interesting, in addition to our current full-wardrobe menswear offer. But honestly if in ten years we are still simply creating great quality, affordable menswear that has been designed with thought and using the best quality raw materials, I’ll be happy with that.
In addition to the interview, I thought I might swing by the M.J. Bale Emporium store to get the low down on their newly refurbished store and their newest offering, the Dressing Room.
M.J. Bale // Made to Measure
Upon arrival I was greeted by my good friend Josh Bozin, from The Tailored Man. After being served a generous dash of scotch, we browsed through a range of fabric choices on offer and discussed the our upcoming plans for VAMFF. After flicking through a few of the fabric options I was then lucky enough to be talked through the 'made to measure' process by Dom, the store manager. Dom went on to thoroughly explain the process by which an M.J. Bale suit is made and talking me through the full and half canvas structure of their suiting, making me truly appreciate the technicality that goes into producing such quality garments.
Thanks again to Emporium for this fantastic opportunity and the crew at M.J. Bale for their hospitality! In this shoot I'm wearing a nifty Double Breasted suit from their latest collection.