Get To Know: Thom Sussex Is The Thoughtful Menswear Designer You Need To Know

Menswear designer Thom Sussex. Photo / Supplied

I have had a fascination with menswear from an early age which probably stemmed from the fact my pop was in the menswear trade for the majority of his professional life.

He and his two brothers had five stores spread across Auckland from the 1960s to the 1980s, specialising in New Zealand-made suits and everyday wear. It was my nana who first taught me how to sew. She had worked as a sewing instructor for Singer in the UK for many years, so she was always a wealth of knowledge.

In 2019 I went overseas, travelling with my wife across America and Europe. It was this time that really inspired me to be doing what I am doing now. Helsinki was probably the highlight people were so passionate about their culture and their country, from the sauna ferris wheel on the docks to Converse being replaced with Finnish sneaker brand Karhu.

I think sometimes we Kiwis become so infatuated by other cultures we forget about developing our own.

I have always loved the experience of going to the local brewery, coffee roastery or bakery, where the labour required to make the final product is visible to the customer. You see the whole process unfold while you go to buy that croissant. There’s something special about that.

I visited a store in Bristol when I was travelling, called Ottowin; they make handcrafted leather boots at the back end of the store and I remember being intrigued. Having the work studio present in the retail environment gives the product a depth of character but also a deeper connection and belonging to the brand.

I wanted to recreate that experience, that instant feeling of being connected to the maker, giving you the opportunity to be educated if you want to learn more about what goes into each piece.

I think the people in and around the Grey Lynn area understand what I’m about and love supporting local, so it’s a great community to be among. I had never sold to the public before so I think when you sell to someone you don’t know for the first time, it’s pretty special. The ethos of Thom Morison is quality, functionality, comfortability and locality.

Easily paired, timeless pieces that can be styled in a multitude of ways. I do think producing locally is important, and it does have limitations, but I think sometimes limitations actually benefit the creative process. I’m currently working on some knitwear where the whole process from the yarn to garment is grown and made in New Zealand, which I’m excited about.

I like to spend 70 per cent of my time pattern-making and sampling. This is where my passion truly lies, the design and the feel of the clothes on the wearer. My process of designing is very hands-on, a lot of what I create is developed while I’m patterning a garment. The other 30 per cent is spent on everything else that goes into making a menswear business tick, whether it’s fabric-sourcing, doing a photoshoot or organising accounts. I have some incredible friends who help out more than they should but I am incredibly thankful.

What keep's me inspired:

INSPIRATION: Nigel Cabourn is a menswear living legend who has always designed in an authentic informative way. I also admire Hardy Blechman of Maharishi. I love his emphasis on fabric selection and the array of upcycled pieces he creates. Locally, I really enjoy the experience of local brands Penny Sage and Georgia Jay.

HOME: These mugs by Wellington ceramic artist Richard Beauchamp are great.

READING: I'm reading The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger at the moment. I also enjoy reading magazines, whether it's the local rag or something international. (The magazine I read most often would be Monocle.)

Richard Beauchamp's ceramic mugs and a classic novel - The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. Photos / Supplied
Richard Beauchamp's ceramic mugs and a classic novel - The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. Photos / Supplied

WATCHING: I'm watching World War II in Colour on Netflix.

TRAVEL: A travel dream is... a long trip around Japan, from feeling the hustle in Tokyo to visiting more rural parts of Japan.

Troy O'Shea cap and Daily J's new album 'Venus Ate Mars'. Photos / Supplied
Troy O'Shea cap and Daily J's new album 'Venus Ate Mars'. Photos / Supplied

EXHIBITION: I’d like to see...Van Gogh Alive (Spark Arena, until May 6). I’ve heard it’s really interesting. I went to something similar showcasing Andy Warhol and really enjoyed it.

MUSIC: I'm listening to Daily J's new album Venus Ate Mars. 

SHOPPING: I recently purchased a pair of beige suede bumper court sneakers by Moonstar. They make shoes in their factory in Kurume, Japan and have been doing so since 1873. I just love their story and what they are about.

I’d like to buy a...Troy O’Shea Cap. This guy is based in Australia and makes the best authentic ball caps, just like they used to back in the day.

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