Saturday, 12 April 2014


Often mistaken for a middle-aged man or an assistant, the very womanly designer of eponymous menswear label TOBEFRANK, Frank Phillips, tells Inhale Fashion what it is like being at the helm of her own label and the importance of the English Gentleman.

We are so used to seeing a man interpret what they think that men should look like, purely because they are men, which makes perfect logical sense. Turning all of that on its head the determined Frank Phillips is not afraid to design for the man and his needs and does so by paying homage to quintessential British menswear. In two competitive environments, tailoring and being a female in a largely male dominated industry that is strongly associated with Savile Row, TOBEFRANK now in its fourth season is making a firm commitment to stay relevant as well as distinct.

Graduating from the University of Huddersfield in 2010, it wasn’t long before Phillips was amongst the winners at Vauxhall Fashion Scout’s ‘Ones to Watch’. It was here that TOBEFRANK was initially launched introducing soft tailoring constructed thoughtful fabrics and relaxed silhouettes – a modern twist on the more regimented, classic British tailoring that we are so used to seeing. “I love our English history, looking into how we have grown and developed is really inspiring. It’s the modern day gentleman that I love so much, the working man who has worked hard to get what he wants; the workers body with an educated mind.” It is not hard to differentiate just how much the gentleman has influenced the way menswear is received today.
A part-time job in Topman was the first stepping-stone that prompted Phillips to go with her gut instinct for wanting to design for men as opposed to women. “From here I got a job as a designer at a supplier, where I learnt everything from production, dealing with factories, designing, quality control and deliveries. It was at this job thanks to my Director Robin Ladow, that I was able to turn TOBEFRANK into a reality.” And today this reality is a combination of jackets, trousers and shirts all handmade in London, complimented by knitwear that uses Jacobs’ wool from a shepherdess in Yorkshire. TOBEFRANK couldn’t be more British if it tried.
Fast forward a few years later and you arrive at Phillip’s second season at London Collection’s Men, where she displayed ‘The Development of a Gentleman’ collection in a setting reminiscent of her inspiration complete with a library and her infectious nature to quickly engage with clients. Her inspiration for the current season surfaced from her father Stacy Edward Phillips and his struggle to make it as businessman. “I'd like to say I was designing for the modern gentleman and creating the wardrobe for his life. It is not the circumstances in which you are born in that define you as a gentleman, but what you do.”

Amongst the importance of tradition and family, Phillips’ also strongly values English manufacturing. “Each season, every garment, every label, every stitch is made in England,” something that is seemingly an alien concept in British fashion today. For Phillips the ‘British Made in England’ aesthetic is still relevant and as a bonus, “popping over for a good cuppa [with those I work with], I can keep close to my garments, which you can’t do with overseas manufacturers.” For Phillips designing for men as a woman is no hindrance at all.

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