The team of craftsmen trusted with the creation of the ultimate vicuna overcoat were:
John Handel Lawson Cutler – Business Principal, Designer and Cutter
John is the fourth generation of his family to take up the tailor’s shears. He joined the family business straight from school at 16 years of age. Even before that date he had shown a keen interest in tailoring. During his holidays from Sydney Grammar, he would visit the shop to learn about tailoring. He even made the occasional waistcoat for members of staff at the school.
At 18 John followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father before him, and travelled to London, the home of bespoke tailoring. Whilst working at one of the world’s foremost woollen houses Dormeuil Freres, he got to know the tailors in Savile Row. He also attended the renowned Tailor and Cutter Academy in Soho’s Gerrard Street, graduating in 1969 with a diploma in ‘cutting gentlemen’s tailor made garments’. The academy, which sadly no longer exists, was for many years the cornerstone of British institutional tailoring.
He returned to work with his father Bruce in the family business before taking over the cutting in 1972 and as Managing Director in 1976. To this day John remains as designer, cutter, and Business Principal with more than 40 years experience.
John remarks that, ” I ventured into this rare trade with passion, knowing there would always be a buoyant demand at the top end of the market. There will always be those who insist on the very best.”
More than 40 years on that demand remains as robust as ever, and John continues to maintain the exacting standards and quality that have made J. H. Cutler synonymous with exclusive bespoke clothing.
Leng Ngo – Work Room Foreman
Leng, a Chinese Cambodian, was born in Phnom Penh in 1967. His entire family including five brothers and three sisters survived the communist takeover of the city in 1975 but like all inhabitants they were forced out of the city by the victorious Khmer Rouge to live in the surrounding countryside.
Fortunately they were able to escape to neighbouring Vietnam and it was here at age 13 that Leng had his first experience of tailoring, spending half his day at school and the rest of the day learning to make shirts and trousers in a local business.
In 1986, sponsored by one of three brothers who had earlier sought refuge in Australia, Leng arrived in Sydney where he completed his schooling at Fairfield High School. In Year 10, with the assistance of his school counsellor, he secured a week’s work experience in the workroom of J. H. Cutler. The following year, impressed by Leng’s skill, attitude and ambition, John had no hesitation in employing him when he applied for a full time job with the company.
After joining in 1989 Leng was taken under the wing of the company’s most experienced jacket maker. Over the next 10 years Leng learnt the skills of the jacket, trouser and shirt maker. He proved to be a tailor of exceptional skill and this naturally led to him assuming his current senior position. Leng is married to a fellow Chinese Cambodian, also originally from Phnom Penh, and they have three young children.
Genaro Scura – Jacket Maker
Born in 1945 Genaro hails from the town of Cosenza in Calabria, close to the southern tip of Italy. His father was a shoemaker and Genaro at the age of 10 also started learning a trade, combining schooling with part time work for a local tailor.
After nine years working full time, Genaro moved to Rome where he joined one of Italy’s most respected tailors whose business premises were situated within sight of the world famous Spanish Steps in the heart of the city.
Genaro emigrated to Australia in 1969 and after a further 25 years in the trade in Sydney he joined J. H. Cutler in 1995 where his skills make him an integral part of the workroom team.
John W. Thompson – Master Hand Engraver
John is a true Cockney, having been born within the sound of the Bow Bells in the heart of London’s East End. His family ancestry can be traced back to William Hogarth the 18 th century engraver and satirical artist. In 1962 John was the last ever apprentice in his craft taken on anywhere in England, serving his five-year apprenticeship at William Day Engravers at the Angel, Islington.
Whilst running an engraving studio in London John engraved stationery for many members of Britain’s aristocracy, British embassies and most members of The Royal Family, including Charles and Diana’s Wedding Invitation. He also made a signet ring for Prince Charles when he became the Prince of Wales, a ring that the Prince continues to wear to this day.
He emigrated to Australia in 1983 and set up his own business 10 years later. He has his workshop and small showroom on the 4 th floor of The Dymocks Building in George Street, Sydney (www.johnwthompson.net). The methods he uses today are exactly the same as those used in the 14 th century when the craft was first developed to provide ornamentation on suits of armour.
John is one of the few Master Hand Engravers in the world and is one of the artisans featured in Mark Thomson’s book “Rare Trades”.