Toby Clark is a non-practising fashion designer and founder of ‘Toby etc.‘ a design and brand strategy studio.
Widely experienced in the fashion & textiles industry, Toby’s design methodology has been sought after by prestigious international brands. His decade of design for Margaret Howell received three nominations for ‘Menswear Designer Of The Year’ at the British Fashion Awards, hosted by the British Fashion Council.
A proven specialist in menswear – with a reputation for authentic products and original concepts – Toby’s sensory intuition and evolutional design approach attracts loyal consumers.
Throughout his career Toby has felt a deep affinity with nature and natural materials, particularly wool. Having learnt to handknit at 8 years old, this early fascination with transformative textiles, prompted him towards a career in fashion. After graduating from the Royal College Of Art in London, he started his own clothing label, winning the Welsh Fashion Designer of The Year at the Welsh Fashion Awards at the Savoy Hotel in London. His launch collection sold exclusively to Barneys New York, Browns Of London and Anglobal, Japan and was selected by the IWS ~ International Wool Secretariat, to be showcased at Premiere Vision in Paris. In recent years Toby has renewed his love for wool becoming an Ambassador for the ‘Campaign For Wool’ NZ.
A quiet activist of environmental causes, Toby favours brands with an authentic ecological purpose who respect nature and our planet’s finite resources. Particularly those brands who encourage end-users to adopt a new approach to consumerism.
During the Covid-19 pandemic,Toby began to exclusively wear pre worn items of clothing. His reaction being influenced by his personal resistance to the fashion industry and its insatiable demand for new products, made in new textile materials.
To emphasise his thinking, Toby began wearing the Same Clothes Everyday, aiming to offset the negative impact he had personally caused as a designer. This he estimated to be in the region of 500,000 products manufactured between 1990 to 2017 and contributing to a plethora of clothing the world’s consumers did not necessarily need to survive, but rather desired as luxury items. His Same Clothes Everyday manifesto was admired by the world renowned Fashion Trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort who invited him to be part of her World Hope Forum.
To underline his design philosophy, Toby has written articles for academia, recently authoring ‘The Provenance Of Fashion’ published by Bloomsbury, featuring the role of transparency by tracing the supply chain with Blockchain technology.
While an art student in Bournemouth his written thesis on ‘Uniforms’ turned into a collaboration with fellow art student Wolfgang Tillmans. Then an unknown photographer. Part of this work has been signed and sold by Wolfgang through Sothebys to private collectors.
Having established a career as a clothing designer and design consultant, Toby continues to work within sustainable and ethical parameters, seeking to preserve the natural balance of our eco-system and aiming to bring city dwellers closer to nature.
To review a fuller background of Toby’s career, please see the Biography section.
A company profile and curriculum vitae is available on request.
“I think of myself as a Beta, Zeta, Omega kind of male and an arbiter of beautifully crafted objects. I guess I’m a fashion philosopher of sorts. Guided by the finest natural materials, I create honest functional design products that are quality driven and embrace the notion of extreme comfort, as well as being in harmony with nature.
My career has tended to be entrepreneurial, developing original concepts for niche brands. I resonate with brands who embed a sense of purpose in their design discipline that provides an important motivation for their existence. I admire creators of beautifully crafted products that are human-centered, with a direct correlation to the end-user’s sense of satisfaction and consideration for our planet.
My design approach is quite purist, starting by quietly observing the inner culture of a brand organisation. I seek to contribute meaningful creative solutions which do not attempt to reinvent the wheel. I believe the simpler and more harmonious the design, the better it will be.
I prefer to focus on the social benefits that good design can bring to the end user, rather than the profitable gain it may bring to shareholders. I help and mentor young designers starting their own brands and who share a desire to create an environmentally sound footprint.
I value authenticity and integrity over imitation. I feel attracted to people who possess a natural, incidental style, rather than those who seek to draw attention upon themselves or chase consumer trends. I resist technology that seeks to replicate human attributes and I feel a great aversion to the A.I. world of human avatars, which as I write, seem destined to infiltrate our future society.
I endorse holistic design-thinking. During the design creation phase I consider the environmental impact and social responsibility within the supply chain and strive to reduce the need to discard or throwaway clothing & textile products. I do this by creating timeless products that are quality driven and I encourage their frequent use and lifetime repair. I personally enjoy repeatedly wearing the same set of clothes until they physically wear out, as I believe it puts less stress on the planet. I also find the process incredibly informative as a designer.
My principal desire is to help bring progressive change to the fashion industry. I share the overriding concerns about global supply chains that often conceal how and where goods are made. The willing instigators of such practises often adopt a blind moral code and fail to consider the impact either on our planet or how the garment workers are treated within the manufacturing process.
Am passionate about ‘localism’ in business models and concepts that directly connect people to their home place. I consider this a type of urban activism that subdues the reliance on the aviation industry and benefits our social wellbeing.
I take inspiration from many different aspects of our living world and am fascinated by New Zealand’s tuataras. These fascinating creatures are the only living species on earth to have survived when the dinosaurs died out. Born with a third eye for extra periphery vision and hearts that beat just once per minute, they remain our planet’s greatest survivors. While the dinosaurs once dominated the landscape demanding all of the attention with their sheer size, they did not possess the tuataras evolutionary ability to adapt, especially to climate change. A lesson we can all try to learn as climate change is upon us. “
Brands & Projects
“Throughout my career I have been privileged to work with a number of influential brands, each providing invaluable insights.
Each brand develops its own unique culture with a specific personality and there is always a sensory learning curve. Understanding the profile of the consumer and their needs as a user is as vital as understanding the make up of the product.
While some brands may value the materials, fabrications and quality of make as their point of difference, others will place more emphasis on developing conceptual styles and powerful campaign imagery.
The brands I admire the most have common attributes, notably a design discipline and sense of purpose within their organisations. There is a meaning behind what they do. This process enables brands to identify and attract like-minded thinkers, which in turn creates an energy and flow. Cohesive teams are strengthened by their mutual commitment, making the ethos behind a like-minded team an effective strategy for brand growth.
As a consultant, achieving a level of autonomy within a brand organisation is often key to successful brand projects and this requires trust and confidence. While each project brings its own unique challenges, a key aspect is gauging how best to stimulate positive change, while respecting the existing brand culture that comes before it.
Most of all, I believe a design consultant should aim to satisfy the end-consumer, as much as the brand company’s management, simply because it’s the continued loyalty of the consumer that will make a brand commercially sustainable.”
2019 – 2020
2018 – 2019
2015 – Present
Tolaga Bay Cashmere
2015 – 2016
Blackhorse Lane Ateliers
2014 – 2015
2011 – 2012
1999 – 2012
1998 – 1999
1993 – 1997
2017 – 2018
Fine Arts College
2015 – 2016
2015 – 2016
2014 – 2015
Provenance of Fashion
2015 – 2020
Fandom – British Football Fans
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
Ethos & Identity
Toby etc. is a bespoke design and strategy company proving services for niche international brands .
An established clothing designer and emerging brand strategist, Toby Clark leads unique projects for international brands, working alongside respected opinion formers. Toby believes in creating things slowly with crafted care. Championing a commitment to quality that is underlined with a sense of purpose.
The studio is guided by uberrima fides, a latin term meaning ‘of utmost good faith’. Honesty and integrity are common values in authentic brands and this can be developed into strategic armoury when building the brand culture and brand reputation.
Toby’s intrinsic approach avoids cutting corners or favouring cheaper solutions. Toby sees little value in such an approach. Instead he carries out detailed observation, with wide reaching research for all projects. This commitment has enabled him to work closely alongside his brand clients, creating beautifully crafted products that attract loyal and discerning followers.
Toby uses his vintage red plastic sheepdog whistle as a meaningful symbol to represent the ethos and identity for Toby etc.
“My red sheepdog whistle was given to me in 1978 by my grandfather Jack Ramsden, a respected farmer and champion sheepdog trialer in New Zealand.
He taught my brother and I how to blow these whistles, while ‘Star’ his champion sheepdog, tracked a flock of sheep on the distant hilltops. The skill, coordination and loyalty between man and dog blew our young minds. I particularly love how such a small instrument can send detailed instructions to an attentive, loyal, sheepdog from far away and how this process represents a lifetime’s skill and knowledge.”
When conceiving the brand identity for ‘Toby etc.’, Toby chose to collaborate with a true craftsman of letterforms and logotype. Mr Smith’s Letterpress in Kennington, London is run by the talented Kelvyn Laurence Smith.
“I first encountered Kelvyn operating a letterpress at The New Craftsmen exhibition in Somerset House. He was printing alliteration art, with a mug of coffee in hand while whistling a tune. He looked to be an artist in his flow and I felt intrigued by his approach to font, type and letterforms. It seemed to be the embodiment of a contemporary, artisanal, master-craftsmen.
For my own branding I wanted to commission a true practitioner of three-dimensional letterforms, with a real ‘hands-on’ approach to the subject. As in a traditional foundry and rather than appointing a digital brand studio. I often find 21st century creatives are reliant on their flat digital screens. Kelvyn proved to be the perfect foil to this thinking.
‘Toby etc.’ is personified by a personal touch, the design identity conceived with a certain Britishness and sense of simplicity. The size and position of the full-stop after ‘etc.’ was pondered over for some time while nourished with strong coffee and homemade brownies. Kelvyn prepared a small collection of beautifully rendered test prints on tactile papers and Clarendon was chosen as the suitable logotype.
This particular font was created by Robert Besley in London in 1845 at Fann Street Foundry. It was the world’s first patented typeface and became popular in many parts of the world, especially in display applications such as posters, printed with wooden type.
The brand identity for ‘Toby etc’ also included this website which Kelvyn Smith conceived as a simple grid of squares to function intuitively for the end user.”
I was born in Wrexham, in 1969, the same year mankind made one giant leap on the moon. And raised by my Welsh father Bob and NZ mother Adrienne at our family home in Gresford, North Wales, with my elder brother David and sister Fiona.
Gresford is a small rural Welsh village that remains close to my heart. Its church bell’s are one of the seven wonders of Wales. I learned to ring these bells as a young boy being careful to let the thick rope ascend freely through my hands. As holding on tightly would elevate you to certain death somewhere up in the bell tower. Gresford is also the site of the biggest mining disaster in British history so its coal seams are sacred ground.
It was in Gresford where my creative journey first started. As a child I was very close to my mother, who taught me to touch tactile objects and to hand knit at 8 years of age. My first creation being a set of peggy squares. I eventually progressed from plain stitch to purl, which felt like a really big deal at the time. The knitted squares were made in New Zealand wool, which had been hand-spun by my mother on a traditional Ashford wooden spinning wheel. The wool bales had travelled 11,337 miles from her family farm ‘Ngaputahi Station’, located in the beautiful Pohangina valley in the North Island of NZ. Back then air miles were considered an impressive notion.
I found the transformation from sheared sheep, to fluffy wool bale, to fine spun yarn, to knitted garment fascinating and at 10 years of age it inspired me to design and make my first 3D object. Mum suggested a Tea Cosy as a simple functional object our tea drinking family would all benefit from. This I created in pearl stitch in a striped design, using natural undyed wool colours. The process felt pretty magical to me, being the first functional object I’d created with my own hands.
From such humble beginnings, I’d unknowingly sowed the seeds for a career in art and design. I do believe the tea cosy provided critical design education, aligned to the principles of the Bauhaus School of form and function. Its form was required to snugly fit a tea pot, with slit holes to hold the handle and another for the spout to pour the tea. Its function – having being knitted in wool – a natural insulator – to keep the tea warm in the teapot. This simple, holistic, design philosophy helped to guide me throughout my career.
With my father being a Director, Chairman and Life President of Wrexham Association Football Club I initially pursued a career as a Sports Journalist, hoping to gain free entry into the games, but my English teacher had other ideas and presented me with a First Aid in English books, sending me off in a more artistic direction. I never imagined back then Hollywood A listers Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney would one day be the Co Chairmen and owners of my hometown club.
And so I after completing an Art foundation in Wrexham, North Wales, I pursued my fashion studies at Bournemouth College of Art & Design. This was during the early 1990’s, a time of great social change in Britain. Buoyed by the vibrant music industry, it was an exciting era to be studying art and design at college. Being passionate about clothing and its ability to create a sense of identity or as a form of self expression, I decided to write my academic thesis on ‘Uniforms’. This I developed into a collaboration with the then very talented but unknown photography student Wolfgang Tillmans. Soon after graduation Wolfgang’s stardom rocketed, becoming a globally acclaimed photographer and artist, winning the Turner Prize and Hasselblad Award.
During this period I met my future wife Marta Narbona who hailed from Valencia, Spain and who was also studying fashion. When Marta’s sister had a baby girl – Patsy Ferran – she became the first newborn baby I held in my arms. I didn’t realise then that Patsy’s desire to perform around the breakfast table at a young age – finding myself part of her tiny audience – would one day lead to her winning the Laurence Olivier’s Actress of the Year award in 2019.
After graduating from Bournemouth in 1990 my ambitions steered me towards the Royal College of Art and its MA in Fashion Menswear Tailoring. At that time it was the only postgraduate degree course specialising in Menswear in the world and offering just 7 places. With my personal background, coming from Wrexham and then Bournemouth Art college it was more than a fairly ambitious leap. I remember trudging on foot, through two feet of deep winter snow with my black A2 portfolio and dropping it off at a Georgian building on Queen St, in Kensington. As the large wooden doors opened I saw a vision of thousands of similar black portfolios, all stacked up in a vast room, with large vaulted ceiling and my heart quickly sunk.
You can imagine my sense of disbelief when I opened the letter with RCA insignia and discovered I had been accepted. No doubt Wolfgang’s photographs had given my portfolio a special set of wings.
Under the RCA’s more intense spotlight, I found himself oscillating in elevated fashion circles, with some of the world’s leading designers, with Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano popping in and out of our studio. On my last day of graduation, when a kind tutor discovered I was Welsh, she left on my desk a poster for the ‘Welsh Fashion Awards’ with a £3,000 prize fund. Despite my suspicions about Wales and Fashion not sitting comfortably together, it did dawn on me that the prize fund also amounted to my student overdraft. This led to me showing my RCA graduate collection at the inaugural Welsh Fashion awards at the Savoy Hotel, London and being highly commended by the judges.
My RCA graduate collection had been inspired by School uniforms, a form of dress I still hold in high regard to this day. This fascination helped prompt a 6 page editorial on ‘School Fashion’ in the launch edition of Arena Homme Plus+ . This glossy publication would grow to became one of the world’s most influential Mens style magazines. The ‘School Fashion’ editorial was styled by David Bradshaw and photographed by the Italian great Paolo Roversi, an idol of mine. My clothes were featured alongside Comme Des Garcons, Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith among others and it made me feel giddy.
The following year I re entered the Welsh Fashion Awards and won the competition, becoming the ‘Welsh Fashion Designer of The Year’ which helped to raise my profile nationally. The awards judges were chaired by David Emanuel, well known for designing Princess Diana’s wedding dress, along with Shakira Caine, wife of actor Michael and Caroline Collis, the daughter of Joan Burstein (Mrs B) who co-founded Browns of South Molton St.
While receiving my prize on the catwalk I was quite taken back to be asked by the host and TV presenter Jeff Banks, “Are you Ossie Clark’s secret love child?” Though untrue, this humorous encounter lead to me being featured on the BBC’s populist programme ‘The Clothes Show’, which Jeff also presented and regularly attracted 8 million viewers on BBC1.
The nationwide exposure of being Welsh Fashion Designer of The Year and appearing on BBC1, led to an invitation, along with Philip Tracy to represent the British Fashion Industry at a prestigious promotional event ‘Action Japan’. This was conceived by the Department of Trade & Industry and held at the British Embassy in Tokyo, 1995. The exposure subsequently led to the president of Sanyo Shokai (Burberry’s licensing partner) making a direct approach through Mitsui & Co. Trading company to license the Toby Clark label in Japan. As a fledgling designer who had only graduated 1 year before, it was an exceptional honour to receive such a significant proposition.
The increased interest in my designs led to me establishing my own label TOBY CLARK, which I sold exclusively to some of the world’s leading stores. Notably the Bursteins, owners of Browns of London, the Pressmans, owners of Barneys New York, Tom Marotta, the Vice President of Saks 5th Avenue, Sam Sugure the president of Anglobal, Japan, Angela Quantrell, fashion director of Liberty of London and Shinsegae of Korea – who successfully chartered the Toby Clark label to secure it as number #3 best seller behind Jil Sander and Romeo Gigli. Around that period, Suzy Menkes fashion editor of The Herald Tribune coined the Toby Clark label as ‘tailoring with a light hand’ during her London Fashion Week round up.
During this period I won a number of awards, including Shell LiveWIRE Welsh Young Entrepreneur of the Year, silver medal at the Shell LiveWIRE British Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards and i was the winner of the UKFT Newcomers Award for Fashion Exports, presented by its patron HRH Princess Anne.
In 1997 for the launch day of London Fashion Week, the Daily Telegraph’s Fashion Editor Hilary Alexander, featured a full page editorial on the Toby Clark label. The article headlined ‘Catch 22 for the new Jean Muir’. Despite the significant brand exposure, I was fairly shocked by the angle of the story as during the interview Hilary had clearly stated though a number of prominent members of the industry had drawn such a comparison, in her view, such comparison would be the death of me. I had also let Hilary know though I greatly admired Jean Muir as an icon of the British fashion industry, I did not seek such comparison. The team at Jean Muir were also understandably upset as Jean had sadly passed away just a few months earlier. So to suggest there was a new version on the block, was more than a touch insensitive. Though I recognised her as a truly great editor, I sadly learned from Hilary’s manipulation, some journalists will pursue ‘the story‘ to aid their own notoriety, irrespective of the impact it may have on the individuals they chose to exploit.
Following this period I took the decision to close my own brand and in 1999 I co founded a design consultancy Clark & Narbona together with my wife Marta. The first project was an invitation by Roger Saul, the founder of Mulberry, to help relaunch Mulberry menswear at Pitti Uomo, Florence. This proved a invigorating challenge and was well received by the fashion press. During my tenure at Mulberry, Christina Ong made a controlling acquisition of the Mulberry brand for her Club 21 holding company.
At the start of the millennium and having always loved Margaret Howell, I was fortunate to be approached and appointed Margaret’s Head Menswear designer. At MH I committed 12 years helping Margaret to reestablish her Mens division into an acclaimed international brand. At that time the total group revenue was circa £70M a year, with 10% generated in Europe and 90% in Japan. As a company MH is 100% Japanese owned by Anglobal Ltd, a division of Sanei-International Co Ltd. with TSI Holdings the parent company.
My creative steer on Margaret Howell’s Menswear would lead to MH receiving three nominations at the British Fashion Awards for Menswear Designer Of The Year. This period included a global design project for the Japanese company MUJI and designing the Uniform for the V&A Museum in South Kensington. During my time with Margaret I was interviewed by author and philosopher Alain De Botton for his book titled ‘The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work’.
While at MH I met my fiancé Maree Ballantine a New Zealander and re-branded my design company to Toby etc.
In 2012 after concluding my role at Margaret Howell I became a co-Founder and strategic steer of Blackhorse Lane Ateliers. This open source concept was about establishing connectivity to the end user through the making process. It remains the only Factory brand in London creating selvedge and organic denim products. With a holistic, circular approach, led by sustainable practises, we cultivated a local allotment to grow Japanese indigo plants. The founding methodology for the brand incorporated a factory space with chefs, weavers, dyers, leather makers and emerging craftsmen as part of a community focused enterprise. It was considered by industry opinion formers to be a game changer for manufacturing in Britain.
Around 2015, I started to consult for Tolaga Bay, a small specialist cashmere company in New Zealand. Tolaga farm their own exclusive breed of cashmere goats with their own knitting atelier nestled under the coastal hills. Having worked extensively across the fashion industry and experienced large global supply chains, I felt attracted to this small, single source brand, who were deeply connected to nature. Growing their own materials and manufacturing their own branded cashmere products, all within their own immediate locality.
In 2020, during the outbreak of the ‘Covid-19’ global pandemic , I sensed a significant moment for social change. My personal reaction was to start to outwardly reject clothing consumerism. This led me to decide to wear the same set of clothes every single day, indefinitely. After carefully observing each item, as it changed state and eventually wore out, I patch repaired the broken fibres. This Same Clothes Everyday became a personal manifesto and project admired by the world renowned fashion forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort who invited me to be an ambassador for her World Hope Forum.
During this same year I became an Ambassador for the Campaign For Wool (NZ). This incredible natural fibre has remained close to my heart ever since I started out designing and knitting the teacosy.
In 2023 I became a co-founder of Heartfelt Repairs company in the UK with the intention of making a strategic allegiance with Patagonia’s United Repair Centre run Amsterdam to a) reduce the amount of new clothing being purchased in new materials by extending a products lifecycle and b) reducing the amount of clothing ending up in landfills and leeching toxic chemicals into the soil. The Heartfelt Repair brand has a charitable element, helping to save lives by donating a % of all sales to https://www.minutesmatter.org.uk who are refurbishing the iconic Sir Gilbert Scott red K6 phone booths across the Uk and installing defibrillators to help save lives.
In the same year I created a BrandWorld document for Wrexham AFC for a pitch to Ryan Reynolds, Rob McEllhenney and John Deschner, Creative Director of Maximum Effort, Ryan’s personal creative agency.
I also started the creation of Chiaro Scuro a new healing scent and skin care range 100% created and sourced from nature with Aotearoa-New Zealand. This brand will donate a % of all sales to a mental health charity in NZ, to fulfil the circle of doing Social Good.
As a small lagniappe to thank you for reading my biography, here is a link to one of my favourite songs, back when I was a teenager in the glorious 1980’s.
Over the years the creative projects that have felt really meaningful to me have often been part of a collaborative process.
While each and every day we all collaborate with one 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. This often requires intuition and sensitivity to create extract a balanced viewpoint.
Successful creative collaborations don’t plagiarise one another’s dna, neither seeking to profiteer or replicate old ground. They create new original work together, that without such collaboration, would not be possible to achieve.
It is, in the truest sense, a meeting of minds.
The creation of this website – Toby etc – 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 a fond memory 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 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. The photography course had a worldwide reputation and attracted international students, unlike mine which was new and unproven.
Photography has always felt an important stimulus to my work. So when enrolling on a Fashion Sportswear course at Bournemouth, I was aware of the college’s reputation for film and photography. It was widely considered 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 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 Nick, to have secured such a high profile fashion campaign, in such a short space of time. It made me think that his 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’d always loved creative writing and still 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 feel repetitively drawn to. 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 they enjoy conforming to.
At secondary school my curiosity around regulations, led to the discovery, my grey lambswool crew-neck sweater had the ability, for some unknown reason, to prove less antagonistic to school rules (stipulating a bottle green polyester v-neck jumper) than the black v-neck polyester jumpers that saw my classmates sent home or placed in detention.
At conception, I envisioned my Uniform thesis to be accompanied by a series of portrait images. This led me into the photography department and perhaps with some luck, to bump into a young 22-year-old Wolfgang Tillmans. It was Tony Maestri who recommended Wolfgang to me. After our brief chat, I sensed Wolfgang shared the same interest in Uniform as a creative subject. We also seemed to share similar aspirations to do really meaningful work, that could stand up in its own right, beyond the internal boundaries of academia.
My invitation to Wolfgang was very simple. To capture and record the subjects I would curate. Allowing him full artistic interpretation of the final image. I would select the subjects and do the interview and prepare the written narrative 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 Workers, 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 in world culture. The student photographer with a camera, the reflection of life itself and the Road Workers (Wolfgang’s favourite image) represented the ‘work’ that we all do. The work 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 quite aware of the value of his work and a sense of carefully controlled release. There was no confetti approach. He made just two prints of each subject, keeping one for himself.
Wolfgang and I seemed to work well together and later that year Wolfgang approached me and asked if he could take photographs of my own clothing designs, which I was 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 collection as a campaign format, styled on the house model of Japanese designer Matsuda. This model was Roger Cook who I had found having been 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 were fulfilled as a sideline, while professor of Fine Art History at Reading University. He also acted in Derek Jarman’s film The Garden. Roger is now a visiting lecturer at the Royal Academy of Arts.
My recollection of collaborating with Wolfgang was his incredibly well drilled observation, his over arching confidence and technical control with a camera. 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 on a camera button, which perhaps some more traditional photographers do.
Wolfgang possessed great technical aptitude, with total control and confidence in his photographic toolkit. He seemed to have the ability to capture a powerful image in a blink of an eye and appeared so instinctive when framing a subject. 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.
His desire to handprint each image, added an extra layer of artistic control over the process. He seemed to be motivated by his inquisitiveness of life. With a burning desire to reproduce specific colour tones in a printed image, to create his own signature as an artist and in a manner of work that was not being done at the time. He almost had the impression of a photographic scientist with a microscopic lense, who could climb inside the printed image.
Am quite certain it was Wolfgang’s photographic prints in my portfolio that helped me 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. And still feel very proud of that. This opened the door for other fashion students at the college to follow in future years.
I’d 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 class intake was limited to 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, 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 said it was rare to see in a student’s portfolio. I guess that was Wolfgang but maybe Wolfgang had also found me for a reason too.
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 secured a commission with i-D publication. That early work with i-D provided the exposure that started the Tillmans ripple effect as an artist. 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 Uniform project was so good we should approach the Sunday Times Magazine. In the end I decided not to pursue it. So the work, transcripts and prints would remain lying under my bed for over 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 with non hierarchical hanging.
The fact 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 Wolfgang exhibited one of the Uniform images ~ Road workers ~ at his first solo exhibition at the Daniel Buchholz gallery in Cologne in 1993, recreated at Frieze Art Fair in 2016.
I do recall his fondness of the Road Workers image and can still remember us being there on that roundabout. Like much of life’s best art, it happened impromptuly on the side of the road, while we were outside the college returning from another shoot. I never imagined then that twenty eight years later this same photograph would be sold as a signed Tillmans artwork through Sothebys ………….. Sothebys Tillmans Auction
Considering Wolfgang’s methodological archivist approach and his careful control over release of his work; am sure despite the huge volume of work he has created since 1990, he will still have the Uniform images chronologically listed in his archive.
26 years later, to thank Wolfgang for the work we did together, send him a pair of Blackhorse Lane Atelier Jeans a brand I had co-founded. These were manufactured in Walthmastow, London. Being aware of Wolfgang’s love of East London the style I sent him was E5. We created our selvedge jeans with London postcodes, with each style created conceived according to the social demographic identified with each zonal area. As a brand identifier it was an interesting experiment.
I was aware Wolfgang was a devotee of Levis jeans. His regular wardrobe staple being his T-shirt and Jeans combination. Though with my knowledge of the clothing industry, I knew Wolfgang’s Levis jeans would have been 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 locally made less than 5 miles from his own London studio.
It felt particularly fitting to be sending Wolfgang a pair of jeans. An item of clothing entrenched in our global culture and an essential ‘Uniform of Liberty’ around the world. We had thus come full circle.
Wolfgang returned an electronic note to thank me, together with a selfie photograph wearing our Atelier jeans…
You can view on this link, Wolfgang being interviewed by Lou Stoppard of SHOWstudio. This includes a question I posed to Wolfgang about Bournemouth and our Uniforms collaboration.
Toby Clark studied at the Royal College of Art -London, graduating in 1993 with a Master’s Degree in Fashion Menswear. After graduation he started the ‘Toby Clark’ label which won a number of high profile awards – ‘Welsh Designer Of The Year’ 1995 and achieved recognition amongst the fashion industry’s opinion formers. The label was retailed through some of the world’s leading stores. Barney NY, Browns of South Molton St and Anglobal, Japan. In 1997 Toby founded a design consultancy studio which has spanned three decades, completing projects for a number of highly admired international brands. 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.’ provides a holistic approach to design consultancy. Projects are tailored to suit each client brand, promoting empathic design thinking. Project solutions are attuned to a client’s key objectives, while aiming to enhance brand reputation and appeal to valued consumers. Toby values an original individual approach with a love for authentic, engineered products that are user centric. He strives to fulfil a 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 maintains a consistency and builds momentum through continual incremental improvements.
Toby etc. adapts the consultancy service to suit the client’s individual brand culture and offers a multi-faceted service spanning Retail, Wholesale, Online e-Commerce, Direct To Consumer and Mail Order in the niche lifestyle goods and luxury fashion market sector. Consultancy services have been in a variety of guises, including Design Engineering, Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Creative Direction, Product Development, Manufacture & Sourcing, Styling, Catwalk Shows & Trade Exhibitions, Brand Campaigns and Strategic Reports to Management. Toby Clark is a skilled practitioner of clothing design and a multidisciplinary design thinker. He has considerable knowledge of Brand Strategy for luxury premium brands and expanding into global markets. ‘Toby etc.’ works confidentially for clients when requested to do so, although is unable to work exclusively for any one client brand.
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TOBY etc. is experienced working with a brand and it’s Licensee and developing a brand in overseas territories.
To carefully observe the smallest of details, as they often resonate the loudest.
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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.
– Acceptance Of Proposals
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.
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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 email@example.com 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.
Inspiration is a stimulating method of creative motivation. To be inspired is to dream and to want to change the world in some small way.
All creatives fondly remember moments they felt really inspired as art students. Especially discovery of another artist, whose work directly inspires their own. It’s a rewarding part of the creative process. In my case, inspiration 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. Step forward… William S. Burroughs.
The purpose of allocating a page of this website to inspiration, is to acknowledge its role as a critical part of the creative process. It’s also to share an image that currently inspires me, together with a short explanatory description. I intended it to be a slowly evolving showcase that I would update and replace from time to time. Not dissimilar to Eno Goldfinger’s carefully curated wall of art at his home in 2 Willow road, Hampstead.
However I love this image and Marti so much, I have decided to leave it here permanently. It’s a digital reproduction of a gelatin silver print of 2 ceramic jugs thrown by NZ potter Barry Brickell and photographed by my dearly departed friend Marti Freidlander. Marti was an incredibly talented NZ photographer with a unique eye and charisma and highly decorated in New Zealand. I think of Marti as a true artist and admire 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 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 suggesting a craftsman of refined skill and knowledge. A craftsman who has mastered their craft and able to assemble an art form 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 inspires me to learn to throw pottery and I smile when imagining the conversation on that day between Marti and Barry.
Instagram is undoubtedly the most influential image creating platform of the 21st century. With more than 1 billion users worldwide, for many it has become an intrinsic tool of their daily life.
Its influence upon society is unparalleled, with a platform of connectivity driven by the biggest archive of digital photographs in the world, already exceeding 40 billion images.
Having established itself as a universal tool, it’s widespread popularity has in itself created a new set of social paradigms, for both social engagement and commercial business activity.
With images shared directly from one hand held device to another, its immediacy has created a level of digital voyeurism. While the facility to enhance each image through digital filters takes us a step closer to a world of virtual reality and A.I. technology, leaving a powerful impression on the viewer and enabling a conflict between illusion and reality.
While it remains an intriguing phenomenon, the advance of Instagram, together with its omnipresent desire to record our every movement, as part of a digital revolution, it might also be viewed as slightly unsettling.
The long-term social effects of globalising a once private inner sanctum, is still relatively unchartered…
“As a creative I’ve always felt it important to engage with all types of technology. I also believe in the principle of sharing authentic creativity within an open public platform.
I prefer to do this in a quiet way and use Instagram to connect with like-minded creatives. I do not seek or chase followers and believe in organic discovery and connectivity. This is the reason I never use #hashtags.
I like reality, which is the reason I never photoshop or filter my images. To me there is an art and skill in capturing a moment of reality. Natural daylight is our powerful ally if we learn how to use her.
My images are inspired by all forms of creations. I tend to be altruistic and seek to promote the creative works of others, as altruism feels important to my life journey. My instagram feed features a myriad of creators who inspire me and who all channel the Light. ”
Please click the link below if you wish to be taken to my Instagram:
In this modern age of digital screens, which disconnect and create physical barriers, vying for our attention, to find the luxury of time – to invest in conversation, share time together, to laugh, giggle or cry in one another’s company, is often one of the biggest challenges we face.
I admire my friends, not because of what they do, or their status or success, but the way they choose to live their lives.
Self-awareness and ability to show empathy towards others, are aspects that are important to me. My attraction to my friends is always driven by their kindness, thoughtfulness and humour. These I feel are the best foundation blocks and elixir of life.
I feel especially lucky to work in the creative industries; as 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 opportunity to share the work of my friends and creatives who inspire me and who I admire. There is of course no running order, just a list of very talented people who do something exceptionally well with grace and humility.
Kelvyn Laurence Smith
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When you visit this website you are given a limited license to access and use the information for your personal use. All content, trademarks, branding and logos which are used on this website are either owned by TOBY etc. or we have a license to use them.
Your access to this website does not license you to use any of the content, text, images, trademarks, branding or logos without our written permission.
If you submit any comments, feedback, ideas or suggestions you acknowledge that TOBY etc. reserves the right to use this content. You are also responsible for any content you provide such as its legality, originality and copyright.
By accessing this website you agree to indemnify and hold TOBY etc. and Toby Clark unaccountable of any and all claims, actions, damages/loss, expenses and costs including legal fees arising from or in connection with the use of the TOBY etc. website.
By using this site, you signify your understanding and agreement to comply with the terms & conditions of use.
If you would like to contact Toby to discuss a creative project or seek to engage the services of TOBY etc. please make contact by e-mail in the first instance.
If you would like to invite Toby to talk at a public event, or visit an educational institution, please kindly contact Toby directly. There is no PR representative …
“I believe a personal touch is the best line of defence.”
If you are a student and seek some career guidance or mentoring you will be pleased to know Toby has a philanthropic heart and will do his best to help you.
To contact Toby:
please just type his first name @tobyetc.com