Do suits maketh the man or does the man maketh the suit? In the latest instalment of our BAZAAR Guide series, we invite Nqabeni Butholezwe Msimanga—better known as Mr Q—to answer that question. The 37-year-old founded The Prefecture in 2014 based on his philosophy of tropical suiting—clothing made with climate-appropriate fabrics, prints and colours that reflect the equatorial environment we find ourselves in. In short: Colour, cut and confidence—these are the pillars on which his prides his garments on.
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The custom clothing label offers both bespoke suits and ready-to-wear pieces such as shirts, shorts and trousers as well as accessories. As we discover the concept of tropical suiting and the process of tailoring at The Prefecture, we learned that most of Mr Q’s clients come to him as happy, successful individuals looking to fill the only missing thing in their lives—a distinct style. He then offers a meticulous consultation process centred around their personality, needs and desires. The result? A wardrobe filled with everything the men need for any occasion customised specially for them.
Ahead, Mr Q breaks down the process of getting a bespoke suit and shares his tips on how to keep them in tip-top condition for as long as possible.
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How would you define tropical tailoring, and why is it relevant to men in Singapore?
Tropical tailoring is the art of dressing oneself in light sartorial refinement suitable for the tropical climate. And it is The Prefecture’s goal to elevate the style and deportment of men living in the tropics. I want men to understand that the way you dress ought to be contextually relevant to the climate in which you live.
What makes a suit?
I can only answer that as someone who lives and breathes the concept of tropical tailoring. A suit to me is a man’s presentation of himself in his finest sartorial ware while wearing it all with a deceptive lightness—both fabric and mannerism—that does not betray the care in which he has executed his ensemble. While traditional tailoring defines a suit as a man’s armour, tropical tailoring defines a suit as a man’s second skin.
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What are the different types of suit you offer?
While most of our clients are white collar workers and tend to defer to the traditional dark wool suits for their attire, The Prefecture has been at the forefront of evolving with them by redefining what a suit can be. In the last three years, we have slowly made more wedding suits and tuxedos in linen and cotton; we’ve also increasingly introduced a wider array of light colours as a result of us educating men that their masculinity and elegance are only enhanced, not compromised, when they widen their perception of what is “acceptable” as a suit.
Tell us about your creative process.
I am obsessively inquisitive about men in general—their thought process, the subtleties of their emotional expression and their long term perception of how they want to evolve as individuals. That always sparks a stream of inspiration, and I combine what I find out from them with the cacophony of extraordinary vegetation, plants and insects that I encounter daily. Once ideas start to form, I create a mood board and develop small collections around a specific colour or theme.
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Can you briefly explain the process of customising a suit?
One thing that is non-negotiable is to ensure that you build a strong personal rapport with your garment maker. It is difficult to imagine someone making a suit for you if the entire process is mechanical—they have to engage your mind in order to fully understand how to make the right clothing for you. This is exactly how the process of making our clients’ clothing begins and ends: The individual. Which is why I take an exhaustive approach to understanding the person, after which I note down another exhaustive list of measurements. Such a thorough process produces the most satisfying results. When all is done, clients rarely walk away with just new clothes; they leave with a new confidence and heightened sense of understanding themselves.
Tell us more about the fabrics used in your clothes.
I used to be a textiles printer in London therefore you will find an array of unique printed designs ranging widely in their provenance—from Indonesia to India and Turkey to England. We also use the beautiful cotton from Liberty London to make bold tropical printed shirts. The same applies to our simpler colours—they come from small, artisanal producers who are experts and just as fanatically obsessive about their fabrics as we are. Textured fabrics are also prominent in our selection: Seersucker, pique, herringbone and jacquard—we tend to source these from Japan, Indonesia, Turkey, India and anywhere in the world where we can find “slow makers”. These are our favourite makers as everything is always made in small but unique batches.
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What are your best practices when it comes to caring for and storing a suit?
For our unstructured jackets, always wear them sparingly. And try to use a dry cleaner that does not use petro-chemicals; they tend to slowly age and damage the materials.
For our trousers, we highly recommend washing and ironing them inside-out (if they are cotton or linen). This is extremely important for colour preservation, which in turn gives your clothing longevity.
What’s next for The Prefecture?
I am currently designing a series of accessories and footwear that I want to launch in the next six to 12 months. I want these products to be thoroughly thought through and tested accordingly so that they are not just another forgettable fashion item. Longevity and permanence are the ultimate goals.
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Digital Director: Boon Tan
Producer: Navin Pillay
Video: Ewan Lim / Ohai Media
Stylist: Lauren Alexa
Grooming: Melissa Yeo
Stylist’s Assistant: Nadia Lim