For the last 131 years, J. H. Cutler has proudly upheld the time-honoured traditions of bespoke tailoring in Sydney, Australia.
Current Managing Director John Cutler is the fourth generation of his family to run a family business whose foundations are firmly planted in London’s Savile Row, the home of bespoke tailoring.
The company story began in the mid 1800s, when the Cutler family, originally from the English Midlands, emigrated to Australia. Joseph Handel Cutler, an engineer by trade, found work in Ballarat during the time of the Victorian Gold Rush.
At that time his eldest son, also named Joseph Handel Cutler, was only six years old, and with no previous family history in the craft of tailoring it was surprising that, when he reached his teens, he made the decision to travel by Cobb & Co stagecoach to Sydney to become a tailor’s apprentice.
First Shop in 1884
It proved to be an inspired choice of career. In 1884 Joseph opened his first shop at 70 King Street in the heart of the city. J. H. Cutler prospered as Sydney grew, and continued to trade at the original site until the early 1900s when Joseph and his son Leslie Frederick Cutler moved to Bligh Street. In 1932 Leslie, who was now managing the company, moved to bigger premises, purchasing a terraced house at 7 Bligh Street close to Sydney’s gentlemen’s clubs and the city’s financial heart, which the family firm occupied for a period of 50 years.
In the early 1930s bespoke tailors, and there were many in Sydney, considered themselves to be the undisputed arbiters of conservative, upper-class taste. Whilst it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the firm began making clothes for society’s elite, during this era leading identities including Australian Governors General, prime ministers and overseas dignitaries, were finding their way on to J. H. Cutler’s customer list.
In her book “ My Town- Sydney in the 1930s” Lydia Gill wrote, “In one of these houses was a well-known and excellent tailor patronised by my then boss: I think the name was Cutler. When paying this account for the boss, I was always given a chair while they made out a receipt (whatever happened to all these little ‘thoughtfulnesses’?) The suits being paid for were usually about 25 pounds each- a house could be furnished for about fifty pounds. I was staggered, and really needed that chair so graciously produced.”
In 1939 Leslie’s son Bruce returned from London where he had been studying the trade to serve in New Guinea during the war and then to manage the family business at 7 Bligh Street until his retirement in 1976, by which time J. H. Cutler had traded in Bligh Street for over 70 years.
John Cutler Succeeds His Father
John Cutler took over the running of the company following his father Bruce’s retirement in 1976. John had first joined the company in 1965, and other than a couple of years spent in London learning the business and studying at the Tailor and Cutter Academy, he had worked in the family company all his adult life. He had already taken over responsibly for cutting in 1972, and now became Business Principal, Designer and Cutter. With over 50 years experience of high-end bespoke tailoring it is a position he still holds to this day.
World’s Best Tailors
In 1988 J. H. Cutler were one of the few Australian businesses honoured by an invitation from Lord Lichfield to be featured in the inaugural edition of Courvoisier’s Book of the Best, a bible for stylish international travellers. We also received further accolades, being included in lists compiled in the United States of the world’s ten best tailors.
The company finally left Bligh Street in March 1993, moving to premises in nearby O’Connell Street, where for a period of time we augmented our bespoke offering with a broader range of predominantly international prestige label ready to wear men’s clothing.
A refocussing on our core business of bespoke tailoring and shirt making in late 2004 coincided with J. H. Cutler relocating 50 meters further down O’Connell Street.
In late 2005 John and his team completed a particularly significant commission for a valued client. The overcoat, made from vicuna and produced entirely by hand was considered to be the most expensive overcoat ever produced in Australia. (Seewww.vicunabespoke.com for full details)
Then in August 2008, the need for more space led to a further move, this time across the street, where today we occupy elegant private rooms on Level 6 of Manufacturer’s House at 12 O’Connell Street, a heritage listed art deco style building. Here in a private, discrete and relaxed environment we offer the same exceptional level of service and product quality that has delighted Australian and international clients for the last 130 years.
J. H. Cutler’s Reputation Continues To Grow
In late 2012 author and businessman Brett Kelly in his new book Business Owner’s Wisdom, in which a number of leading Australian businessmen shared their stories featured John Cutler and J. H. Cutler.
Then in June/July 2013 The Coat Route – Craft, Luxury and Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat written by American journalist and author Meg Lukens Noonan was published in the United States, Australia, the UK and Germany and in 2014 a Chinese language edition was launched in Taiwan.
The book tells the story of our making of the bespoke vicuna overcoat for one of our clients back in 2005. In writing it she traced the story of all the materials that went into producing the coat, spoke to the artisans involved and met the proud owner, visiting Australia, Peru, Canada, France, Italy and the UK in the process.
We are also delighted that our standing as one of the world’s leading bespoke tailors continues to be recognised in Australia and overseas with J. H. Cutler regularly being included on lists of the world’s best bespoke tailors by the likes of Forbes, Qantas Australian Way, Axel Springer, AskMen.com, Insignia and Qatar Airways Oryx magazine.
In Business for 131 Years
We take great pride in the fact that J. H. Cutler has now been in business for 131 years and that throughout this time, four generations of the Cutler family have assiduously maintained the exacting standards, the quality, the cut, the style and the fit that has made the Cutler name synonymous with exclusive gentlemen’s clothing in Australia and across the world.