A personal tailor is the height of luxury, for one reason: freedom. Having garments adjusted according to one’s desires sets one free from the hassle of trends that come and go—shoulders that inflate or deflate, hemlines that rise and fall, trousers that get narrower and narrower. (Lest you think this applies only to womenswear, consider how dramatically the shape of the tailored jacket has morphed since Mr Slimane arrived at Dior, or how ridiculously trousers have shortened thanks to Mr Browne.) Personally, I can’t stand it. Maybe it’s a matter of grumpy severity, or the result of a militaristic upbringing, or simple laziness. Whatever the reason, I have a fondness for the perfect stillness of the uniform, and a tailor can help you get one that really works. It is a fantasy—an old-world one, with heavy SM traits. A tailor makes you the master of your own wardrobe and I like being in control.
Finding the perfect tailor is no easy task. It is like looking for a soulmate: you may never succeed in your entire life. Not because tailors are an endangered species: there are plenty of them out there, of all ages and style inclinations. But tailors are a peculiar breed, each one equipped with adamant ideas and unbreakable rules. You absolutely must find the one who understands you on a profound emotional level, or there’s no point in even trying. I’ve had so many disastrous experiences, I have often been tempted to give up, not least because the lengthy, talkative ritual of having a garment tailored makes me deeply nervous. I prefer silence.
Then, a few years ago, things changed. Whilst in Florence, I spotted Mr Matsushita with his mini stall at Pitti Uomo and immediately knew my quest had reached its end. Looking like a psychedelic version of a 19th-century gent in a textured suit, frilly shirt, metal-rimmed glasses and gentle smile, Mr Matsushita, who is Japanese but works in Paris, fitted the mould of the deranged sartorial sidekick I had hardly dared hope to meet in even my wildest fantasies. His most immediately winning quality was the fact that, despite all the weirdness and sophistication, he looked nonchalant, even with a hint of jolly subversion. An appointment in his Parisian studio promptly ensued.
Mr Matsushita is now my personal tailor, even though he does not actually cut a single suit for me. His curvy tailoring, all sinuous darts, arched patch pockets, seamless shoulderlines and sleeves cut on the bias, is in fact industrially produced in Japan under the name m’s braque and distributed worldwide to select boutiques. The tiny, orderly
atelier-cum-flat on rue Jacob is where he creates prototypes. When I pay a visit, I simply go to place a personal order, and I love the experience as much as the clothes. Mr Matsushita shares the space with a silent gentlewoman who makes me tea and smiles a lot as I select pieces, going through the racks and choosing from available fabrics for each from stapled-together little swatches. The fabric selection is the best part: Mr Matsushita uses incredible vintage finds, in rich textures and dense colours, unearthed I know not where. I speak no French and Mr Matsushita’s English is a bit hesitant, but there is no awkwardness: we both enjoy silence, and know that the language of clothes is made of lines, details and surfaces that speak for themselves. He lets me select slowly. When I find something I like, I use the bathroom as a changing room. He controls the fit but otherwise lets me decide with no pressure, never interfering with my choices. The silent woman notes down the order. Six months later, I pick up my shipment.
Ordering suits and blazers from Mr Matsushita is admittedly not quite the same as having them tailored. However, what we have built together is so special, so intensely personal, that it feels like bespoke. Our views on sartorial matters are magically aligned. We share an aesthetic: vaguely vintage, intensely lysergic, proper but deranged. We’ve reached it from different viewpoints—me from books and literature, him from a virtuoso technical viewpoint—but it doesn’t really matter. We understand each other. He gets my taste for a raised waistline and curvy lapels; I love his geometrically placed darts and frail fabrics. His cuts fit my every curve, even more so because they were created with the smaller Japanese frame in mind. I fill in the blanks with my sturdy Italian body and it becomes me. I always wonder what the person who processes the orders might think of a suit with a medium jacket and extra-large trousers, but I don’t really care. Am I a fat-arse in Japanese terms? Most likely.
Sometimes I’d like to know what goes on in Mr Matsushita’s mind, where he gets his ideas—the studio is full of enigmatic paper patterns, not a picture in sight—and even what makes up his daily routine. Then again, do I really need to know? The truth is brutal; fantasy is much more rewarding. To me, Mr Matsushita is an old-world master on LSD, even though I’m sure his Japanese work ethic means that he cuts patterns for 20 hours a day and would never so much as consider popping a pill. Still, the experience of wearing his clothing is pure psychedelia. Put on a jacket and the trip begins, with no neurotic side effects.