Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A is for Antons

So much can, and has, happened in just two weeks.  Since writing my last communiqué, I have felt the very fundamental core of my gentlemanliness shaken a number of times. While I have done my best to behave in an exemplary way, there are at least two occasions in which I can safely say that I lost the plot.

Even the finest suit and the firmest quiff cannot stand up against a flailing ego and the failure of self-control.  While I am a great believer in the need to release the inner wild man, there is a time and a place, and a gentleman should know this instinctively. Personal catharsis is quite different to blowing one’s top.

It’s no secret that all of us are marred by feelings of angst, frustration, and even at times hatred. While the reasons that prompt these volatile emotions may be valid, we must recognize on another level that the old tenet “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” still holds credence in these times. So what can a man do when the detritus of life is raining down upon him, he must find sanctuary, and that can be found in unexpected places…

Within the metropolitan inferno of Melbourne Central, is a haven for the weary traveller – Anton’s Sanctuary of Style. While other shops pump out a conflicting cacophony of mindless beats to jar the nerves of even the sternest spirit, I walk through the doors of Anton’s to the dulcet tones of Johnny Cash and gazing about, I am transported into a world of grand sartorial splendour.


Anton himself is larger than life, outspoken and irrepressible – I think that’s why we get along. We are fellow Croatians, he is generous with his laughter and his praise. Hugging him is like hugging a bear. I like this man.

Always the individual, Anton began wearing natty suits as a teenager. He drew inspiration from 1940’s films where the hero was always well dressed and always won.

“Even if he lost, he won” says Anton emphatically, his laughter tempered with wisdom.

Initially his schoolmates were bamboozled to see him turning up to school in fancy ties, braces and designer shirts. But he earned their respect through his commitment to his own style and the fact that he would not be messed with.

After leaving school he went on to manage quality men’s clothing retailers, setting a benchmark for his hard work, ethics and nous at a deceptively young age.

“ When I started, we were the first shop for men’s clothes on Brunswick street, there was nothing else.”  Anton explains to me, referencing what is now one of the most thriving café, fashion and music precincts in Melbourne.

Of course, it was inevitable that he would eventually have to start his own shop and label.

It was around five years ago that I first heard of Anton. I was performing at The Famous Spiegeltent www.spiegeltent.net and the tent’s owner, David Bates, spoke to me of Anton with great enthusiasm:

“The man is a sartorial genius. He has made a silk purse of many a sow’s ear. He is contemporary yet reverential to a time when men were men and sheep were nervous”

My friends who worked at the Famous Spiegeltent also sang Anton’s praises and wore his
 suits with great flair.  These were some of the few fellows I knew who were happy to discuss their attire. All of us had come through the ranks scouring 2nd hand shops for gems, in the slim hope of a decent–priced vintage suit that would actually fit. The idea of elegant and unique tailor made clothes seemed a dream to good to be true.

Back to the present, and I am surrounded by Anton’s dazzling array of suits, shirts, hats, ties, scarves, cufflinks and other enticing accessories, I feel am truly in a wonderland of possibilities.  The shop has an incredible array of dress clothes for men and women, all designed by the man himself, and I was let loose with his blessing to play dress ups to my hearts content. With Saint Clare there to explore the women’s suit range, and the attentions of Anton’s comely and dapper staff, it was a day to cherish. 

Saint Clare www.saint-clare.net

I could very used to having someone help dress me. In fact, being a staunch covert on the open neck shirt, I needed assistance with my tie and the staff were very obliging, not making me feel at all like I was lacking.

As the background music changed to classic era Dean Martin, I felt like I was
the star of one of the old movies that originally inspired Anton. From dapper mafia don, to old world cabaret singer, to suave 50’s rocker, I was outfitted in threads fit for a king. And with Saint Clare as my queen, I must say I was in my element.

 The photos were taken by the lovely Marianne Wilson, whom I met touring with Amanda Palmer
www.amandapalmer.net. To see more of the photos from the shoot and more of Marianne's image making go to: www.mankissingbird.com

To bring this installment to a close, I spoke to a few of my contemporaries about Anton, and their words seem a fitting way to bring this installment to a close.

Singer, ranconteur and one of the best-dressed cats in Melbourne, Mojo Juju www.thehoodooemporium.com says: "It’s a look that is classic yet unique and quintessential Anton’s.  The fabrics are beautiful, the cuts are classy and best of all they how to fit their clothes to the individual".

Russall Beatty, new owner of Sydney institution The Vanguard www.thevanguard.com says: "The first time I walked into an Anton’s store the world saw me as a boy. When I walked out, now they saw a man".

Well, with my rather trying few weeks leading to some boyish displays of frustration, I must say I am glad to Anton remake me into a man.

Nightingale of the Adriatic

Secrets of a Gentleman - The Forgotten Arts of Grooming and Deportment

photographer: www.simonschluter.com