Mandatory Menswear

  • Location

    21 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro

  • Website

    Mandatory

For a quarter of a century, menswear store Mandatory has been providing Wellington and beyond with high-quality clothing, suiting, and accessories. Its pieces are designed and made at its Ghuznee Street store and workshop.

The industrial-sized space is one of the few workshops in the city where you can see the team making clothing in the workroom and putting it straight on the shop racks. If it’s quiet when you walk into Mandatory, you can hear the crisp ‘snip snip’ of scissors cutting through fabric, or the juddering hum of a sewing machine.

Co-founders and co-designers Clare Bowden and Fiona Edwards have collectively honed their creativity. Their decades in business together have led them to build an aesthetic that is classic with a twist. The New Zealand male figure is always considered first, with fabric and design choices made to cater to their needs.

Every Wednesday the pair meet to design, look at fabric, and discuss projects. The process is always fabric-led. “We don’t set out to design a particular style of shirt or jacket, but wait to see what the material tells us,” says Clare. They often make pieces in limited numbers. If styles prove popular, they can be quickly repeated with subtle changes of fabric and design tweaks.

With a small New Zealand market and every size and shape to cater to, the pair need to be nimble and reactive to feedback. Clare says that “in essence, good fashion is the right fabric with the right design.” The team also prioritise getting to know their clients. Customisation is part of the service and the team enjoys building up knowledge of their varied client’s wardrobe and what works for them.

Mandatory has a small team, all armed with design degrees or experience in fashion. The democratic workroom is set up so everyone can help at every part of the garment-making process. This makes for a multitasking and multitalented cohort.

Sustainability is important at Mandatory. The team prides itself on buying only what they need. “At the end of the day, we try to leave only blood, sweat, and tears on the workroom floor. Oh, and the occasional splash of bubbly,” Clare laughs.