What do Cary Grant, the fictional Don Draper (of Mad Men fame) and George Clooney all have in common? Answer: they know how to work a suit. Their enthralling manliness is due to both their gentlemanly manners and a stylish dress sense; a suit conveys power, delivering a fatal double punch of sexiness and success. If Hollywood was to one day weave its magic and transport this dapper male trio to Newcastle’s West End they would find, no doubt to their amazement, an expert tailor who could continue to turn them out in the sartorial splendour for which they are renowned.
Right in the middle of our neighbourhood sits Rundle Tailoring one of the most elegant, and certainly one of the most iconic, businesses in Newcastle. The Manager, Andrew Rundle, moves confidently through his store, impeccably dressed and with a tape measure sitting so naturally around his neck that I’m not surprised to find out that he’s a fifth generation male tailor.
All Rundles’ suits are made on the premises in a small factory located just at the back of the shop. You can’t get any more locally Australian made than that, where ‘from the factory to you’ actually means walking only a couple of metres. Here 20 women and a couple of men are busy making bespoke and ready-to-wear suits, sports coats, dress trousers, traditional Scottish jackets and sporting and corporate uniforms for men and women. If you want to experience a Rundle suit without buying one a formal hire section within the store can fit you out.
Andrew’s great-grandfather, Richard Thomas Rundle, opened his tailoring business in Newcastle’s CBD in 1908, but its story goes back even further to Richard’s father, Richard Alan Rundle, a London tailor’s cutter. After immigrating to Australia he became such a respected craftsman in his new home that when the Sydney to Parramatta Junction rail line opened he was commissioned to create a special jacket for the train’s guard to wear on this inaugural journey.
His son followed in his trade, making suits by hand as was the tradition, but he sensed the world was changing and by the late 1910s Richard Thomas Rundle saw the potential of mechanised production. He pioneered suit making by sewing machine and his innovative streak gave him a competitive edge which saw his business boom as the cost of suits dropped. His peers reacted with derision, hurling at Rundle the ultimate professional insult, his suits were ‘factory made’. Rundle took it in his stride and the business continued to expand, peaking in the 1980s when the Newcastle factory employed 500 people.
But troubled times were ahead and by 1998 the haberdashery and clothing landscape had changed forever. Deep inroads into the Australian market had been made by increasing globalisation, now cheap suits and plenty of them could be found in any men’s wear store. Rundle Tailoring was hurt and the business briefly closed before being re-born at its present home in the West End, exactly 90 years after it first opened its doors in Newcastle.
Rundle Tailoring is now unique. As one of only a handful of traditional suit makers in Australia the business has carved a contemporary path for itself, one whose hallmark is authenticity and a timeless class, allowing it to embody the fashion maxim ‘quality never goes out of style’.
Rundle Tailoring, 767 Hunter Street, Newcastle West NSW 2302. Phone: 4940 8382. www.rundletailoring.com.au. Open seven days, see website for details.
Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me: firstname.lastname@example.org; 0413 250 155.