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Kingston: The Story Behind the Suit

August 23, 2019

By M.J. Bale

M.J. Bale’s Martin Place store manager and business marketing executive, Miles Ruge, journeys to the remote Kingston farm in Tasmania to witness first-hand the beauty inherent in our Kingston suits.

“Nothing else will compare to the fit of this.” It was my first day with M.J. Bale, and I stood looking in the mirror at the impeccable drape of the Hashimoto Kingston Collection Suit that Sheridan Tyler, our Westfield Sydney Manager, had placed around my shoulders. The wool’s delicateness and the nuance of the fit was like nothing I had experienced. My mind raced: what was this suit? Where did it come from? Why did it fit so well?

There’s a story behind these Kingston suits that goes beyond the elegant facade of superfine merino wool and the impeccable hand-stitched detail of Japanese craftsmanship. It goes further back than the Italian fabric mill, where centuries-old practices produce luxurious cloth washed with pure water that runs down from the Alps. This story begins in the Tasmanian Midlands, in a remote valley with farmer Simon Cameron and his Kingston farm.

I’d first met Simon when he appeared in our Martin Place store. He had orders from Matt Jensen to be outfitted in something that would suffice amongst the peacocks at Simon’s upcoming trip to Pitti Uomo. I was drawn immediately to the softly spoken and humble man standing before me. He’d pointed at a small photo of a rural farm-scape and the wall of Kingston suits, and with a wry grin explained that he was the farmer of that land. We started a conversation that would continue long after he’d boarded a plane and ventured to Florence. I looked at the suits hanging so elegantly in store and was driven by a hunger to know more and to delve deeper into the story of Kingston. I decided to visit the farm itself.

Driving into Kingston is like stepping back in time. Simon had mused in an email that I would locate the remote property, “Just when you really start to wonder where you are.” A long winding dirt road snakes into a long valley. Gradually the valley widens, and grassland stretches out toward a cluster of old buildings.

The wind howls raw and fresh across the valley and stiffly connects with us on a rocky hilltop deep in Kingston farm. Simon has brought my father and I on to the property to give us a better understanding of exactly what makes Kingston so special. From this outcrop we’re able to survey a large portion of the farm: rolling plains of auburn-colour native grassland that sits in stark contrast to the crisp blue of the sky. On the land below us Simon’s flock roam, never truly out of sight of his watchful eye. Here, with the wind whipping into you—roaring in your ears—and carrying with it the smell of the earth and grass, Kingston starts to make sense.

We talk a lot about provenance and purity at M.J. Bale, a value underpinned to every element of the business, from farm to shop floor. In a valley at the bottom of the world, far removed from the excess of the modern world, the purity of Kingston is commanding. From the indigenous grassland that Simon has worked so hard to protect, to the endangered flora and fauna, the relationship between farm and natural environment is impressive. Simon’s desire is simple: to produce the best wool, and do so in a way that leaves both the animals and environment better than before. Out here with no internet, no reception, no distractions… just clear air and wide, open spaces, you begin to understand just how significant the journey to produce a Kingston suit is. It's just Simon, his herd and the elements.

At Kingston Simon is as gracious with his time as he was at our first meeting. We spend a day exploring Kingston, from the family and farm history, to driving deep into the property and spending time in the shearing sheds talking through the quality of the shorn fleece waiting to be sent to Italy. Laid out on the table the fleece is bright white and soft to the touch. The shed is a heady scent of motor-oil, livestock and wool. As a retailer, being able to stand here and touch the fleece in its rawest form, long before it arrives back in store as a finished garment, is a special experience. Standing with Simon in the shed examining the wool and discussing its intricacies, the purity of the process is again commanding.

We come full circle and Simon is back in Martin Place, this time for the launch of the latest Kingston suits. The grin of the humble man is on show tonight, a guest of honour to relaunch what has become a special range of suits for the M.J. Bale family, as well as me personally. Watching and listening to Simon talk, flanked by his family and surrounded by the elegant Kingston suits, it’s a proud moment for the man from the Tasmanian Midlands who met Matt Jensen and was introduced to M.J. Bale by chance all those years ago.

Kingston is an ongoing story. It starts with Simon and his herd, ventures half-way around the world and encompasses many different hands, stories and heritages. Simon’s story at its most simple is about a man and his flock of sheep, inhabiting an ancient and special slice of Australian land, and a desire to ensure that this land remains long after they are gone. When you pick up a Kingston off one of our racks, and try it on, you begin your own journey. Whether it’s the quality, provenance and purity of the garment you’ve selected, or the story of Kingston and Simon itself, there’s one hell of a yarn woven into those fibres.