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M.J. Bale: Sushi, Sake & Samurai Suiting

Buying a suit can make you panic at the best of times. The price, the cut, the right fit, the hanging of one’s thousand dollar suit in your own wardrobe. Some of this requires basic common sense, and some; damn good advice from an expert in the trade.

MenStylePower had the privilege of downing some sushi, sake and brilliant advice on a night that celebrated the visit of Japanese master tailor, Kaneko, who is the craftsman that personally oversees the construction of all M.J. Bale’s custom suiting orders.

Customers who attended the VIP session were personally fitted by Master Kaneko. These bespoke suits will be fully-canvased, hand-finished and made from a range of the finest Merino wool from the world’s finest weavers. Each suit will feature the owner’s initials and a limited edition samurai logo discreetly woven inside the garment to mark the occasion.

So while celebrity heavyweight, Matt Preston, and presenter Tom Williams were measured up for their piece of Ninja knock-out suiting, MenStylePower caught up with the man himself, Matt Jensen for a educational chit-chat on all things tailored.

At what point did you realize there was a niche in the market for exceptional suiting? 

We’ve always had a suiting business in the country, but the level that I could see, the intelligent and exceptional suiting experience, wasn’t being catered for.

The style of suiting is changing dramatically, so what M.J. Bale catered for was not traditional suiting, but a style of suiting that was appropriate for the climate. We are dedicated in taking out the structure in suits and making them more wearable, not just to the office, but a social occasion or an event. And the jackets and pants, the mixing and matching of these are less traditional than in previous years, thus we’ve dedicated our design team to be able to create pieces that our customers will see working in their wardrobe without having to buy a full suit each and every time.

Suiting is on the up and by 2015 we are going to see online sales double. This of course is excellent new to retailers such as yourself, so to differentiate, you claim that MJ Bale designs ‘intelligent’ suiting. Could you elaborate?

We are designing and constructing garments from a functional point of view, and less from a fashion or trend orientated angle. We are far more interested in function for our customers, as we believe men are more this way inclined. It needs to functional fashion.

For instance our suit jacket shoulders are constructed using a double layer of canvas and not your traditional shoulder pads, which gives far more flexibility in the rotation of that area. It also gives an extremely more comfortable wear for the suit as it reduces the heat that can get trapped with a synthetic in the shoulder area. I call your stock standard should pad ‘bradford bats’ which is like roof installation tiles in your shoulders cause they give absolutely no ventilation.

You’ve simplified your collections to a mere three. Is that due to choice fatigue that men experience with shopping?

We feel that guys are reactionary when it comes to making their choices. So we look at how they use a product, and instead of designing dozens of collections based on fashion, we base the collections on how functional it will be for our customers. So – Classic, Collection, and Custom, are three designated collections which are specifically designed to what the customer wants to achieve with their attire. Some people simply need custom fitting due to their form, and some guys need three suits, and some will be on a budget like a university graduate. So we have researched and designed according to what we have seen historically on how gentlemen purchase, and what their needs are.

In building out a wardrobe, some people don’t want to spend the earth on a suit, and we recognize that and this is why we have the ‘Classic’ collection. We understand that our customer has other priorities, and these will change over the years depending on where he is in his life, so we have suits that range from $799- $899 which is a brilliant suit for the price, and the product it’s created from.

For a gent that has never bought a suit before, say your college graduate, what are your recommendations and the process in being fitted for a suit?

It’s all about the fit, and you need the fit to be appropriate to your body shape. There are some good resources online that can educate you in terms of what you need to look for with the right ‘fit’ of a suit, and it’s advantageous to look at this before you walk into a tailor to make sure you’re getting what you need in a suit. If the fit is right that’s half the challenge.

The fabric is a key component as well and my preference is wool.

When working with a new client we look at wardrobe building. It’s important to start with plain colored suits, and then go for the pin-strip later. So the fit first, the fabric to adjust to your core body temperature and then the basic colors. These are black, navy, charcoal and then look at the other accessories like shirts, ties etc matching back to plain colors.

This is your canvas to work from.

What’s the expected longevity of a suit.

It depends on how many suits a person has. Generally in suiting, if you rotate for a particular period of time, you’ll get a better outcome, compared to just one suit. Generally the trousers will give out before the jacket does. So if someone has 3 or 4 suits in their wardrobe, this will last them 5 years each…so selecting the right fit, form, colors and timelessness – you’ll be set.

Partnerships are very important in business, is M.J. Bale selective on who they work with?

We work with the best companies in the world. The best Merino wool comes from Australia which is the number one Merino growing country in the world providing 90% of the world’s Merino wool. This super fine quality product is second to none.

Italy, are the best weavers of this wool and the Japanese, Brits and Chinese are excellent with the technology in their factories now so we do work with these other countries for weaving. But the Italians with their heritage in fine suiting really know what they’re doing with their fabrics.

Each country has its own characteristics to suiting. So I go to the Italians for one type of fabric, the British have a stiffer construction which is great for the Tuxedos that we make, and the Japanese have some unique designs and detail to intricacies that we really like.

Was this always a dream of yours to be involved in suiting?

Yes, through university I was always dabbling with making clothes. I guess you could say that it’s been a labor of love. There’s a phrase that goes like this, ‘do what you love, and everything else will fall into place’. It’s true. Follow your passions.

Explain the Samurai suiting and its unique selling points. 

We just really liked the sound of it. Samurai Suiting is just a catchy phrase used to talk about our Japanese tailoring. It’s a sub-brand within our brand of Japanese suiting. We like the idea of sharply cut suits from crazy Japanese guys.

If you were locked in Bergdorf & Goodman overnight, what would we see you walking out in the following morning?

That’s a good question! Clearly, I love tailored products, with an excellent eye for detail, so it would have to be Brunello Cucinelli’s cashmere offerings.


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