One of the most telling facts about Patrick Johnson, the Australian tailor behind P. Johnson, comes well after our interview has officially concluded. Johnson is in New York for his brand’s first official U.S. trunk show, and as we’re exiting the Bowery Hotel on the Friday before the show starts, he tells me that during his younger years he had trained to become a winemaker, only to learn that he had a serious allergy to a key ingredient in wine. It’s the sort of discovery that would have crippled a lesser man, and yet Patrick tells me this story with a wide grin on his face. In fact he says just about everything with that grin on his face. By the time Patrick learned of his allergy he had already found a new passion, clothing. Winemaking is a career, but it’s also a labor of love, much like tailoring. And so he traded one passion pursuit for another, becoming the most famous name in Australian menswear, and growing his eponymous label from one small tailoring shop into a global business, one that is large enough to require regular visits to America, with a permanent New York City shop on the way.
ACL: You’re pretty established in Australia, what made you guys want to start looking towards the states?
PJ: Well, the Australian market is quite a small market. We obviously enjoy it there, but it’s pretty small. We have a lot of clients who live in America, either Americans or ex-pats, and so we decided after a while that we’d start showing here, basically just to grow a bit. To grow inside of Australia, from a business point of view, we’d have to change our aesthetic a little bit and I didn’t want to do that. So yeah, just client demand and a bit of an adventure, get us outside of our comfort zone a bit.