With the advent of fast fashion and e-commerce, the art of bespoke tailoring and hand craft itself has been marginalized.
The diffusion of technical knowledge has slowed somewhat, with the tailors of old retiring, and less youth pursuing tailoring as a career path. The issue is particularly pertinent in Australia, which as a country devoid of a rich tailoring heritage is home to only a handful of bespoke artisans.
Roger’s interest in the art of handcraft emanates from an innate fascination with his father’s forays into jewellery making and leather work. From an early age he was deeply intrigued by the technical and creative processes involved in the creation of a garment or accessory.
Over time, Roger coupled his comprehension of the artisanal process with a passion for sartorial menswear, ultimately embarking on a journey of a self-education which culminated in a mastery of fitting, pattern drafting, cutting, and stitching, and the creation of the Zimma Tailors house in 2011. Roger’s technical acumen is all the more refreshing in an age which has seen an influx of made-to-order stylists falsely purporting to be tailors.
Located in Palings Lane, Sydney, the Zimma Tailors atelier is reminiscent of the salons of Savile Row, Paris, and Italy – serving as both a showroom and workshop. The fabric selection and fitting process is conducted downstairs, whilst all handwork and bespoke commissions are undertaken in-house, above the showroom.
By nature, Roger is a perfectionist, refusing to compromise on any facet of the process. Each fitting is conducted by Roger himself, and no garment is allowed to leave his atelier unless they conform to his stringent exacting standards. Whilst the base of his RTW and MTM are garments are constructed externally, each tier of Zimma’s suiting offerings undergo a uniform set of hand processes during and post production. The collar, armhole, lining, sleeve hem, buttonholes, and side-adjusters are all finished by hand, and a lightweight floating canvas is utilized in each piece (half-canvas for RTW, and MTM, full-canvas for bespoke).
Whilst he could get away with undertaking a number of the aforementioned processes by machine and positioning his garments at an identical price point, such an action tears at his moral fibre. Artisanal integrity is paramount.
“In a nutshell we take from God’s playground and turn it into beautiful garments. Tradition in the craftsmanship without compromise is very important to me” – Roger Shamoun, Zimma Tailors
Construction – Suiting
The beauty of a Zimma garment lies in its structural complexities. The geometrical interplay between garment and body is eloquently expressed – each curve, contour, angle and slope of a man’s body is meticulously accounted for. Thus, the beauty lies within the pattern itself.
Whilst most made-to-measure garments are cut from an adjusted house block, Roger refuses to utilize prefixed fitting moulds in store. Each garment is cut from a hand drawn pattern that is either derived straight from the client’s body itself, or from the garments worn during the fitting process, thus leaning closer to the bespoke end (as opposed to ready-to-wear) of the made-to-measure spectrum. This achieves a vastly superior fit, accounting for the postural nuances of a man’s body – allowing for angling of the sleeve pitch and shoulder amongst other crucial components of the garment.
A Zimma bespoke commission is made entirely by hand, from pattern to last, to baste – with approximately 85 hours of production time required. Every anatomical component of a bespoke garment is purposed with the aim of facilitating unencumbered kinetic movement – each part moves with the body rather than against it, operating as a second skin.
Roger and five others work on each bespoke garment, with each tailor specializing in a particular part of the construction process. The delicate processes are typically undertaken by the female members of the Zimma team, with their superior needle dexterity achieving a precise finish. In particular they are tasked with stitching the buttonholes, canvas and panel closures. Roger, Maestro Mohammad and one other execute the remaining processes, drafting and cutting patterns, and panels etc..
As an aside, Roger’s right-hand man and Master Tailor Mohammad is quite simply a sartorial phenomenon. With over 50 years experience in the industry, Mohammad has developed a complete mastery in both tailoring and leather making. During our visit we had the pleasure of observing Mohammad at work. The way in which he shortened the sleeve of a jacket from the shoulder, and reduced the armhole circumference with effortless ease was simply remarkable. Roger regards him as the “Swiss army knife of tailoring,” , and we wholeheartedly concur with the sentiment.
Construction – Shirts and Ties
The aforementioned construction methodology is implemented uniformly throughout Zimma’s shirting and accessories offerings. A made-to-measure shirt is crafted from a hand-drawn pattern and can be hand-finished at the customer’s instruction, whilst a bespoke shirt is completely hand-made, undergoing 10 hours of construction. The side and shoulders seams are stitched by hand, and the collar is hand rolled.
Each tie is cut, and woven by hand in Italy from silk, cotton, wool, linen, cashmere or blended cloth. On occasion, Roger cuts ties for himself, and a select few of his friends.
The Zimma cut is distinctly continental in nature, espousing function and form through soft, lightweight construction, thus rendering it apt for Australia’s temperate climate. The jacket is cut close to the body, bearing wide, straight bellied lapels which broaden the shoulders, a gently tapered waist, and a fluid shoulder line. The trousers are cut with a high-rise, enabling wear at the natural waist, simultaneously slimming the torso and lengthening the appearance of the lower body. All in all, the Zimma cut serves to streamline the silhouette, creating an unapologetically masculine form.
Whilst the aforementioned constructive elements are favoured, Roger vehemently detests the imposition of his own stylistic inclinations on his clients and instead regards the garment as a blank canvas, through which he facilitates the reflection of each man’s innate, unique sartorial spirit. Roger’s technical versatility is evinced in the construction of the jacket shoulder – some are cut with a spalla camicia, whilst others are cut with a roped shoulder.
“I inform my clients of the rules and laws, and they make their own decision, I will not impose my style on them, I want them to express themselves through their garments. Laws are to be abided by and rules are to be broken”
It is this ideological approach that has endeared the house of Zimma to politicians, athletes, corporate heavyweights and discerning sartorialists alike.
The relaxation of corporate dress codes in the modern era has led to many sartorial commentators speculating that the permeance of the lounge suit (and formal menswear itself) may be short lived, with laconic, relaxed ensembles to take their place. As a man whose sartorial belief system is entrenched in timelessness, Roger believes that such a phase is merely transient.
“The suit isn’t simply an article of clothing, it’s an armour. The business world is a playground at war and you will need your armour if you wish to survive it,” – Roger Shamoun
Despite being approached numerous times to open another showroom, Roger refuses to do so, wishing to maintain absolute control of the construction process. With an inability to reconcile heritage with relevance plaguing even the most storied European tailoring houses, it this dedication to maintaining artisanal integrity that will hold the house of Zimma Tailors steadfast for years to come.