#1969 The one and a half breasted Zambesi suit

Photo: Adam Custins (click to enlarge)

There are two suits that every guy should own: one navy, one grey. I’m a little late to the game, but as of last month, at 27 years of age, I’m halfway there. Zambesi recently launched a made to measure suiting programme (expanding on its off the rack offering), and I spent a considerable amount of time discussing the options with menswear designer Dayne Johnston before selecting a cropped blazer and tapered pants suit in a textured charcoal cloth. Now this might come as a shock – so get your smelling salts ready – but despite outward appearances I don’t have the perfectly proportioned male body. My shoulders are a full suit size bigger than my chest, so off the rack isn’t an option for me where blazers are concerned. But with this one we decided to take a different approach.

Using the correctly fitting shoulder block, Johnston moved the front buttons over a couple of inches to allow for my chest. The effect is that of a one and a half breasted blazer – something half way between single and double. We cuffed the pants and left them a little long which is exactly the opposite of what I typically wear, but I liked the slim line with plenty of break. The results were spot on.

Dayne Johnston is on deadline designing his upcoming Fall/Winter 2012 collection to be shown during New Zealand Fashion Week next month, but he took the time to do an email interview with me over the weekend. Check it out, below.

Isaac Hindin Miller: How long has the made to measure programme been running?

Dayne Johnston: We have offered the made to measure programme for about eight or nine years, it’s flown under the radar and since opening our standalone men’s store in Newmarket last year we have been making a lot more noise about it!

IHM: How does it differ from your traditional off the rack service?

DJ: The customer has the opportunity to make an appointment for an initial consultation and talk about their requirements for the suit they are wanting. A suit is an investment, a classic garment which has longevity, it’s a big deal. We talk about the cut and the finer details, there is always a lot to be considered. Jacket and trouser styles which are already in store can be tried on and we establish what the customer is wanting. Fabric, colour, buttons, linings, pick stitching and measurements are discussed and recorded. The special order is placed and the suit usually takes about four weeks to be made. Another appointment is made and the first fitting is done. If there are any adjustments, the suit is altered and brought back to the store for a final fitting.

IHM: What did you do to my suit to alter it specifically for me?

DJ: Quite often a customer is a stock size and we can work with an existing suit we already have in stock. For you Isaac, we took a Mr Black Jacket and Knife trouser in Hound which is a masculine textured grey suiting. We altered the sleeve length to fit your measurements and we realigned the wrap of the jacket creating an off-centre buttoning which gives it a very modern look. The trousers needed a slight hem alteration, but other than that the suit was good to go and we are very happy with the result.

IHM: What’s your favourite type of suit – both on yourself and on other men?

DJ: A favourite silhouette of mine is a cropped jacket with a narrow pant, we have been doing this silhouette for many seasons and it has become a Zambesi signature. It suits a lot of different body shapes and works well for both younger and older customers. For our new winter collection, showing at New Zealand Fashion Week on 1 September we have created a more exaggerated version of this silhouette in a heavy textured wool, I’m really excited about it!

IHM: What do you think of the move towards guys getting much more dressed up – and, conversely, how do you feel about the growing trend of casual suiting such as unlined jackets and soft shouldered blazers etc?

DJ: I like dressed up, I always feel good wearing a suit, but I prefer dressing down, I think it’s important not to make such a big deal about wearing clothes and wearing them effortlessly works well. I like a suit worn without a tie and I always like to break a suit up. Wearing the jacket mismatched with a more casual trouser or wearing a suiting trouser with a tee shirt is more my own personal style. I am aware of trends but at Zambesi it’s not something we constantly follow.

IHM: Where are your suits made?

DJ: We are proud that all our suiting is made in New Zealand. All of our Zambesi clothing is made in New Zealand.

IHM: Define the classic Zambesi suit.

DJ: A slim silhouette with sharp lines.

Zambesi made to measure suiting is available at the following locations:

2 Teed Street, Newmarket, Auckland

Cnr Vulcan Lane and O’Connell Street, Auckland

107 Custom House Quay, Wellington

5 Glenmore Road, Sydney

167 Flinders Lane, Melbourne


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  1. Jenny says

    I like it!! Very, very nice. And the suit looks good too!!!
    What happened to that wedding suit of yours from yesteryear? Does it still fit your slim profile??

  2. Jimmy says

    Sharp! No proper tailoring house would have move those buttons like that for you which is what i think makes Zambesi special, they think outside of the box. The result looks great.

  3. Rickybobby says

    a proper tailoring house would either go bespoke in order to accomodate, or even  go properly made to measure i.e use the suitable shoulder block and cut in accordance with the chest. In my eyes it’s an example of lazy tailoring

  4. Ramesh says

    I too have a smaller lower chest and waist size compared to my shoulders when it comes to standard suiting. So for my navy number, I bought a women’s pant suit in my size. The slimmer female jacket waist gives a snug fit, like current Dior Homme or Kris van Assche. As I’m shorter than Isaac, at 1.72 m, the shorter arms and cropped jacket length meant I didn’t need any alterations for the off-the-rack size. [ The suit is a 3-button Armani Classico in super 180s which I managed to get second hand relatively cheaply.] I only had the waistband of the pants taken up one size, though the only annoyance is the small size of women’s pants pockets.
    When I’ve worn the jacket over the past two or three years nobody seems to notice that the buttons are on the left side. It seems absurd in the globalised 21st century that fashion adheres to such ridiculous conventions as ‘male’ buttons have to be on the right, and ‘female’ on the left, which has no basis in anatomy.

  5. Jimmy says

    Shake n bake! ricky bobby 

    MTM is another step up and another price bracket then off the rack. lets not talk bespoke because it doesn’t exist in NZ, if there is anyone in NZ offering it they are either lying or dont understand the true meaning of bespoke.

    A good tailor can simply take the side back seams apart up to the armhole, trim down all panels evenly, reset the partial sleeve,  remake the vents and repress to shape. doing so would get the fit as well as it does in the picture. I have no doubt Zambesi have the people that can do this but just choose not to. Lazy? maybe but to me they manage to give a very serious tailored suit a quirky lay back feel to it which fits the brand well don’t you think?

  6. Jimmy says

    balance will be a little off but not by much.

    a lot of people mistake the “balance” as having same weight or even amount of fabric front and back which to some point is true but what about a double breasted? a DB clearly has more weight and fabric on the front of the jacket but its still balanced.

     what balance really means is the same point of chest, waist etc remains perfectly horizontal when on the body all the way around. like a even hem of the bottom of a long dress.

    by doing what they did the front of the jacket is now off balance and creating a upside down V rather than the horizontal line. The front of the jacket would ride up a little when done up but nothing that would be too annoying…. i hope.

  7. Pemberly12 says

    This suit looks great. May I ask how much this cost!! What’s the price range like for bespoke Zambesi suits??

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