Toby Clark is an artist, clothing designer, quiet activist and a curator. Toby is the founder of Toby etc. A brand strategy studio that hones in on beautiful outcomes. Aiming to discover the truth.
The Toby etc. studio curates creative concepts. Aligning brand strategy and creative direction for international fashion & lifestyle brands. Most often the type of brands with a cult following. Toby’s holistic approach enhances their brand culture, creating influential and authentic definitions and resulting in a real sense of purpose. His design approach is complemented by myriad art & design platforms such as interiors, photography, digital media and printed publications.
Widely experienced in the fashion & textiles industry, Toby’s expertise has been sought after by a number of high profile international brands. His work has won a number of prestigious national awards. Particularly his work for Margaret Howell received 3 nominations from the British Fashion Council for British Menswear Designer Of The Year. A specialist in Menswear and luxury goods, Toby is a proven strategist in the development of manufacturers into Factory Brands – selling direct to consumer.
The ‘etc’ in Toby etc. is indicative of the latin term Et cetera. The expansive definition of this well used abbreviation is… ‘and the rest’, or ‘and other similar things’ or… ‘of similar class’. Here it indicates Toby collaborates across different disciplines, through a variety of platforms and with various people and organisations.
Toby writes widely, recently authoring ‘The Provenance of Fashion’ to be published by Bloomsbury. He is curating a book titled ‘FANDOM -the Blessed Curse’ featuring the narratives and portraits of British Football Fans. With key contributors Ian Macdonald the photographer and Paolo Hewitt the writer.
The Toby etc. studio welcomes all creative proposals, but carefully chooses the projects and clients it partners with. Toby’s fundamental desire is to create thoughtful, meaningful work, that has a positive impact on the planet for the collective good.
To read the full background of Toby’s career, please view the Biography section of this site.
A company profile and curriculum vitae is available by request.
“I think of myself as an outlier and an art activist of beautifully crafted objects. I also hold an appreciation for holistic design thinking. I pursue honest design and seek to craft beautiful products with both commercial and non-commercial intent. I do this across a broad spectrum of disciplines.
My sense of purpose is defined by the holistic value of the art & design I create. Focusing on the pleasure and benefits it brings to others, rather than any motivation of monetary gain. As an all rounder, I adopt a polymath approach, working across interdisciplinary projects and trusting in my gut feelings… I use these instincts when considering any new creative endeavour, project or proposal.
Throughout my childhood, I loved jigsaw puzzles. Tiny fragments of cut out jigs that conceal a greater form. They require dedication, to search for tiny clues of colour, shape or object. Embarking on a journey of sorts, before you can see the picture and enjoy the reward. This early fascination influenced my design thinking. It’s the reason I see the world and its people, places and organisations, as a macro jigsaw puzzle.
It means I enjoy connecting people, brands and organisations together. Those who fit one another intuitively, to create a new business opportunity or creative outpouring. This feels to me, like a logical and natural process. I find I can visualise opportunities and perspectives – the bigger picture – that others may not have fully realised. I enjoy connecting up these dots
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My career has tended to be entrepreneurial, prompting the creation of brands, products and niche opportunities that had started out as a white canvas. My creative insights have focused on product innovation with a human-centred approach.
I value authenticity and integrity over imitation. I feel more comfortable around people who are fun, kind-hearted and honest. I admire the ideals of Shinto religion and Kannagara. I was introduced to it by the awesome conceptual artist Ryan Gander on the BBC via his TV doco … The Idea Of Japan. Kannagara is a way of life that pursues truthfulness and purity of thought. In my Welsh Culture this was also coined by Iolo Morganwg as ‘Y Gwir yn erbyn y Byd’ (The Truth against the World) It became the motto of the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain, which was enacted on Primrose Hill, London in 1792. With the mystic mark, the Awen being the central symbol of Druidism. The mark represents the triplicity of all things: Love, Truth and Justice. It is also used geomantically to mark the alignments of the sunrise points.
I feel more attracted to people who naturally possess an incidental style, creating their own personality and footprints. Rather than those who consider fashion trends as essential to their make-up, or who are sucked in to its foibles.
My consultancy work aims to promote a stakeholder’s return on investment, but this is not limited to the pursuit of profit through the sale of branded consumer goods. It also considers their social impact. I align my design thinking with a holistic approach, seeking insights into consumer behaviour, as well as observing the behaviour of the stakeholders. I really do believe in integrity …
My principal desire is to use my own footprints to help instigate progressive change in the fashion industry, through meaningful social impact. Our industry does by nature, tend to be quite self-indulgent and self serving. Having worked in it for 25 years, one of my principle concerns are the morals of how things get done (the process of manufacturing branded goods) and the way people interact with one another, to promote their own fulfilment. Though it is a great vibrant industry to work in and has some hugely talented creatives, some individuals will happily push others off a cliff, just to get the best sea views for themselves. In this respect integrity is quite rare. I have hope for the younger generation to readdress this balance.
My current interests concern ‘localism’ in business models, connecting nature to industry. A form of Art Activism work that actively benefits our social wellbeing. I do this by finding like-minded individuals to create beautifully crafted products and beautifully curated exhibitions and performances. By encouraging the creation of products which are human-centered and show empathy and consideration to the end-user and the planet.”
In a busy world I value periods of quiet and calm, where there is time to focus. Without everyday distractions. Hence my childhood love of jigsaw puzzles and my adult love of playing lawn bowls on grass. Being in the flow, unaware of passing time, head deep in a single creative process, or in a competitive sports match, is the best feeling ever…
Brands & Projects
” Like all commercial environments, the creative industries revolves around the ability to sell. That process might be selling your services or the products you design and make with your own hands. This commercial element is a necessity to reach into the hearts and minds of your clients, the buyers and the end-consumers. Unfortunately within any overtly capitalist landscape, humans will struggle to understand the value of products, unless they have a price attached.
In some artistic echelons, there is a slight stigma associated with overt selling. Or of your work being considered or perceived to be ‘too commercial’. It’s an interesting dichotomy. Most creative artists prefer to talk about the integrity of their work, rather than the process of actually selling it. It’s the reason I enjoy the work of the NZ artist Billy Apple who plays around with this dichotomy.
The terms ‘client’ and ‘consultant’ also seem quite formal and sterile for the creative industries. Though having worked for twenty years as a consultant, I have yet to identify more suitable terminology, that my clients can understand. In simple terms I prefer to think of myself as a commercial artist who responds creatively to different mediums and different challenges, according to the projects I am engaged with. The jigsaw puzzle concept that I have referred to in previous chapters is very important to my creative & strategic thinking. It directly influences the brands and projects I work with and the way I undertake them.
I also, at all junctures, refute the term freelance. In my mind it conjures up an image of someone working for ‘free’ on an ad hoc basis. Someone who can be easily dispensed with. Rather than being valued for their own talent with the freedom and autonomy to carefully select and choose who they wish to work with.
Philanthropy is a subject that really interests me; I have completed a number of interesting projects for clients initiated on a goodwill basis. Intentionally working without payment is an interesting social experiment. Equally a valuable experience that everyone can learn from. We may have done this briefly as a student, while on a low income, but it’s much rarer to do it once you are established in your field and carry the responsibilities of mortgages, fatherhood and being accustomed to a certain income level.
Sometimes the requirement for a monetary exchange affects the mechanics of a relationship or the way a project unravels. Often work is stipulated by a set monetary value, in exchange for set deliverables. For a philanthropic arrangement to work comfortably for any length of time, it does require enlightenment from both parties. It is also quite a different experience from volunteering work.
I have on occasion, also encountered clients who have actively sought out my services and reputation, then agreed the contract and terms of payment and once the work had been successfully completed for their own profit; have felt it reasonable, for one reason or another, to avoid paying my invoices. Though this type of behaviour does exist in certain quarters, it is fortunately not prevalent in the creative industry. Well… that is from my own experience. In my view this type of behaviour is basically dishonest and unethical. It is usually carried out by opportunistic individuals who are content to take advantage of others. I view such traits, as being short termist, as it just leads to me or others withdrawing my/our energy and support.
A more constructive experience is being able to share the knowledge that I have gained from working with my clients over a period of twenty-five years. Often it is commonplace for one or two individuals in a company, to directly influence the brand culture of an organisation. Sometimes being a consultant is helpful, as it allows you to take one step back and benefit from your independent, holistic perspective. Other times, in order to effect real change, it might be necessary to step inwards into the heart of the organisation and play a part in the company’s politics.
It is true that a key art of being a consultant is learning how to deal with and interact with your clients. The creative industry often consists of high profile individuals who are sometimes challenging to work with. They can be quite demanding and not particularly empathic towards others. Some clients have controlling personalities, often seeking to protect their own position and entitlement, rather than considering the good of their own brand. The best way I have found to work with such clients is to build a like-minded team who all share in the desire to create an open, positive, harmonious culture. Such cohesive teams are strengthened by their mutual commitment and this can override any power play or eccentricities displayed by any one individual.
Another critical aspect of being a consultant is to understand the importance of the ‘comfort zone’. This is unique to each client and based on their own individual perceptions and perspectives. Equally their sense of emotional comfort, when encountering change. It considers how their comfort zone will be impacted by any push on innovation or other change to their inner brand culture.
There have been the inevitable ups and downs along the way. Just like in any industry, but I do feel a sense of pride in the work I have done for my clients. Am also grateful to them for having the foresight to see the benefit my services would bring to their organisations and for providing me with the opportunity to start the projects and the autonomy to do it, to the best of my ability. A sense of autonomy is often the key to a wonderful client/consultant relationship and does require the client to have confidence in the consultant. Enabling them to create the brand landscape and deliver the best possible results. I always value and appreciate such support.
Most of all, I believe the art of consultancy works best, when it benefits the end-consumer, rather than seeking to satisfy the brands directors or being tailored to any consultants own ideals. The process then becomes circular. As a mutually beneficial relationship. It may seem obvious, but without the continued loyalty of consumers as investors there can be no sustainable business.
The image on the left hand side is my favourite Mens campaign for Margaret Howell, photographed & styled by Venetia Scott. Venetia was also at that time the Creative Director of Marc Jacobs.”
In chronological order…
Career = Paid work.
Philanthropic = For the Love of it.
Current projects = Work in progress.
Tolaga Bay Cashmere
2015 – 2016
Blackhorse Lane Ateliers
2014 – 2015
2014 – 2015
Supporters Direct Org
2011 – 2012
1999 – 2012
1998 – 1999
1997 – 1998
Wall Luxury Essentials
1993 – 1997
2017 – 2017
Fine Arts College
2015 – 2016
2015 – 2016
2014 – 2015
2013 – 2014
Wrexham AFC Disabled Supporters Assoc.
2011 – 2012
University of Brighton, School Of Fashion
Organic New Zealand
Provenance of Fashion
2015 to 2020
Fandom – British Football
Book & Exhibition
Ivy League – Uniform of Liberty
1991 – 1993
Royal College Of Art
1989 – 1990
Bournemouth College of Art & Design
1988 – 1989
Southampton University of Art & Design
1987 – 1988
Cartrefle College of Art & Design
1985 – 1987
1980 – 1985
Darland High School
1975 – 1980
Gresford All Saints School
1974 – 1975
Borras Park Primary School
1969 – 1974
School of Adrienne Ramsden & REA Clark
Ethos & Identity
‘Toby etc.’ is a design & brand strategy studio guided by the values of uberrima fides.
Uberrima fides is a latin term meaning ‘of utmost good faith’. Its role in authentic brands is crucial as honesty, integrity and trust are valuable armoury when building brand culture. A brand’s reputation is one of its most important assets and is well-worth protecting.
As a clothing designer and brand strategist Toby Clark builds unique projects with leading brands, worked alongside highly respected opinion formers. He believes in doing things slowly and well, championing a commitment to quality and best of class. These values are further nourished with a sense of purpose.
Toby’s intrinsic thought process is to avoid cutting corners, especially when a cheaper, faster solution is just that… cheaper and faster. He resists preordained routes and believes in the creative values of curiosity, self-discovery and learning through first hand experience.
As a team player, Toby’s approach is honest, thoughtful and inquisitive. He undertakes detailed observation and wide reaching research for all projects. Working alongside his clients to achieve mutually desirable goals. His principal concern and holistic thinking is aligned to making both the client and consumer happy.
Toby believes creating a culture of success, is best shared as a team, creating a mutual learning environment and leading to greater success for the team. As a child Toby knew Bill Shankly, considered a genius football manager for Liverpool Football Club, who had a cult following and was the ultimate practitioner of building team strength. The sparkle in Bill’s eyes and words “Hello Son” have been a lifelong inspiration for Toby.
Toby uses a red, plastic, New Zealand sheepdog whistle to represent Toby etc.’s company ethos, identity and brand values.
“My prized red sheepdog whistle was given to me in 1978 by my NZ grandfather Jack Ramsden, a well respected Manawatu farmer and sheepdog trialer. He taught my brother David and I how to blow the whistle, while ‘Star’ his champion sheepdog, directed a flock of sheep on the distant hilltops. As a young boy the skill, coordination and loyalty between man and dog really blew my mind. I love how this whistle represents a lifetime’s skill and knowledge. I also love it because it happens to be the perfect colour red of Wrexham Association Football Club.”
Toby has created a reputation as an insightful strategic thinker and undertakes brand strategy projects through ‘Toby etc.’ When conceiving the brand identity for his own company ‘Toby etc.’, Toby felt it would be important to collaborate with an craftsman of letterforms and logotype. Mr Smith’s Letterpress in Kennington, London is run by the highly talented Kelvyn Laurence Smith.
“I first spotted Kelvyn operating a letterpress at The New Craftsmen exhibition in Somerset House. He was smiling away with a mug of coffee and whistling I think. I was immediately intrigued by his approach to type, to identity and to the craft of letterforms. He was a font of knowledge. (Excuse the pun.) I admired the care and attention he brought to the subject and his knowledge of his craft.
From my own observations, branding is often distracted by the wag of a dog’s tail, rather than focusing on the character of the dog itself. So I wanted to commission an artist practitioner of three-dimensional letterforms, with a real ‘hands-on’ approach. As would be found in a traditional foundry and rather than a digital brand studio, where creatives are often sat in front of flat digital screens. Kelvyn proved to be the perfect choice.”
By definition ‘Toby etc.’ indicates a personal touch with the creative studio led by Toby Clark. Through initial conversations, the two collaborators felt the identity for ‘Toby etc.’ should be simple and intuitive with a certain Englishness. God is always in the details and unsurprisingly the size and position of the full-stop after ‘etc.’ was pondered over for some time, while being nourished with strong coffee and homemade brownie. After evaluating a small collection of beautifully rendered print tests produced by Mr. Smith, Clarendon was chosen as the ideal logotype.
Clarendon was created by Robert Besley in London in 1845 at Fann Street Foundry. It was the world’s first patented typeface and became extremely popular in many parts of the world, in particular for display applications such as posters, printed with wooden type.
The brand identity work undertaken by ‘Mr. Smith’s Letterpress’ included the design of the ‘Toby etc’. website. The site’s concept arose from Toby’s brief to consider the connecting components of a jigsaw puzzle in its simplistic form. A website with systematic shapes that fit together and function intuitively. The idea for a simple grid square was identified by Mr. Smith as an aesthetic and functionally pleasing solution.
Toby started knitting at 8 years old, at his family home in Gresford, Wales. He created little peggy squares from New Zealand wool, hand-spun by his Kiwi mum. The wool bales had travelled 11,000 miles, direct from his mum’s family sheep farm, Ngaputahi station, in the Pohangina valley.
At 11 years old and fascinated by this creative process, Toby under the tuition of his mum, designed and knitted his first functional object: a Knitted Tea Cosy. From such humble creative beginnings, Toby had unknowingly sowed the seeds that would become his life’s work.
Aged 20, following a Foundation in Art in North Wales, Toby pursued his academic study at Bournemouth College of Art & Design. This was during the early 1990’s, a time of great social change in Britain and where, buoyed by the music industry, it became an exciting era to be studying art in college. It led to Toby instigating a collaboration on ‘Uniform’ with fellow art student Wolfgang Tillmans. Now a globally acclaimed photographer and fine artist. In 1992 Toby continued his study at the Royal College of Art, gaining an MA in Fashion Menswear, the only Mens postgraduate degree course in the world at that time, offering only 7 places.
Under the spotlight of the RCA, Toby found himself oscillating in a high profile arena. This led to Toby showing his graduate collection at the Welsh Fashion Awards at the Savoy Hotel, London 1994 and winning the title of Welsh Fashion Designer of The Year. A competition chaired by David Emanuel, the designer of Princess Diana’s wedding dress and fellow judge Shakira Caine, the wife of actor Michael Caine. While on stage Toby was approached by the host and TV presenter Jeff Banks who asked “Are you Ossie Clark’s secret love child?” Though humorous and untrue, it led to Toby being filmed by the BBC for the Clothes Show programme, then a populist BBC1 show, which aired with 8 million viewers.
This nationwide exposure led to Toby being invited along with Philip Treacy to represent the British Fashion Industry and Department of Trade & Industry at the high profile event: ‘Action Japan’ at the British Embassy in Tokyo 1995. This in turn led to the president of Sanyo Shokai (Burberry’s licensing partner) to make an approach to license the Toby Clark label in Asia. It was quite an honour for a postgraduate designer only 6 months out of college.
This rapid interest in Toby’s work helped to establish his designer label TOBY CLARK, which retailed at leading designer stores in America, Asia and Europe. Notably, Browns of London, Barneys New York, Saks 5th Avenue, Liberty of London, Shinsegae of Korea and Anglobal, Japan.
During this period Toby won a number of awards, including Welsh Young Entreprenuer of the Year and the UKFT Newcomers Award for Fashion Exports, presented to Toby by its patron HRH Princess Anne. His mens Schoolboy collection inspired a 6 page editorial in the launch edition of Arena Homme Plus, styled by David Bradshaw and photographed by Paolo Roversi. Paolo also happened to be Toby’s favourite fashion photographer.
The Daily Telegraph’s influential Fashion Editor Hilary Alexander, featured a full page editorial on Toby Clark for the launch of London Fashion Week in 1997. The article proclaimed Toby as the new Jean Muir.
Aged 29, Toby founded the design consultancy Clark & Narbona. Toby was invited by Rogel Saul to help relaunch Mulberry menswear at Pitti Uomo, Florence. This was an enjoyable challenge, but Toby had always admired Margaret Howell, which led to him being appointed their head Mens designer. He spent 12 years at MH helping to establish the Mens business into an international brand. At that time the total group revenue was £70M a year, 10% generated in Europe and 90% in Japan, through Anglobal Ltd, Sanei-International Co Ltd.,TSI Holdings parent company.
At 36, Toby’s creative steer on Margaret Howell Menswear led to 3 nominations by the British Fashion Council for title of – British Menswear Designer Of The Year. This period at MH included Toby consulting for the global Japanese company MUJI and designing the Uniform for the V&A Museum in South Kensington. While designing for Margaret, Toby was interviewed by Alain De Botton for his book title ‘The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work’.
At 46, Toby re-branded his company to Toby Etc.
He became a co-Founder of Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, the only Factory brand in London crafting selvedge denim jeans and growing Japanese indigo on a local allotment. The founding methodology incorporated an innovative factory space with chefs, weavers, dyers, leather makers and emerging craftsmen as part of a holistic community-focused enterprise.
Toby retains a personal interest in philanthropic practice and community ownership. As architect of a worldwide campaign, he helped secure 12,000 digital signatures to protect the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham (The Oldest International Football Ground in the World) in the Welsh Government’s Local Development plan. This secured the future of the stadium solely for sports and recreation and prevented property speculators eyeing up land with potential development value of £25M.
At 49, having established himself as a quiet activist artist, commercial clothing designer and brand strategist, Toby actively pursues business opportunities that provide sustainable, ethical and holistic values.These are often inspired by nature. So as to preserve the natural balance of our eco-system. Toby’s current interest and research seeks to reconnect the values “of-the-land” and “its animals” with a growing number of post millennium, digital, urbanites.
As a self anointed Artist in residence on Primrose Hill, Toby is making art each morning, on top of the curved york stone that abuts the mound at the very top of the hill. This ethereal art is in response to the signals our planet is giving out. With the increasing Tsunamis, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Flash Flooding, Giant Storms and extreme weather with fluctuating temperatures. These daily mini art installations ponder both gender equality and the sustainability of our global environment. Toby believes achieving gender equality in positions of power and authority is essential to balance our eco equilibrium and to protect our planet. Toby’s art is quiet, conscious and mindful, using Austrian golden pebbles that are found on the mound, which he uses to form the sun. The art is created on top of a york stone, which runs alongside William Blake’s inscription…
“I conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.”
Toby believes Blake, who worshipped the sun in 1792, during the summer solstice with the Welsh Druids – the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain – perhaps saw the sun as masculine, viewing it as an all powerful force, during the era of the great industrial revolution. An era when mankind was principally a male domain. With powerful men such as the industrial engineers Isambard Kingdom Brunel and George Louis Stephenson building iconic buildings, machines and structures in their own male glorification. Toby is concerned and fascinated by the inference of global warming and how this [male] sun is the biggest concern to our planet, directly impacting mother nature, who remains the feminine entity that we all need to protect. The all powerful sun, that burns the pigmentation of our skin, that heats up the earth, leading to a lack of water on land, melting the antarctic, leading to too much sea water and the increased likelihood of global flooding.
Toby feels there is a light and dark analogy, that can be viewed alongside the likes of the world’s current powerful men like Donald Trump, who seems to simply seek the dark seduction of power for the United States Of America. Rather than embracing any sense of equilibrium. Whereas the light of powerful women like Jacinda Ardern creates happiness, by brining new life in the form of her daughter ‘Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford’. Neve was born into this world while Jacinda had only just been made prime minister. Toby believes this balancing of being the mother of a new born, alongside her decision making role as prime minister of New Zealand, creates a real sense of hope, encouragement and equilibrium and that this empathy is a vital commodity that our planet will need to survive.
Toby is currently conducting research into NZ’s modernist painters and is studying the career of the artist Maude Burge, a painting companion of Frances Hodgkins. Maude’s grandfather and Toby’s g-g-g-grandfather is the acclaimed portrait artist William Beetham.
If you have read this far, thank you and as a lagniappe, here is a link to one of my favourite songs.
ps. If you ever want to pull my leg, call me Tony repeatedly. I fall for it every time.
My most meaningful work has often been part of a creative collaborative process.
While each and every day we all collaborate with each other, in some form or other, either willingly or reluctantly, for creatives, the true art of collaboration is instigated by a mutual respect. A desire to fully express your own ideals, in harmony with your collaborator. It often requires intuition and sensitivity to develop a unified viewpoint.
Successful collaborations don’t plagiarise one another’s dna, neither seeking to profiteer or replicate. They create new work together, which without such a collaboration, would not be impossible to achieve.
It is, in the truest sense, a meeting of minds.
The creation of this website – Toby etc – has prompted me, for the first time, to document my collaboration with Wolfgang Tillmans, the photographer and fine artist. It occurred while we were art students together at Bournemouth in 1991. It remains one of my fondest memories of a true collaborative process.
At that time Wolfgang was an aspiring photographic artist, who along with myself, was studying at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art & Design. I had enrolled onto a Sportswear Design course, which was the only course in the world delivering this niche specialism. Wolfgang was studying photography under the tutelage of Tony Maestri.
Photography has always felt an important stimulus to my work. So when enrolling to study Fashion Sportswear at Bournemouth I was acutely aware of the college’s very high reputation for its school of film and photography. It was widely considered to be one of, if not the leading photography course in the world at that time. Hence it attracted some of the world’s finest young talent.
I was also aware that Nick Knight had recently graduated from Bournemouth’s photography course and was already art directing Yohji Yamamoto’s campaigns. Considering the fashion world was still waking up to the avant-garde Japanese trio of: Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake, it seemed an amazingly swift ascendency for Knight to have secured such a high profile fashion campaign in such a short space of time. It suggested to me that his abundant, raw talent, had been carefully nurtured at Bournemouth.
The collaboration with Wolfgang came about when I was preparing my thesis on the subject of Uniform. I have always loved creative writing and I find it a cathartic process as an artist. Continually editing to find the words with exactly the write fit.
Uniform is an area of clothing that I still, to this day, feel repetitively drawn to. I am fascinated by its uniformity, its restriction, familiarity, empowerment and sense of belonging, its egalitarianism and sheer functional utility. For some, it’s restriction and controlling framework creates fear and a sense of anarchy to rebel against. For others (and I would place myself in this camp…) it’s a creative challenge to figure out how to express your own personal individuality, within the confines of a rigid rule book. For others a uniform is a safe haven or a blanket of pride that is essential to conform to.
At secondary school my curiosity around regulations, led to the discovery, that my grey lambswool crew-neck sweater had the ability for some unknown reason, to prove less antagonistic to school rules (which stipulated a bottle green polyester v-neck jumper) than the black v-neck polyester jumpers, that regularly saw my classmates sent home or placed in detention.
At conception, I envisioned my thesis on Uniform being accompanied by a series of portrait images. This led me into the photography department and with some intuition and perhaps luck, to bump into a young 22-year-old Wolfgang Tillmans. It was Tony Maestri who recommended Wolfgang to me. After a brief chat, I sensed Wolfgang shared the same interest in Uniform as a creative subject. We also seemed to share similar aspirations to do meaningful work, that could stand up on their own right, beyond the internal world of academia.
My invitation to Wolfgang was very simple. To capture and record the subjects I curated, allowing him full artistic interpretation of the final image. I would select the subjects and the location and do the interview and prepare the written text for each portrait. Wolfgang would place the subject in their exacting location within their familiar setting. In doing so, creating the atmosphere for each portrait. Wolfgang would also print and choose the final images to his own exacting requirements.
There were 10 subjects; Road Tarmac Contractor, School Girl, Nun, Hip Hop Artist, Funeral Director, Air Hostess, Student Photographer, Digger Driver, Chef de Cuisine and Hotel Doorman. Each one offering a different perspective of how uniforms interplayed within their daily lives and how the world in turn viewed them when they wore it.
To my mind, this curated work was about the ‘Uniform of Life’ and life is represented through the subject’s occupations. The Nun represented the start of life through birth, the Funeral Director the end of life, the School Children the value of knowledge during early beginnings. The Chef our reliance on food as humans to survive a sutainable life form. The Hip Hop Artist the powerful role and therapy of music to our existence. The Air Hostess the impact of long haul travel as a powerful social transformation to world culture in the early 90’s. The student photographer with a camera, the reflection of life itself and the Road Workers (Wolfgang’s favourite image) who represented the ‘work’ that we all do. The work that we do to distract ourselves and provide our sustainable income and sense of purpose between birth and death.
Each time Wolfgang unveiled a portrait, it was carefully presented to me in a secure slip folder, followed by a moment of studious reflection and then Wolfgang’s beaming smile. Even then as an art student there was a sense of Wolfgang being aware of the value of his work and a sense of controlled release. There was no confetti approach. He made just two prints of each subject, keeping one for himself.
We seemed to interact well together and later on in the year Wolfgang started to take photographs of my own clothing, items that I was designing and making as a fashion student. My final collection was an interpretation of Cassock dresses of Catholic Clergy. I was inspired by the film ‘The Godfather Part III’ by Francis Ford Coppola and became interested in the powerful immagery of Ecclesiastical Dress as a Uniform.
Wolfgang photographed my clothes in a campaign format, on the house model of Japanese designer Matsuda. This model was Roger Cook, who I had found featured in L’Uomo Vogue. I sent a hand-written note to Roger and we agreed to meet at the Photographers Gallery in London. Roger was a striking but unusual model. His modelling assignments where fulfilled as a sideline, while he was professor of Fine Art History at Reading University. He is now a visiting lecturer at the Royal Academy of Arts.
My recollection of collaborating with Wolfgang was his incredibly well drilled observation, along with the meaningful embrace he gave to each subject. Even as an art student he seemed to possess the intent of a fine artist, creating art with a purpose, rather than just clicking a camera as perhaps a more traditional photographer.
He also had a supreme technical aptitude, with total control and confidence in his photographic toolkit. He had the ability to capture a powerful image in a blink of an eye. He was so instinctive he made it look easy, but of course it never was. To me his most endearing facet was discovering his single minded confidence was balanced with empathy and humility.
Wolfgang’s desire to handprint each image, added an extra layer of artistic control over the process. He seemed to be motivated by inquisitiveness. With a burning desire to reproduce specific colour tones in a printed image, that was his own signature and were not being done at that time. His manner had the impression of a photographic scientist with a microscopic lense, who could climb inside the printed image.
I am quite certain it was Wolfgang’s photographic prints in my portfolio that helped me to secure a place at the Royal College Of Art. I was the first ever student from the Fashion School of Bournemouth to be accepted into the RCA. This opened the door for other fashion students at the college to follow in future years.
I had made the transition from a Higher National Diploma course straight onto a Masters Degree course. It was a significant leap, especially as the RCA’s Fashion Menswear course at that time, was the only specialist Menswear postgraduate degree course in the world. My own intake was limited to just 7 students. I remember trudging through two feet of snow in Kensington to drop of my portfolio in Queen’s Gate, inside a vast Georgian room, with high ceilings. When I pressed the bell and the door opened it looked like a sea of 10,000 black portfolios. I felt resigned to being a needle in a haystack.
At the interview at the RCA, the Fashion professor John Miles mentioned he thought the photography in my portfolio was outstanding and looked like a campaign by an international brand. He felt it was rare to see in a student’s portfolio.
The next year Wolfgang wrote to me to ask how I was doing at the RCA and to tell me he was excited to have just secured a commission with i-D publication. That early work with i-D provided the exposure that started the Tillmans ripple effect, with his cult reputation growing rapidly as the years passed by. Ten years later in 2000, at the dawn of the new millennium, Wolfgang won the prestigious Turner Prize, becoming the first photographer to receive the award as an artist and challenging the boundaries between art and photography.
The creation of this website ‘Toby Etc.’ has by chance, coincided with the major Tillmans 2017 exhibition at the Tate Modern.
Though our collaboration on Uniforms, has to this day, never been published or exhibited, a tutor at Bournemouth thought the thesis was of such a high standard we should approach the Sunday Times Magazine. I decided not to pursue it. The work, transcripts and prints would remain lying under my bed for 20 years. Recently I decided to hang the portraits to recognise my fondness and memories of the work we did together. I did this in keeping with Wolfgang’s own style as a non hierarchical hanging.
The fact that Wolfgang’s work has achieved world wide attention doesn’t surprise me. Real talent will always rise to the top and fly free. I didn’t know until recently that Wolfgang exhibited one of the images from our Uniform collaboration (Road workers) at his first proper solo exhibition at the Daniel Buchholz gallery in Cologne in 1993, which was recreated at Frieze Art Fair in 2016. I recall the Road Workers being his favourite image of our Uniform work. Like much of life’s best art, it happened impromptuly on the side of the road by the roundabout, while we were outside the college returning from another shoot. In 2018 this photograph was sold as an artwork through Sothebys ………….. Sothebys Tillmans Auction
Considering Wolfgang’s methodological archivist approach and his careful control over the release of his work; I’m sure that despite his huge volume of work since 1990, he will still have the Uniform images in his archive chronologically listed and dated.
26 years later, to thank Wolfgang for the work we did together, I thought it would be nice to send him a pair of Blackhorse Lane Atelier Jeans. These were manufactured by the factory-brand I co-founded in Walthmastow, London. Being aware of Wolfgang’s love of East London (the location of his London studio) the style I sent him was E5. We created each BHL selvedge jean according to different London postcodes and the social demographic, considering the style of clothing found in that zone. As a brand identifier it was an interesting experiment.
I was aware Wolfgang was a devotee of Levis jeans. A regular staple of his T-shirt and Jeans style. With my knowledge of the clothing industry, I knew the likelihood of Wolfgang’s Levis jeans being manufactured thousands of miles away. So it felt meaningful to be sending him a pair of selvedge denim jeans crafted one at a time and made locally, less than 5 miles from his London studio. Our ethos was a quiet revolution about mass customisation and cheap labour. Locality and provenance has always felt important in my work.
It did feel particularly fitting to send Wolfgang a pair of jeans. An item of clothing that’s entrenched in our global culture and an essential ‘Uniform of Liberty’ around the world. We had come full circle.
Wolfgang returned an electronic note to thank me, together with a self photograph wearing our Atelier jeans…
You can view Wolfgang being interviewed by Lou Stoppard of SHOWstudio. This includes a reference and question I posed to Wolfgang about Bournemouth and our Uniforms collaboration.
Toby Clark studied at the Royal College of Art in London, graduating in 1993 with a Master’s Degree in Fashion Menswear. This study culminated in the creation of the ‘Toby Clark’ label which won international awards – ‘Wales Designer Of The Year’ 1995 and achieved recognition amongst the fashion industry’s cognoscenti and opinion formers. The brand sold into the world’s leading retail stores. Barney NY, Browns of South Molton St and Anglobal, Japan. Following a number of design commissions with high profile brands, Toby incorporated a design consultancy business in 1997. Through old fashioned hard work and an arc for integrity, the company TOBY etc. has successfully completed design consultancy projects spanning three decades. This has included a number of highly admired international brands with a cult following. In particular Toby’s decade of work for Margaret Howell received three nominations from the British Fashion Council for the title of ‘British Menswear Designer Of The Year’.
‘Toby etc.’ maintains a holistic approach to design consultancy. Projects are tailored to suit each client and promote empathic design thinking. Project solutions are attuned to the client’s objectives, to enhance their brand reputation and appeal to their valued consumers. Toby values originality and authentic products. He strives to fulfil his client’s expectations by creating bespoke creative concepts, specific to each company and by going the extra mile. To protect his reputation as a specialist in the industry, he carefully selects the projects he undertakes and the brands he engages with. Utilising his knowledge and experience to help strengthen a company’s brand culture and their core DNA. Toby believes in the principles of kaizen 改善, by building lasting relationships that maintain consistency and by building momentum through continual incremental improvements.
We adapt our consultancy service to suit the client’s individual brand culture and offer a multi-faceted service that spans Retail, Wholesale, Online e-Commerce and Mail Order. Our portfolio of clients include premium international brands with a high profile in the lifestyle and luxury market sectors. We have provided consultancy roles in a variety of guises, including Design Engineering, Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Creative Direction, Product Development, Manufacture & Sourcing, Styling, Catwalk Shows & Exhibitions, Brand Campaigns and Strategic Reports to Management etc. Toby Clark is a skilled practitioner of clothing creation and a multidisciplinary design thinker. He has considerable knowledge of Brand Strategy for premium brands expanding into global markets. ‘Toby etc.’ is happy to work confidentially for our clients when requested to do so, although is unable to work exclusively for anyone client.
– Licensee & Trademarks
TOBY etc. is experienced working with a brand’s Licensee and in developing the brand and trademark in overseas territories.
To carefully observe the smallest of details, as they often resonate the loudest.
– Terms of Business
All consultancy work carried out by, or under the responsibility of Toby Clark / TOBY etc. is subject to our terms of business. These terms are shown below. The expanded version is available on request. This may be varied (in whole or in part) with any proposal or subsequent agreement, provided it is agreed in writing and signed by both parties.
Copyright is reserved to Toby Clark in all proposals, reports, surveys and other documents produced or commissioned by Toby Clark under or in connection with any agreement with a client. No such document shall be copied or published (in whole or in part) or disseminated to any third party without the written permission of Toby Clark. Permission will not be unreasonably withheld or withdrawn provided in all cases that Toby Clark is satisfied that the copying or publication will not cause offence to or infringe the rights of any third party and provided further that Toby Clark is satisfied that such copying or publication will be of the whole of the document concerned and not of a part or selection there from.
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Toby Clark will take all reasonable steps to meet the wishes of clients in the selection of sub-contractors and associates but reserves the right (unless otherwise required in writing by the client in its acceptance of a Proposal) to employ, discharge or replace at any time any sub-contractor or associate in carrying out the work for clients. References in a Proposal to the utilisation of the services of a particular person as sub-contractor or associate shall imply only that Toby Clark has consulted and intends to employ or retain such person but shall not imply that contractual arrangements have been made for such employment or retention.
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If, after the acceptance of a Proposal, the rights of Toby Clark or of the client under the agreement are wholly or substantially diminished or the performance thereof rendered wholly or substantially impossible by reason of force majeure, then the obligations of both parties shall cease forthwith except that the client shall pay to Toby Clark all fees and expenses then owing (including all the expenses of or caused by or arising out of such termination) together with a sum equal to whichever is the lesser of the fees remaining to be paid thereafter or a proportion of the total fees equivalent to sixty days’ work calculated pro rata against the total time estimated for the project.
All consultancy projects undertaken by ‘TOBY etc.’ are agreed in principal with the client company as a ‘Heads Of Agreement’ document. The work is undertaken after sight of a ‘Contract For Services’ to be drawn up by the client company and signed by both parties. All agreements relating to the copyright and intellectual property are contained within the contract. Verbal agreements are honoured and client confidentialities always respected.
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Proposals submitted by Toby Clark shall, unless otherwise stated therein, remain open for acceptance for sixty days from the date of submission to the client. Acceptance shall be valid only if made in writing signed by or on behalf of the client. Variation of the terms of a Proposal shall be effective only if specified in the written acceptance.
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Unless otherwise stated in the Proposal, the client shall take all steps to enable Toby Clark / TOBY etc. begin its work in accordance with the dates outlined in the Proposal. The client will make available or place at Toby Clark’s disposal all information facilities and personnel reasonably required to carry out the work, and generally will co-operate in all reasonable ways.
Toby Clark / TOBY etc. employs the methods, procedures, techniques, personnel and sources of information set out in the Proposal, but reserve the right to vary these as necessary or desirable in order to achieve the aims of the project.
– Service Fees
We aspire to provide our clients with a service that represents ‘value for money’ and believe our reputation is built on this. Our fees are not charged by the hour and we provide goodwill by going the extra mile. We enjoy working with small companies as much as large organisations and understand the investment in our services is subject to each company’s structure, policy and budget. The consultancy fee to engage Toby Clark is negotiable and agreed for each project. Work is normally undertaken on a fixed-fee basis according to deliverables in the project. For an indication of fees, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org This to establish his international market rate for full-time ongoing consultancy projects or for one off ‘single-day’ consultancy engagements. All expenses incurred in the provision of services to the client, such as travel to overseas locations, airfares, hotels & accommodation costs, etc. are agreed in advance with the client and invoiced together with the consultant’s service fee.
– Payment Of Project Fees
Payments are structured according to each client company with different options available for remuneration:
— Fixed fee for Project – paid in instalments at key completion stages of project.
— Fixed fee for Seasonal Collections – paid in monthly instalments to cover each six-month period.
— Royalty fee on Net Sales accruing from project – Negotiable and based on target sales growth.
— New business start-ups – Some clients with smaller investment budgets may prefer to offer remuneration with shareholding in the company gifted, in lieu of paying a consultancy fee. All such agreements are considered on their own merits.
Payments from UK based companies are accepted by electronic bank transfer, cheque or bank standing order and paid into a UK business bank account. BACS details are stated on the invoice. Fees will be invoiced in GBP £ pounds sterling – currently not subject to VAT – with full payment due 15 days from sight of invoice. Payments from NZ based companies are accepted by electronic bank transfer, cheque or bank standing order and paid into a NZ business bank account. BACS details are stated on the invoice. Fees will be invoiced in NZ Dollars $ NZD – currently not subject to GST – with full payment due 15 days from sight of invoice.
– Termination Or Breach By Client
If, after acceptance of a Proposal, the client shall terminate or be in serious breach (after repeated warnings) of its agreement with Toby Clark / TOBY etc, or act in such a manner as to render the performance of the agreement by Toby Clark wholly or substantially impossible, then Toby Clark’s obligations under the agreement shall cease forthwith. In such a case the client shall immediately pay to Toby Clark all fees and expenses (including all the expenses of, or caused by, or arising out of, such termination) and other sums then owing to Toby Clark under the agreement together with a sum equal to the whole of the fees thereafter remaining to be paid under the agreement.
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All work, forecasts and recommendations in any proposal, report or letter are made in good faith and on the basis of the information before Toby Clark at the time. No statement in any Proposal, report or letter is to be deemed to be in any circumstances a representation, undertaking, warranty or contractual condition. Toby Clark shall not be liable to the client for any indirect or consequential loss or damage. The total liability of Toby Clark to the client shall not exceed the value of the contract. This amount includes any and all claims combined, including any costs and lawyers’ fees awarded.
If any dispute or difference shall arise between Toby Clark and a client concerning the meaning or effect of these terms of business or of any agreement between them to which these terms apply, then if the same cannot be settled amicably it shall be referred to the arbitration of a single Arbitrator, to be agreed by the parties or in default of agreement to be appointed by the President for the time being of the Law Society, London. The costs of any such arbitration shall be in the discretion of the Arbitrator whose award will be considered and taken by the parties as final and binding.
All creative thinkers remember fondly the moments they feel really moved and inspired. Through the discovery of another artist, whose work directly influences your own work. It’s a rewarding part of the creative process. In my own case, inspiration is not confined to any particular niche, nook or cranny. It is derived from all walks of life. It’s based on a methodology of eclecticism. Sometimes my inspiration is quite literal in the form of an object or an environment and how it makes me feel. Other times it might be reading a manuscript printed by a 1960’s typewriter. A la William S. Burroughs.
The purpose of allocating 1 grid square of this website to the subject of Inspiration, is to acknowledge it as a critical part of the creative process. It is also to share an image that currently inspires me, together with a short explanatory description. This will be a slowly evolving showcase that I will replace from time to time. Not dissimilar to Eno Goldfinger’s carefully curated art wall at his home in 2 Willow road. Do go and see it if you’ve never been. It’s wonderful…
This image is a digital reproduction of a gelatin silver print of 2 ceramic jugs thrown by NZ potter Barry Brickell and photographed by my late pen pal and friend Marti Freidlander, the incredibly talented NZ photographer. Marti had a unique eye and charisma and is highly decorated in New Zealand. I think of her as an artist and I admired her greatly. Not just for her extreme talent and passion as a photographer, but because she was incredibly generous, brave and thoughtful, with a zest for life that made her really fun and charismatic to be around. I suspect this image was taken circa 1974. I can somehow sense this, even though there is very little to date the photograph.
I love the tactile quality of the jugs and the suggestion of a finished work still in progress. The slightly forward tool drawer. It draws an emotive reaction, suggesting a craftsman of refined skill and knowledge. A craftsman who has mastered their craft and able to freely communicate their artform with their own two hands. The light passing through the glass window pane provides a suitable sensitivity, which gives the jugs a sense of provenance and title. The angle of the interlocking handles makes them appear almost entwined. It makes me want to learn to throw pottery and I smile imagining the conversation between Marti and Barry that day.
As a platform for social media, Instagram is a highly infectious communication tool. Trading on its instantaneous immediacy, these square format images, arrive into the palm of your hand in an instant. All via a hand held device. This very simple, user friendly connectivity tool is much more immediate than any tool accessible in previous generations.
Back then communication technology consisted of cameras with film, phones with cables, walkie talkies with batteries, faxes with streams of gushing paper and binoculars that you could twist to zoom in. An altogether slower time. We would drop off our little plastic cylinders (rolls of film) at the local pharmacy and came back 7 days later. Then forming in a queue of anticipation to collect the physical printed photographs. These prints would often be circulated by hand, to just a few of your closest friends and family.
Then all of a sudden boom !!! … polaroid film arrived. It was the very latest thing. It seemed incredibly zany, a boxy object that could develop a real photograph straight out of the mouth of the camera, in just 2 minutes flat. Amazing! I remember Julie Gilhart the international fashion buyer at Barneys NY, meticulously taking individual polaroids of my collections and outfits. ‘Click, pause, whirr, tug, eject, waft’.
This square formatted image, with a deep white border at the bottom, was part of its kooky cool. The photograph would require some wafting around in the air until it dried. You would find many polaroid prints pinned up on the cork boards of creatives. The immediacy of the photographic image that Polaroid created was a real game changer.
Living through our modern era where technology is all encompassing and propelling us forward, our expectation of instant feed, ‘Click, Ping ! into the palm of your hand… seems to have mostly impacted our younger generations. The digital screen addiction seems to make them less inclined to drift off into a world of imagination. Such as reading physical books and printed matter. Digital feed has eclipsed it all. We are now all logged into a digital world. That conveniently links grandma to grandson, from Perth to Porirua, but often without any audible, spoken words, or human expression. Just fingers tapping away onto keyboards.
As the world’s most popular visual connectivity tool, Instagram has become one of our modern day’s social etiquettes. It seems to have created a new set of paradigms, providing an acceptable level of voyeurism. Providing deeply personal insights into the daily activities of others, whose worlds we would otherwise be excluded from. Though this is both intriguing and fascinating, it is also perhaps slightly unsettling. The social effect of this macro window, globalising a once private inner sanctum, is still relatively unchartered.
How should we relate to a teenager, who has no experience of the world as an adult, but who already has 4 million followers on their instagram account. It’s really quite mind blowing.
“Instagram’s seductive powers are obvious to see. It provides an extraordinary global platform of connectivity, containing the biggest archive of images in the world, with sophisticated editing tools to help create an aura of virtual reality, touching on make believe fantasy.
What may appear on face value to be genuine, may simply be cleverly curated feed, to project an aspirational lifestyle to seduce and grow followers. A moment in time captured and edited that is perhaps neither real, nor a true reflection of the subject’s lifestyle.
Yet these digitally captured images, delivered straight into the palm of your hand, do have the ability to leave a powerful impression on the viewer.
As the work I do is principally creative, I tend to be receptive and open minded to new social trends and often embrace new technology. I also love photographic images and believe in the principle of sharing creative work in an open public platform.
Although I prefer to do this in a quiet way, rather than vying for attention. By joining instagram I hope to attract like-minded creatives, positively aspiring to a select small audience. I also love square format images, as documented by the design of this website.
After some initial hesitation, I decided to create an instagram feed for TOBY etc. The content is restricted to a singular focus on creativity, featuring the subject in all its glorious forms.”
To follow Toby’s curated creations on Instagram:
My outlook has always been to value and feel grateful for genuine friendship.
In our modern age of digital screens that create a physical barrier and vie for our attention with distraction media, finding the luxury of time, to invest in conversation, to share time together, to laugh, giggle or cry and enjoy each other’s company, is one of the biggest challenges we face.
I admire my friends, not because of what they do, or their status or career success, but the way they choose to live their lives.
Self-awareness of our own personalities and behavioural traits and the ability to show empathy towards others, are important aspects of life. My attraction to my friends is always driven by their kindness, thoughtfulness and humour. These I feel are the best foundation blocks and the elixir of life.
I feel especially lucky to work in the creative industries; creative people are often extra sensory and imaginative. Imagination is one of the greatest facets of a creative thinker and my true friends all possess this hallmark.
This section of the website provides an opportunity to share the work of my friends and other creatives who inspire me and who I admire. There is no particular running order, just a list of very talented people who do something exceptionally well with grace and humility.
Kelvyn Laurence Smith
Lucy Kumura Moore
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If you would like to contact Toby to discuss a creative project or engage the services of TOBY etc. please contact by e-mail in the first instance. A full CV and company profile is available by request.
If you would like to invite Toby to talk at a public event, or visit an educational organisation, please kindly contact Toby directly. There is no PR representative.
“I believe in a personal touch as the first line of defence.”
If you are a student and simply seek some career guidance or a referral, Toby has a philanthropic heart and will do his very best to help you.
To contact Toby: