Have you ever tried making your own clothes? Talk about Mission Impossible! As someone that is trying to still figure out how his Fisher Price sewing machine works, seeing someone making their own garments is nothing short of magical.

OPERATION: TAILORING PURSUIT

His name is RJ Magoon (what a name for a Bond ally, or maybe a waitress in the One and Only Club that gets to say ‘sure thing hun’ as Bond orders a drink of pure meth). I digress.

fashionpedia book on flatlay drawings good learning when learning making your own clothes

The Fashionpedia book – a great place to start if you’re making your own clothes

RJ–A brief intro please sir.

Thanks for reaching out! I currently live in Los Angeles, California, and my professional background is in architecture and construction.

In my spare time, however, the pursuit of tailoring, shirtmaking, and all-things-sewing has occupied a huge amount of my time, and it is now the thing I love to do the most.

I am by no means a professional on making your own clothes. I am an entirely self-taught amateur, and got interested during my last year of college when I saw a pair of Ralph Lauren Purple Label tweed trousers in a display window in Chicago.

making your own clothes learning trouser details around the belt

Lessons from making your own suits

“If I can make architecture models, I can make those!” was my impetuous reaction. Five years later, I have learned many lessons the hard way, but recently things have started to come together and I’ve been proud to wear what I make.

Are you addicted to Flea Markets? I am.

Absolutely. I really try and go on the buddy-system as much as possible so I don’t overspend!

We are blessed with amazing flea markets in Southern California, but in terms of clothing/accessories I’m typically on the lookout for vintage knitwear, jewellery/watches, and shoes.

vauxhall art fair market stall in London

Shameless topless art in Vauxhall

The Holy Grail

Even more amazing are the local thrift stores where I have found outstanding examples of vintage, bespoke tailoring (primarily from Asia, Italy, and the US).

I recently found my holy-grail midnight blue shawl lapel tuxedo dated 1974, which will need a few minor alterations but is in amazing condition and will be ready to hit the town when the weather cools down.

making your own clothes details on button down collar cocktail cuffs mens shirt

What level of satisfaction do you gain when making your own clothes? Do you sell them? Any commissions?

I went through a quarterly-crises three years ago where I wanted to start selling pieces online or do shirt/trouser making locally, but I got so stressed out thinking about the logistics that it took all the fun out of it!

For me, it is about challenging myself, enjoying the process, and the thrill of making your own clothes very cheaply which would – quite frankly – be very difficult for me to afford if somebody else were making them for me.

I love the creative high of production, but when a menswear-enthusiast or a beautiful woman walks up to me in the street and says “oh my god, this looks amazing! Where did you get this?” it puts a smile on my face.

green and orange check trousers and sunglasses

No YouTube, no blog? Do you not have time?

Truthfully, I probably do have the time, and it’s something I want to do within the next few years as a public-service for people who want to start making their own clothes (particularly men).

There is a HUGE amount of content aimed at the female home sewer online right now, but if you’re looking for direction on men’s tailoring (especially traditional methods) you’ll find yourself rummaging through library books from the 50’s – many of which aren’t in English – and piecing together information from hard-to-find sources.

river thames student mood board

My mood board for assignment 1

Help us Tweed Smut

I want to take what I’ve learned to help people avoid all the mistakes and painful lessons I’ve had to go through, as well as to experiment with new techniques that I don’t employ on a regular basis.

I know many women also want to sew for the men in their lives, and learning these different techniques can definitely be overwhelming!

SEWING TROUSERS

Where do you source your ideas and fabrics? Do you bother with mood boards or is that too artsy-fartsy?

I have to give a huge plug to B. Black and Sons in Downtown Los Angeles.

They have been providing woollens since 1922, and many classic and contemporary Hollywood films have sourced their fabrics from this classic family business.

Mood Fabrics is also great (they have a New York and Los Angeles location, as well as an excellent e-commerce platform).

making your own clothes with elbow patches and houndstooth

Mood boards why bother eh?

In terms of mood boards, I try to let the character of the fabric inform how the project will turn out (no doubt a consequence of my architectural education).

If you start making your own clothes, fabric will surprise you; you’re pretty sure a pattern or a particular fabric-weight will work for your project, and then you finish it and it’s completely different from how you had originally imagined it.

Sometimes the colour and finish even seem different! This is part of the magic of experimenting, and I usually have an “aha!” breakthrough moment when it’s done.

TROUSERS WITH PLEATS

How cool is tropical wool?

Recently, for example, I’ve found that I love tropical wool much more than I ever thought, and it has replaced linen as my summer go-to option.

When one holds a nice, heavy tropical-weave woollen in one’s hands, the first thought is “this is going to keep me cool?”

But you have to experience it and wear it to really understand what an underrated marvel it is. You don’t need shorts, guys…

buttons and sewing making your own clothes

What is your favourite James Bond film on a stylistic level?

Without a doubt, it’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Even as a kid, I knew there was something a little bit special about everything that Lazenby – or almost any character in that film – wears.

The suits that James Bond wears feature those late ‘60s/early ‘70s wide, exaggerated proportions, but their parlayed with long, elegant, almost victorian lengths to the coats and slim openings.

The drama is very, very subtle, but it’s there, disguised under a seemingly-conservative palette that one doesn’t immediately take notice of.

lazenby navy suit on her majesty's secret service

image from BondSuits.com

How much of James Bond’s style influences you as a designer and in the clothes you buy?

James Bond has been a HUGE influence on my style. In fact, I would bet there hasn’t been a project I’ve done where a Bond film (or podcast) wasn’t playing in the background!

As a kid, Bond was what introduced me to how cool men looked when they were well-dressed. The important thing is that Bond is rarely overdressed.

In an extremely casual environment like Los Angeles, anyone wearing a tucked-in shirt might be considered overdressed, so it’s more difficult for someone like me!

man blue denim shirt tucked in

Me in the Battlements

The struggle of how to make something which is extremely formal and dress it down so that it works casually, has been central to everything I’ve been making over the past year.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it comes out too loud or stuffy. Make it, learn from it, repeat…

Outside of the Bond world do you have a favourite actor who’s style is underrated?

Michael Caine comes to mind in “Get Carter” (1971). What is it about that simple, blue three-piece suit and trench coat that works so well?

Every time I watch the film there’s just something so badass about how he moves in it and how his one outfit almost changes character throughout the length of the film.

michael caine get carter shotgun

Rolex? Omega.. Of course

Of course, those amazing, ‘70s Montblanc cufflinks are a holy grail item for me – as is his Rolex Datejust – but I think I like the suit for the same reasons I prefer Lazenby’s suits within the Bond franchise; seemingly conservative but well-detailed, and subtly-intense proportions revealed only through movement on screen.

lazenby black and white smoking at the dorchester

What are you working on right now?

I just finished a glen plaid safari suit, which I would describe as “what you get when Connery’s ‘Goldfinger’ suit has a baby with Charlton Heston’s ‘Omega Man’ suit!”

This is a rough draft for a much more detailed outfit of the same cut and pattern, but with a much-more expensive Super-160 wool for the trousers and jacket.

So far, it will be the most I’ve ever paid for a project’s materials, so I’ll be taking my sweet time on it.

You can follow RJ Magoon on Instagram.