Maximillian has a degree in graphic design but followed this with a TAFE course in garment construction. A few years later he put his skills as both a designer and a creator to work and opened his own made-to-measure service whilst also wholesaling men’s ties which took off. This lead to Max creating a fashion production service that helped independent emerging designers get their collections made. This was a well needed platform at the time. After working for designers and making clothes for their brands, Max continues to mentor emerging fashion designers and creatives but has moved away from the fashion industry. He now has more time in his splendid house in country Victoria on weekends, or in his trendy Melbourne CBD apartment with his gorgeous partner and his gorgeous dog (Saffy). Max currently works in a boutique haberdashery in Melbourne, but I met him through another creative project involving dance and costume-making. I love talking with Max about pretty much anything but I particularly wanted to quiz him about his made-to-measure business and his experiences with the fashion industry.
‘I guess from my perspective there are two potential attitudes towards fashion.’ Max states, ‘Whether we realise it or not, the prevailing attitude is one that fashion is a uniform and people wear certain things to fit into the current club. To be acceptable. And then there’s the other side of fashion, for me, where you are dressing to express your individuality. I see those as two very different things and I think it’s quite rare that fashion media portrays the individualistic side. It does happen, but it seems to me that the majority of fashion is towards creating a club that you can maybe fit into. That never interested me. Personal expression is more interesting for me to work with.’
This interest was what drove Max’s made-to-measure business. He explained to me that having clothes made specifically for you wasn’t just about the clothes, it was a whole other mentality from buying mass manufactured items.
‘[In made-to-measure] the clothes are often more durable and are generally designed to be altered if needed as well. But because it is a personal expression, there’s something very personal about these sorts of clothes. They’re exclusive to you. They don’t fit anyone else. They fit you properly but as well as that they tell a story about you. It’s highly personalised. So, they’re not just clothes that you want to abandon anyway. They have much more meaning in a lot of cases.’
This mentality is one that I have started to see more of within my own peer groups: have fewer, but better, things. This leads to less waste, better organisation, and increased mindfulness regarding what you bring into your life or wear on your body (and what you choose to leave behind). Max explained that although made-to-measure is seen as an expensive alternative, because the clothes are both more special and more durable, it ends up being more cost effective.
‘I always believe that the right clothes – when I say the right clothes I don’t mean that as an opinion but the sort of things that someone loves to wear and the proportions look good on them – it just always works and it sings, regardless of what’s currently happening trendwise. So I would always try to be aware of what is currently happening but design clothes that actually suit the personality of the body of the wearer. That has nothing to do with fashion trends. So in that case you’re effectively making something which is long lasting and classic. That doesn’t mean that it has to be conservative, but it has much more longevity. So, in terms of spending money on made-to-measure, it’s an investment because you’re not going to throw it away as quickly, so you’re going to have it for longer and wear it longer. So it’s actually quite cost effective.’
Because Max made clothes for individual people instead of a marketed demographic, I asked him about trends and what his relationship to ‘trendiness’ was:
‘I always used to design regardless of trend. For example, at the moment I’m noticing a trend in women’s wear that fantastically, finally, culottes are fashionable again this season. I think they look fantastic on certain people and in certain circumstances but the reality is that they clearly don’t suit everyone. So, I never understood why a particular type of clothing should be a trend for everyone for a certain period. I don’t understand that.’
For a bit of fun, I asked Max what trends he would rather would stay out and never come back in ever again.
‘Okay, okay… oh my god there are so many! I have some personal pet hates that I guess any designer does. I mean, having gone through the 80s, bum bags are an absolute hate of mine. They’re apparently back and you know the thing that really upsets me the most about: they don’t look comfortable or attractive but it’s not even that. It’s that they’re so suburban.’
We both laughed about this. Max explained how the bumbag trend reminded him of noisy tourists who just come into an environment, take a picture, and leave via the gift shop. While we have all been there, I can tell that Max strives for deeper connectedness in his adventures and I think this is reflected in how he creates clothes. He makes clothes for people, not for superficial aesthetic or ‘the photo.’
Sometimes people come to Max and demand he make them a dress they saw their favourite celebrity wearing and, respectfully, Max enables his client to work through what it is they really want to feel when wearing the proposed item. I realised Max is like a fashion therapist:
‘We have this self censoring mechanism where we say to ourselves “I couldn’t wear this” or “I couldn’t wear that.” We all have odd subjective ideas in what we put on and what we don’t and I really learnt [about] that when I was making made-to-measure. People would often come into my studio and say “I can’t wear this” or “I can’t wear that” and I would say “what would happen if we just tried it and see what that looks like?” [it’s] social conditioning rather than practicality. Somewhere along the line we pick up these messages and believe them and then we perpetuate them. [These limitations] can be a really good thing to challenge. I do it myself too.’
Max has a way of celebrating whoever he is with in a playful yet mindful manner. His personality grounds his approach to clothes and I took so much inspiration from his interview, far more than what can be crammed into one article.
Max told me, ‘I’m actually a firm believer that, regardless of what I think, I would love to just see people wearing what they love and what makes them happy. I think that’s actually really democratic. That is very personalised. You know, if that’s what they love to wear and they feel comfortable, actually, who else does it effect? It doesn’t really effect anyone else.’