Q&A: Bespoke Shirtmaker John Garland

John Garland is head shirtmaker at Sean O’Flynn shirts. His incredible work ethic and his dedication to the craft is truly remarkable. Born in Melbourne Australia, John has been making shirts now for 5 years with 3 of those here in London for Sean O’Flynn. Here he talks about changing truck tyres, his favourite item of clothing, his love of musician Bonnie Prince Billy and his ability to find the most amazing sartorial gems in East London’s second hand vintage stores.

How did you get into tailoring?

I went to the Melbourne School of Fashion for a year full-time and studied pattern making. I then started an apprenticeship with a shirtmaker called Charles Edward. I was with him for two and half years then came to the UK in 2012.

What was the motivation for coming over to the UK?

Savile Row, working here and working for Sean actually.

So you had heard of Sean in Australia then?

Yes, but I don’t think he knows that [laughs].
You are born and bred in Melbourne. I’ve heard you talk about a previous job before you got into shirtmaking; what was that?

Changing truck tyres by hand so they’d be tyre levers and the whole kit. I used to work from a truck so I’d go out onsite to the transport companies with their fleets and change their tyres. They were long days at 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Any similarities between that and shirtmaking?

None whatsoever [laughs], but both involve hard work.

What does your average day involve?

Once Sean has drafted and cut the pattern, it comes downstairs and I strike [chalk out] the pattern on the customer’s chosen cloth and cut and make the shirt. I am also training ex Newham student, Lauren, in shirtmaking.

John Garland: Melbourne to London

Who works with you?

Along with Sean, Lauren and myself, we have Paloma and Isabel who are ‘finishers’; they’ll add buttonholes, sew on buttons, press and pack the shirts. Then we have Peter, who comes in to help strike and cut patterns when needed.

And every Sean O’Flynn shirt is made entirely here at the shop?

Yes, absolutely. We are unique in that way.

What was your first suit?

That was a Godwin & Charlie, a little Melbourne label. They were very Italian in their styling: single-breasted, dark navy, slim cut suit.

Do you have a bespoke suit?

I have a semi-bespoke, made-to-measure Meyer & Mortimer suit

And you’ve made three shirts for yourself, what are they?

White, blue, chambray, a cut collar. I’m favouring the mitred cut at the moment on the cuffs.

What’s your favourite item of clothing?

I’ve got an old French workwear jacket that I’m wearing quite a lot of at the moment.

John downstairs in Sean's workshop

Is that from one of your weekend hunts around East London’s second-hand vintage shops?

Yes, I got this one from a shop called Hunky Dory.

Didn’t you pick up a very well-priced, nearly new, Churchill shoes?

Yes, I got those for £10.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

I’ve been killing Bonnie Prince Billy’s Ease Down the Road.

He was in the Palace Brothers wasn’t he?

[Surprised] He was! No one really knows who he is. Just love that alt-country sound.

And books, do you get time to read much?

E.N. John is often the first here at the shop and the last to leave and is also here every Saturday so there’s already an answer to the question. It really does seem he’s bringing the same work ethic to changing truck tyres to bespoke shirting.

I don’t get time these days but when I do I like Elliot Perlman who’s an Australian author based in New York. I also love Frank Hardy’s stuff as well who’s an old Australian author. He’s very good.

What books would you recommend by them?

For Perlman, The Street Sweeper and for Hardy, his classic, Power Without Glory.

And when you do find time to have a break John, is it tea or coffee?

Definitely coffee.

And who would play you in the film A Shirtmaker’s Tale?

I have no idea.

Oh, come on…

I have no idea honestly.

E.N: He really didn’t when pressed further so I consulted his boss Sean, who suggested Leonardo Di Capio.

What’s your thoughts on the future of Savile Row?

Much the same for what it has been for the last few hundred years really I guess. It’ll always be here and they’ll always be a need for it.

Thanks John

Thank you.

For more information, visit the Sean O'Flynn website and John's Instagram page.