My Fashion Story: Working With Textiles – Phil Robins
Phil Robins runs his own business – The Fabric & Design Co, here he talks openly about his fashion journey, the ups, the downs, along with his take and tips on the industry…
My career started in 1970 when I joined the John Lewis Partnership as a trainee straight from an awful Bexleyheath school. After a few months in leather goods and the electrical department I was put into the dress fabric department, which in those days took up the whole of the ground floor. Aged 17 I was not flattered and complained bitterly that I shouldn’t be there. However, I began to love the department and this is where my career began, my love for texture and colour and my eventual promotion to running the silk, velvets and evening wear department which was the finest and most beautiful one third of the ground floor.
(Phil pictured right)
I learnt the technical side, learnt all about the structure of different cloths, learnt to fold and cut, got introduced to the very best of the BBC costume designers who I worked with on up coming big productions. After 8-years and now 1978 it was time to move on to one of the best and most successful fabric conveyers of the time, Rose & Hubble. Starting here was a massive shock having been spoilt with the John Lewis caring partners system and the exciting lively west end I arrived in a back office in the city of London. For days I couldn’t settle with such a change and city life in EC2 wasn’t for me, what’s more I was put on the phones to deal with the manufacturers, who I learnt were only rude and sweary because they were on a deadline to get their goods sent. However, Rose & Hubble taught me so much more and after a year in-house John Hubble let me loose on the outside world.
I loved the mix of my area from central London out to 6 counties, from Harrods & Bentalls to the bridal and fashion studios and factory’s in some of the most depraved parts of London – yet all working for the same passionate end result, all creating and designing the most amazing garments. All I had to do was have the right cloth and sample and deliver on time. They did all the hard work.
In 1997 everything changed. I was head hunted by a designer I will not name and I took a massive risk from leaving a job I loved so much and was so happy in and started a new path as sales director with a new team. It turned out to be the worst move I have ever done, however it also did me a massive favour looking back as I left after 18-months of trying to then start my own company with an ex-colleague of mine called Ralph from the Rose & Hubble days.
So, in 1999 free from corporate, family business and psycho’s the Fabric & Design co was launched. This included a great designer who joined the team to make three. We could now offer repeat design and sketch and paint any new design.
Life was tough at the beginning starting all over again, however exciting and with a wealth of knowledge in design, textile and sourcing from all over the world what was there to worry about!
(Image left: Phil in his office)
I have been so lucky over the years, to have worked with some of top UK designers and with the biggest retail groups down to the hard working small retailer to the amazing patchwork world who create some of the most incredible quilts.
Whether its 3,000m or 2m sampling it has always been important to me to watch someone grow and to see their amazing talent in such a tough competitive world.
One must always listen, only promise what you can deliver, appreciate and love the passion and talent around you, deliver on time and remember every detail, it has always opened doors for me and you are only as good as the last order delivered.
The Fabric & Design Co.
Tel: 0208 304 7444