CITIZEN WOLF IS RAD

Meet the Australian bespoke T-shirt brand intent on making fashion great again.

First things first, the guys behind Citizen Wolf ain’t no Trump fans. They’ve got zero problem with hijacking the president’s campaign slogan though, and using it for their own good. For all our good. For the good of Planet Fashion, goddammit!

Most of us have tried on clothes that look lovely on the hanger, or in a picture, only to be disappointed. Besides the fact that so few of us resemble campaign models, surely the most common reason is fit.We humans are all different shapes and sizes. Australian Standard womenswear sizes, based on data from the 1920s, were abandoned in 2007, and brands now set their own fit guidelines, which vary widely.

Popping up in Sydney during Fashion Revolution Week. More Citizen Wolf popups are planned, next one for Brisbane

Popping up in Sydney during Fashion Revolution Week. More Citizen Wolf popups are planned, next one for Brisbane

According to Choice,  about half of Australian clothes shoppers surveyed in 2014 reported that garments didn't fit them.

If you can find a great alterations service, cultivate that friendship; it's gold. Even better is ordering something made especially for you, so it fits like the proverbial glove and flatters you in all the right places.

Citizen Wolf's bespoke models

But who does that in 2017? Brides, certainly. That business is still largely based on the bespoke model. Paris couture clients, the lucky ducks – but unless you've got a spare hundred grand you're unlikely to be joining their scant ranks (last estimate I read, they numbered about 4000 persons globally). That leaves the last remaining besuited gentlemen who swear by their tailors.

"Bespoke tailoring has always existed, but it's mostly limited to men who wear fancy suits to work," says Zoltan Csaki, who with his business partner Eric Phu runs bespoke T-shirt business Citizen Wolf.  Their tagline? "Tailoring democratised."

"Our basic idea was to bring the benefits of tailoring to the rest of your wardrobe," he says, "starting with the humble T-shirt."

Not so much with the humble, please – these babies are made in Sydney from high quality GOTS-certified organic cotton. Since every piece is made-to-order they hold no stock, and never have clearance sales. They even save the jersey scraps from the cutting process, which they give to a local fibre artist (she makes jewellery out of them).

Zoltan Czaki & Eric Phu, founders of Citizen Wolf

Zoltan Czaki & Eric Phu, founders of Citizen Wolf

There are men's and women's starting point styles and you can pick from various colours. Twelve different measurements can be tweaked for the perfect fit.

"When a shoulder seam is the wrong length, it can throw the whole thing off," says Csaki. "Length is another obvious one, but there's a load of other subtleties you might not have thought of. Sleeve width, neck size. Do they want a slimmer fit on the biceps? Or more tapered in the hip?" 

Csaki is a Sydneysider and ex advertising man. He dabbled in software development and launched a menswear business "inspired by literature" (a collection based on George Orwell's 1984 proved his undoing), before he and Phu launched Citizen Wolf in 2015. 

Their timing is good. Gucci and Burberry are among the luxury brands pushing high-end customisation services, while companies like Nike and Adidas are shaking up the mass production system with 3D printing and body-scanning technology.

Citizen Wolf tees are cut with lasers, but sewn the old-fashioned way, by an actual human sitting at a sewing machine. 

"We do single piece production, or what's called one-piece flow," explains Csaki. "It's easy enough to get 100 T-shirts made in Australia, but it's hard to get someone to make them one by one. It took us a long time to find people who were willing to unlearn everything they'd been doing for years." 

He stresses the difference between mass customisation and genuine bespoke, though concedes that both speak to our yearning to be recognised as individuals.

"Remember the 'Share a Coke' campaign from a few years ago [that personalised bottles with popular names]?' It pissed me off, because I could never get 'Zoltan', but the idea was genius. I mean, we're all individual snowflakes, right?

"Fast fashion changed the way people shop. The backlash means that people are looking for a different, deeper relationship with their clothes. By allowing them to control the design process, we're giving them a very tangible way to do that. Not everybody is into it, and that's okay. We're for the wolves of this world who know what they want."