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Patrick Johnson on fatherhood and slowing down.

30 August 2021

As a fashion designer and tailor, Patrick Johnson has achieved global success. But fatherhood is his most treasured role yet. We sat down with the style icon on the eve of Father’s Day to find out what being a father means to him.

Explore


Patrick Johnson on fatherhood and slowing down.

30 August 2021

As a fashion designer and tailor, Patrick Johnson has achieved global success. But fatherhood is his most treasured role yet. We sat down with the style icon on the eve of Father’s Day to find out what being a father means to him.

Patrick Johnson with his son and daughter

Patrick Johnson has discovered that this time with his son and daughter is his greatest source of joy. Image: James Harvey Kelly courtesy of Patrick Johnson.

Of the many things you expect of parenthood, relaxation is perhaps not the first that comes to mind. But in the process of raising two young children, Patrick Johnson has found himself becoming, above all, a calmer person.

Of course, there’s the sleep deprivation, and all the chaos and colour of familial life with a five-year-old son and four-year-old daughter, whom he raises with wife Tamsin Johnson. But Patrick, whose life pre-COVID involved a significant amount of travel to run his six P Johnson showrooms around the world, has found himself shuffling his priorities and liking where they have landed.

On a sunny morning in Sydney, with the sound of a magpie burbling in the distance, Patrick took a moment to talk fatherhood, role models and his new fossil-hunting hobby.

On his strong foundation

The family that raises you often shapes the family you create. Patrick and Tamsin both come from tight families – which, in Patrick’s case, included two fathers, who each offered him something different and equally formative.

Patrick says he is “extraordinarily close” with his biological dad, who has been an enormous influence. “He's an incredibly thoughtful and disciplined sort of individual, in the way that he raised us. He was strong where he needed to be, soft where he needed to be – he really thought about it. This approach gave us an opportunity to find ourselves, it wasn't overpowering.”

Patrick Johnson in his Sydney showroom

Patrick says his father and stepfather each offered him something different and equally formative. Image: Sue Stubbs.

On top of this, Patrick also enjoys a close relationship with his stepfather. It was he who cultivated Patrick’s appreciation for timeless, custom-made clothes, and the idea that men should take pride in their appearance.

“I’ve got two dads really, in that sense, and that was always my reality. And I also had two mothers as well. So that was just normal for me.”

On becoming a father

Despite having such strong father figures, Patrick inevitably faced a learning curve when he became a father himself. While pleasantly surprised at how well he could operate on minimal sleep (a feeling familiar to many new parents), Patrick had to confront his shortcomings – namely, an impatient streak. But as he got to know the little people he now shares his life with, Patrick says he has embraced the perfection of imperfection.

“They're not going to be perfect the whole time … [and] that's great,” he says. “We’re drilled to think about perfection the whole time. And when you have your kids, you don't want them to be perfect, you want them to be full of those little faults and those little personality quirks – it actually makes you really love them.”

Instead of the tennis games he thought he’d be playing with his son, Patrick instead has a budding palaeontologist on his hands. His son’s obsession has translated into many hours of father-and-son fossil-hunting sessions in the local park.

Patrick Johnson with his son

“We’re drilled to think about perfection the whole time. And when you have your kids, you don't want them to be perfect, you want them to be full of those little faults and those little personality quirks,” Patrick says. Image: James Harvey Kelly courtesy of Patrick Johnson.

Discovering that this time with his children was his greatest source of joy gave Patrick a healthy dose of perspective. “Sadly, my priorities used to probably just be very much work,” he says. “I think [becoming a father] relaxed me. It's made me appreciate my time a lot more … Just having downtime with the kids is the most precious time you can have, so you become much more efficient with your time at work, and with other things.”

Fatherhood has even had an impact on the evolution of P Johnson, with the label releasing a more utilitarian line of technical outerwear perfectly suited to pastimes such as park fossil hunts.

On the changing face of fatherhood

As he navigates the modern realities of parenthood – from the pandemic that has coloured his children’s early years to the climate emergency that looms in their future – Patrick has also embraced the changing meaning of fatherhood.

P Johnson showroom

Fatherhood has had an impact on the design evolution of P Johnson, with the label releasing a more utilitarian line of technical outerwear perfectly suited to pastimes such as park fossil hunts. Image: Sue Stubbs.

Patrick’s mother and father took more traditional roles – his father the disciplinarian, mother the nurturer. These days though, he says, we all know the benefits of challenging these stereotypes. “I'm really fortunate. I've got an amazing wife who is a really good partner in raising these kids – she's amazing, she's very strong.” Tamsin, of course, also juggles her own extremely successful business, as one of Australia’s most in-demand interior designers. 

We’ve been operating at 50 per cent of our resources for the past thousand-odd years, Patrick says, paraphrasing the words of business magnate Warren Buffet. But: “Men's role in society is changing. It is, and it needs to.” Embracing greater equality, both at home and in the workforce, will make us “invincible”, he adds.

Outside immediate family, Patrick and Tamsin have been very conscious about the influences they provide their children. Depending on what he’s tackling, Patrick knows he can go to his father or stepdad, his mother or older brother, and has set out to emulate similar support systems for his kids. “Being able to have multiple people around you, whether it's male or female, in those roles is really, really powerful,” he says. “You just put a lot of good people around [the kids] and make sure that they know they've always got someone to really talk to if they need.”

By Krysia Bonkowski