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By Martyn• 12 Aug 2015
"You want to feel like you look tidy enough for work, but cool enough to go for drinks."
Since 1997, Mandatory (located at 108 Cuba Mall) has been an essential stop for sartorially minded men passing through Wellington's arts quarter. A men's outfitter in the most classic sense, Mandatory provides a full spectrum range of elegant yet enduring locally designed and manufactured men's clothing alongside accessories, custom fitting and tailoring, and honest styling advice, all presented with down to earth service. At the start of August, I dropped past their store and workroom to have a look around and chat with co-owner/designer Clare Bowden and store manager Hannah. The experience was, as you'd hope, very pleasant.
Upon arrival at Mandatory, the first thing you'd probably notice is the display window. They've long used it to promote cultural events happening around town, be it plays, concerts, or as Clare says, "Anything with a good looking poster!" As a statement, it clearly locates Mandatory within Wellington's creative sector, which is where their customer base tends to come from. "They're engineers, architects, designers, tradies, musicians and actors," Clare explains.
"I think being straightforward with guys builds trust really quickly...Once they see you actually want to sell them the right thing, they trust you."
Inside, the shops sleek minimal look directs your eye to the left. There, you'll see a rack of shirts, jackets, suits, hoodies, coats, pants and jeans accompanied by a smattering of leather satchels, belts, and style inspiration photos. Elsewhere in the space, you come across tasteful knitwear, watches and glasses made from recycled woods and even a 15th-anniversary Mandatory fragrance. At crux, it's all stylish clothing with a lean towards comfort and functionality, business casual if you will. As Hannah says, "You want to feel like you look tidy enough for work, but cool enough to go for drinks." And given this, upon inspection, what thankfully stands out is the quality of fabrics and the range of cuts.
By virtue of their focus on design and manufacturing, if you see something you like and it doesn't fit - or you'd like a certain item in a different style - they can make it up for you. And if you're heading towards a fashion faux pas, they're got you covered as well. "I think being straightforward with guys builds trust really quickly," Hannah says. "Once they see you actually want to sell them the right thing, they trust you. Then you can go forward and really have them try things on." "We're renowned for our good pants and our honesty," Clare laughs.
"We make a few good things, and we hook people up with those things"
After looking around the shop, we head around the corner to their offsite workroom. Open for private appointments at points in the year, it's where they work towards their new season ranges and custom pieces. Decorated in a similar minimal style to the shop, and full of beautiful fabrics and machinery, it's one of those spaces where you can really feel the love and the craft on a tangible level. "We make a few good things, and we hook people up with those things," Clare enthuses. If you don't already go, why not drop past and become one of the people Mandatory hooks up with good things.