A chat with Joel, founder of Frank and Dollys
How did you and Rachel meet?
We first met at a music festival when I was In Year 11, which was 17 years ago! Rachel was working at the festival, and I was that young guy frolicking around the forest, dancing my heart out! It was a year after I went to an event Rachel had put on, raising money for Orphanages In Tibet and South China. She was flying out the next day to go and work there, and I was instantly blown away by her, as I had never met anyone which such a conviction to help the World! She told me she wasn’t coming home… And when she did, she told me she was on the next flight back! Well it didn’t take long, we fell In love, and have travelled together since.
Were you life partners before business partners?
Yes. We got together In 2004, were married in 2007, and the business took shape in 2009. Ever since we were together we’ve always had each others back 100%.. working along side each other on various dreams, projects and events. It’s been a one in, all in mentality.
Tell us about your family?
We have three beautiful children, Poppy (11), Wren (6) and Oak (2) and they are the absolute joy of our lives!
How do you juggle working and doing life together?
Rachel and I have very defined roles when it comes to running Frank & Dollys, so it’s super clear who needs to do what and when. We have also established great work/family boundaries over the years, as we’ve always run the business with kids. So little things like, all work finishes at 3.30pm until all the kids are In bed. This allows for us all to reconnect after a day of school & work, and spend the afternoon as a family. Once the kids are In bed, Rachel and I will sit down and go through the day, what things need to happen tomorrow, so we are always on the same page.
When did Frank and Dollys start?
Frank & Dollys has had a couple of evolutions over the years. In 2005 Rachel and her sister Sarah started to make dresses out of Vintage Linens and tablecloths. They would take them to local markets and come home having sold them all! Everything got put on hold when Sarah was diagnosed with cancer, and sadly passed away In 2007. In 2009 we stumbled across a tiny shop on the main street of Geelong, and Rachel and I looked at each other, and instantly knew that it was time to rebirth what her and Sarah had started, and create a creative hub In the heart of town. It was an instant success, with Rachel sewing dresses in store on the counter and becoming a go-to for hand-crafted ad ethical design! Frank & Dollys was very much known as a ‘Concept Store’, and in 2015 we were craving change, and turned the store in to our official Flagship Clothing Store. We let go of our vintage aesthetic and started designing and making all own fabrics, housing purely our own collections in store and established ourselves as an Australian Ethical Fashion brand.
Why did Frank and Dolly’s start?
Back in 2009 sustainable, ethical fashion was not at the forefront of peoples mind as it is now. After all our travel, working with orphanages and gaining a global understanding of Trade, we were compelled to give customers an alternative; Either made completely by us, or made by hands we had met! People were blown away that Rachel was actually making the dresses In store, and were equally as blown away when we could tell them who made and how every piece was made that we stocked in the shop! Year after year we fiercely stuck to this vision, and when we progressed in to a established brand, our Ethical vision never waivered.
What’s been your favourite Frank & Dollys season so far?
I will always have a soft spot for Birds Of Passage, it was the collection that really propelled us forward and became a very Iconic range for us. And I adore our new Collection Egyptian Rose.
How has the experience of running the business been compared to the reality?
Our growth has been very organic over the years, and we have grown, adjustable and challenged ourselves at every new stage. We are both very resourceful and wear lots of different hats when it comes the daily running of the business.. designer, photographer, web designer, book keeper, warehouse manager, packer, social media expert…. On top of Parent, Husband and Wife. So I think it’s all the extra things that people don’t see, the hours of work that go I behind the scenes, that you can never predict!
You guys took a year to trip around the world – tell us how that happened and what it was like?
It was the most incredible year! We were ready for change and growth, after eight years in retail. So we decided to pack up our home in Bells Beach, our Flagship Store and squeeze our life in to five suitcases to travel the world. We felt confident that the business was now established enough to run purely online, and we wanted to throw ourselves into creative process! It was amazing how defining that decision became for us as a family and a business, and we’ve never looked back!
Tell us about any sustainability initiatives in Frank and Dollys.
Sustainability and Ethical practice is at the core of our business philosophy and structure, and 2019 actually saw us launch a new Sustainability Vision.. covering all elements, big and small, in the business. From packaging, to fabric choices, to new accreditations, to more accessible content for our customers so they know exactly who is making each piece!
What has running Frank and Dollys taught you about each other?
That anything either of us dream up, is possible.. in the most realistic sense! We have full faith in each others vision, and our trust in each other is so beautiful and strong. We were both students with no money when we opened our first shop, but we were passionate, creative and super resourceful! Never did we think that same business would see us travelling the world full time, shooting campaigns In New York, London and Rome, growing an artisan run ethical workshop in Ubud from one woman to eight women in two years, and most importantly, showing our children the amazing language of handmade, all over the world! And this is all from learning to trust each other, and to embrace change and risk.
What has running Frank and Dollys taught you about yourself?
That I have a greater capacity for ‘business’ than I once thought. It wasn’t until I got approached from other businesses for advice, that I realised we had actually come a very long way and built something very unique from the ground up.