Melbourne outerwear label Friends With Frank began as a side hustle for Julia McCarthy, who was working in retail management and as a buyer when the label first launched in 2012. She began by experimenting with cuts and materials for friends and family, and five years later quit her full-time job to give Friends With Frank her full attention.
McCarthy designs what she calls “forever coats” – classic cuts designed to be timeless, rather than trend-driven styles. “I’m personally a fan of the philosophy ‘buy less, choose well’,” she says. “All of our pieces in the range were really thoughtfully designed with that in mind.”
Now the label is making its first foray into bricks-and-mortar with a new Richmond store. Its minimalist online aesthetic is applied here too, with whitewashed walls, concrete floors, exposed beams, and line drawings on the walls by Melbourne artist Kate Florence.
Two faux shearling Huggy chairs are designed to feel like a warm embrace. “I fell in love with them immediately,” McCarthy says. “If Friends With Frank was a chair, it’d be these.”
On the racks you’ll find the label’s autumn/winter ’20 collection. The Camilla is a wool-cashmere coat with an oversized silhouette, designed to be cinched in at the waist with a detachable belt. The Mimi is a fully reversible jacket, cut like a bomber but made from faux shearling and faux suede.
“I’ve always had a deep love for outerwear, and especially real shearling coats and long cashmere coats,” McCarthy says.
Back in 2012, her first piece was the Frank jacket, made from real rabbit fur. And while recent collections lean more on faux fur as a core material, some real fur is still used. McCarthy says that’s because it’s hard to match in terms of warmth, quality and softness.
The fur she uses, she explains, is “ethically sourced” as certified by-product, which means “the animal is farmed primarily to supply another industry, where its fur and oils are secondary-use yields.” She also hopes pieces made from real fur will last longer, so they can be handed down from generation to generation.
“We welcome having open discussions with [our customers] about wearing real fur or the choice to wear it,” McCarthy says. “We’re just trying to be as open and transparent [as possible] with our customers to explain where we source it from … and why we think it’s important to use it as a material.”
Rather than delay the opening of the new store, timed right in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, McCarthy has opened it as an appointment-only shop, with bookings available for one-on-one visits.
Friends With Frank is open by appointment only at 2A/30 Wangaratta Street, Richmond.