Anglofilo – Yusuche Ono
To discuss this time is an interesting tailor, who rather than simply a tailor is more like a friend, please let me explain. Strongly opinionated in sartorial matters and in some ways verging on strange, Yusuche Ono has some radical views I may not entirely agree with. That being said, like with a good friend, these disagreements do not hinder our relationship with each other and this piece is only a brief record of our exchange.
Although I say he is at times radical, one can tell from his speech that it still bears a Japanese sort of self-restraint that he grew up with from an early age. Perhaps that semblance of defiance came from his time spent learning his craft in Italy with the rather outgoing culture of the region. The clash of these distinct cultures in Ono-San perhaps is what makes him stand out as such an unconventional but interesting figure.
This time in Tokyo we paid a visit to Bryceland’s, a select menswear store run by Ethan Newton. As Ono-San and Ethan were good friends from before, they both work out of the same space with Anglofilo taking up the workroom on the premises. I proceeded to place an order with Ono-San although the delivery time is currently one and a half years. Following our order, we decided to get dinner at an Izakaya where Ono-San ate sparingly. We had a long engaging conversation about his views about menswear to the point where I cannot recall the conversation in its entirety. I feel that the best I can do now is to take all his main points from that night and rearrange them to the best of my ability for this post.
In his eyes, Italian tailoring is the best in the world rather than the English, particularly after the 1950s as English tailoring became too systematised with an emphasis on machine work, removing the human aspect of the craft. Even the old stalwarts on the Row have fallen victim to this practice, resting on their laurels rather than returning to the glory days of bespoke tailoring. In contrary, I feel that several young upcoming English tailors are ushering in change as they are trying to make a name for themselves without the tenure of their forefathers, competing on the global playing field in terms of quality and cut with the best of the best. As the Italian grandmasters Ono-San reveres have continued doing what they have been doing for generations, they continue the beautiful tradition he aspires to perpetuate with his hands, defining the standards of men’s dress rather than imitating as many do today.
Ono-San believes bespoke tailoring is not merely buying a fitting session, an outlook nor a garment, but is rather a human to human relationship at its foundation. Like a close friend, a good tailor should know your gestures, habits, preferences, and can provide suggestions based on their understanding, offering ideas you may not have thought of in the first place. Whether or not the garment fits is only one small issue based on data and photographs that is not the heart of the bespoke experience. As such, Ono-San believes bespoke can never become a particularly large profitable business, as it requires too much emphasis on developing interpersonal relationships which is very time consuming. Comparatively, profit is more easily earned through Made-to-Measure and Ready-to-Wear businesses. This is why Ono-San believes bespoke exists only for the few, those with enough time, money, understanding and passion to work on creating such a close relationship with a tailor.
Unlike many, Ono-San believes that customers should not give too much input when placing a bespoke order besides basic information such as occasion, cloth choice and style preferences. He believes that styling should be left to the tailor because ideally, a customer should only order when he loves a tailor’s style and believes they share the same aesthetic. Customers who have a need to micro-manage beware, as Ono-San is reluctant to take image references of other tailors’ work as they are not his creations. Ultimately he believes that if a customer wants what another tailor produces, why come to him? This sentiment is a breath of fresh air with the yes-men tailors who claim they can do everything.
Interestingly enough as a tailor, Ono-San reminded us there are more important things in life to pursue than good suits which should really only be the “cherry on top”. A beautiful suit will help a gentleman look better but won’t win him happiness nor fame and fortune. Rather, fulfilment in life is achieved through maintaining close relationships with your loved ones, family and friends who bring warmth into your life and a suit should only be life’s “final touch”.
“Handmade” is a fundamental aspect of Ono-San’s work and he believes that irregularities and imperfections are only natural when it comes to creating things by hand. He is not condoning sloppy work or being lazy when he says this, but rather the fact that when you sign your signature you will notice that it is subtly different every single time. There will be similarities in shape and stroke which identify that signature as yours, but you will have those days where your signatures look better than others. This, to Ono-San is the nature of handcraft and minor irregularities should be celebrated which is not to say the glaring inconsistency of many Italian craftsmen is justified.
Curiously, Ono-San has never applied his own signature in the form of a maker’s mark to his creations as he does not want his garments to be judged by the name on the work but rather by the work alone. To him, he is only a maker and not a celebrity and as such he should only be a shadow rather than standing under the spotlights with his logo proudly on display. His hope is that people who compliment his work appreciate his work through seeing and handling it in person, and never by hearsay.
As a final point for discussion is that Ono-San has no interest in going abroad for trunk shows. This is primarily for two reasons as he believes that people who admire his work should be willing to personally visit him to bespoke a garment and that he owes it to his customers not to let his business grow too large. Money to him is the salt on top of meat, which cannot be lacking nor excessive. As a tailor if he were to expand too much that would be like over-salting meat, losing the original flavour his customers expect from him. Strangely enough, his heart’s desire is also that his client list is a sort of who’s-who of “cool” and he would be afraid of attracting strange customers with a larger business. As mentioned about finding fulfilment in life, Ono-San would also prefer not to be too busy and time-poor to have time to enjoy his life with the people closest to him.
Cigarette in hand, the paraphrased words above are from Ono-San.
I told him at the time that I wanted to write this post about him which he was fine with under one condition. He asked that I do not show too many photographs as he hopes our readers do not come to him as a result of the photographs and words but rather by fate alone. If fate brings a customer to his door, who sees his work and falls in love with his style, then that is fate that binds them together.
This brings us to the story of our first meeting with Ono-San when we first visited Tokyo in May of this year. When we showed up at 19:50 almost 2 hours after the store closed on Sunday, we stood in front of the glass doors ready to turn around and go home when a figure emerged from the back of the store into the main area. It turns out this was Ono-San who decided to spend his Sunday night altering a customer’s garment who also noticed us in front of the store. Rather than wave us off, Ono-San opened the door for us and we ended up having a long first conversation. We think there is no better example of a fated encounter than this.