Zink & Sons Tailors
Robert and Daniel Jones, 73 and 33, are the father-and-son owners of sixth-generation bespoke tailors, Zink & Sons. It has been making suits for Sydney’s best-dressed men since 1895.
Daniel: “It was never a foregone conclusion that I would join Dad in the business. When I left school I was a green-keeper on a golf course, but I only did it for a year. I got sick of the early starts. Then Dad asked me if I’d like to come in and I decided to give it a shot. I started here in 2004 when I was 18.
“The shop had always been part of my childhood. It smelt like a church, because of all the wood. There was gold, velvet-flock wallpaper, pale-pink carpet, a couple of pink, velvet chairs and a big cutting table with lots of fabrics running up and down the walls. It was classy.
“Dad’s a tailor’s cutter – there are only two or three of them left in Sydney now – and the best in the business. He’s incredibly knowledgeable. I studied at UTS, but it was him who taught me how to cut a suit. And he’s still got it. Recently, we had a customer in the shop who was very hard to fit – a large gentleman with an unusual posture. A politician. The jacket was alright, but the trousers were impossible. Two cutters had already given them a go and Dad said, ‘No, you’re doing it wrong.’ So he cut them and they turned out perfectly first go.
“Dad gives good advice, personally and professionally. Work hard, he’s always told me, and save your money – and I did. I bought my first property in Matraville when I was 26. Once he told me not to buy a particular property: I ignored him and prices started to dip the very next day.
“I’ve tried to modernise the business by introducing technology, updating the appearance of the shop to make it more attractive to younger customers and, a few years back, I hired a branding company: we’ve organised photo shoots and shot a couple of cool videos and they’ve worked really well for us.
“Before I got off my arse and put some effort into the marketing side of things, business was quiet. Everywhere you looked, there were cheap, ready-to-wear alternatives and people were happy in jeans and T-shirts. But business is picking up again now: the close-fitting 1960s’ silhouette is back and women are starting to have quality, man-style suits made. A well-made suit gives a person confidence and when that happens, things just start to roll.
“Dad’s old-school, which can lead to a few clashes. He wasn’t really interested in rebranding the business and he rolls his eyes whenever I suggest spending money on marketing, even when he can see the benefits. The thing is, it’s my job now to think about the next 10 to 20 years and to keep the business prosperous for the next generation of our family.”
“Working closely with your son every day, you get to know him properly as a human being.”
Robert: “It was December 1960, and I was just 15 years old, when I crossed the threshold of Zink & Sons and started working with my father, Bill. It was him who taught me how to measure and cut a suit right. You can’t learn those skills anymore in Australia: you have to go to Europe.
“The good thing about working with family is trust. We used to take a lot of cash in the old days and you never had to worry about anyone touching the till. Or if they did, at least it was staying in the family!
“You might argue more, though. I’ve never abused Daniel the way I was abused when I was learning the ropes. We were a bunch of tradies and feelings could run high. You got abused. It was nothing. Harsh by today’s standards, perhaps, but you used to get the cane back then, too. Now that’s abuse.
“I like to sell a suit and measure it right; Daniel’s really terrific with the customers. Rarely, they can be difficult. He’s really good with them when they are. I’ve had enough of that now. I get anxious when I know he’s going away.
“Daniel’s introduced a more modern, up-to-date look to the suits we make. He knows what guys in their twenties want to wear: soft shoulders, unconstructed – no chest pieces or shoulder pads – with flat-fronted trousers. It’s a nice look. We still do the classic, English cut, of course – high arm-holes and fitted through the waist and chest.
“But with those branding people, I honestly didn’t know what they were going on about! I thought the branding we had was terrific. When it comes to the marketing, well, half the time he’s right, the other half of the time I’m right – but you can’t take it with you, can you?
“I think it’s easier to attract customers these days because you can put everything on the Web. In my day, it was hard. You had to write letters, rely on word of mouth, place advertisements in the newspaper.
“Working closely with your son every day, you get to know him properly as a human being – more than a regular father might. Daniel’s clean-cut, with a good head on his shoulders – not silly. We have a fishing boat and every couple of weeks, we like to take it out onto the harbour, just the two of us, and catch kingfish. We just sit there, talking about the boat and catching fish: ‘Do we need to get a mechanic to look at the engine?’, that sort of thing. We don’t ever talk about work then; we leave that for the shop.”
Find out more about Robert and Daniel and their bespoke tailors, Zink & Sons at: