Asking men in Australia to dress up is not always easy. The heat and easy-going culture do not predispose them towards tailoring, leather shoes or even trousers. But Christian Kimber, the British-born founder of an eponymous store in Melbourne’s Fitzroy district, is forging a new way.
“What we are offering is the definition of modern, urban Australian style,” he says. “It’s relaxed, it’s functional and it also prioritises quality materials and ethical production.”
A good example are his Japanese-cotton blousons (from £225), which are made from such a soft jersey they feel like summer knitwear. In navy or a biscuity mélange, they have tonal cotton linings and a short collar – the kind of thing you could chuck on over anything from jeans to board shorts. Kimber suggests trying one over a dusty pink polo shirt (£115) in lightweight Italian piqué. Another relaxed offering is a garment-dyed double-breasted jacket (£400) made without any canvas or padding – again, more reminiscent of knitwear than a traditional blazer.
“Most clothing in Australia is either camping and outdoor wear or formal tailoring,” says Kimber. “There’s surprisingly little that embraces city coffee-shop culture.” Fitzroy is the perfect location to present that style, the area buzzing with bars, galleries and those ubiquitous coffee shops. The Christian Kimber store is similarly eclectic, with midcentury furniture sitting alongside tree-stump coffee tables and stacks of magazines.
“We like the atmosphere to be as comfortable as the clothing,” says Kimber. “It has a laidback sitting-room feel, where guys can just hang out and ask questions without feeling there’s a salesman watching their every move.” Many stores pay lip service to this approach but Kimber is true to his word, offering coffee and other refreshments, and letting the man who hates shopping get used to how much he likes just being there.
On the walls are framed designs of Kimber’s distinctive pocket squares (£63), each of which he drew and designed himself. Inspired by different cityscapes, they use notably subdued colours, rather different to the yellow polka dots and bright pink paisleys often found in traditional men’s outfitters. The Auckland square in silk/wool depicts abstract, spiky clouds making landfall on a New Zealand mountain – all in washed blues, greys and browns.
Kimber, who founded his brand online four years ago before opening the physical store in late 2016, began life as a shoe nerd, working for British footwear brand Lodger before moving to Australia. So it’s not surprising that his shoe range is both broad and well thought out, with Oxfords (£280) and loafers (from £295) sitting alongside low- and high-top sneakers (from £199).