Robbie Williams interview: 'I don't want to follow in any designer's footsteps'

His Farrell label is inspired by his grandad – but does the popstar do any designing? We talk to Robbie Williams and his head of design Ben Dickens

Robbie, be honest – do you really sit at a drawing board? How collaborative is the process?
Robbie: ‘Ben and I meet in London and LA to go through it all, from my initial inspirations through to how that materialises to final product. He’s a really talented guy, and I’m lucky he’s here to facilitate all my ideas for the brand.’

Ben: ‘We discuss ideas and concepts: books, films, characters, heroes, magazines and of course vintage shopping. From there I’ll go away, and ‘make it happen’. Much like when Rob works with writers or producers to create great music, we do the same with clothes.’

Ben, how has your experience at Burberry trained you for the job?
Ben: ‘Working with Christopher [Bailey] and the team gave me a great insight into the runnings of a global luxury brand. To create clothing of quality and heritage is instinctive, and also something you learn along the way.’

Do you hold any other designers up as a model?
Robbie: ‘I don’t want to follow in any designer’s footsteps, really, I think being us and doing that well is the most important thing to focus on.’

What’s your favourite product in the range?
Ben: 'The camel Demob coat. It instills a real sense of authority. Rob says it’s like a suit of armour.’

Robbie: ‘The cropped Dispatch coat. It’s a custom variation on a British military dispatch rider coat that Ben and I found and both loved. All of its details are like the real thing to keep you secure, speeding off on your Enfield.’

Do you wear the products? Or do you design this stuff for your fans to get a piece of your style?
Robbie: ‘I love to wear Farrell: be a bit weird if I didn’t. And it’s great if fans see me in the gear and want it. It’s not front-of-mind when we put the range together, though.’

Why choose Covent Garden?
Ben: ‘It’s a great area to be, with a village-type atmosphere, and lots to offer a contemporary male shopper. It definitely feels that the whole Covent Garden area is having a renaissance.’

The store is right next to the Vintage Showroom – does vintage inspire the range?
Ben: ‘Very much so, from old military greatcoats to iconic British raincoats. There’s much to be learned from the past, from a time when things were built to last, with craft and traditional skills.’

Why is the store so low on ‘Robbie’ imagery?
Ben: ‘Rob is the owner, creative force and ambassador of the brand. But we’re building a long-term business, to stand on its own two feet and merits. Rob plays an Alfred Hitchock-like role in the campaign assets – a cameo.’

Read our review of Robbie Williams' new shop

Farrell

If you ever fancy a laugh, take a walk down Carnaby Street and have a look at Liam Gallagher, gooning down from a massive height in the narcissistic windows of his label Pretty Green's flagship store. Celebrities can turn their hand to product design if they fancy, but if they want to be taken seriously as retailers then trading on their own image is not the way to go about it. 

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