What do pop stars do when they get bored or burned out? They launch a fashion range. Robbie Williams is the latest. Alison Jones reports.
Robbie Williams admits he was heading down the career cul de sac of becoming a fat and hairy UFO hunter when he was saved by fashion.
He ditched the metaphorical anorak for something with a little more élan when he started his own clothing range, Farrell.
“Ever since I was 16, which was when I joined Take That, I have been doing make album, promote album, tour album; make album, promote album, tour album... I did that for 20 years and I got a bit burnt out.
“I wanted something else to do. I genuinely thought I was never going to be a pop star again. That was when the UFO thing happened.”
Anxious for a break, he searched for a distraction, making “documentaries about UFOs and the paranormal”.
“But that just made me weird and fat with a beard looking for UFOs.
“So I thought ‘I’ll reverse out of this situation, this is a PR nightmare’ and my management at the time put the idea (of a fashion line) to me.
“I live in America where pop stars, actors and actresses all seem to parlay whatever they do into a multitude of things. Once it was put to me that doing a clothes line might be an option I pretty much though I could do that, too.”
Now slimmed down, beard-free and sporting a short back and sides, he is dressed in the clothes he is promoting, with an added dash of colour from his bright pink socks.
Farrell was named in honour of his granddad, Jack Farrell. To Robbie he was ‘Jack the Giant Killer’.
“He was built like an Irish navvy. He was a very, very tall chap and when my dad left, when I was like two or three, he took over as the male figure in my life.
“He was in World War Two, he worked down the pit, he was Irish Catholic and he was debonair and he thought I was going to turn into a wuss because there were no guys there to look after me. So he taught me to box, and he did loads of strength training with me.
“When we needed a name for the brand he was and is the authenticity that runs through the clothing.”
The style of the clothes is a throwback to the early part of the last century with lots of tweedy, nubbly cloths, military style coats, collarless shirts, vests and even cardigans.
“They are real clothes for real men,” says Robbie. “We went ‘let’s go First World War’ because that is windswept, interesting, hard and Jack Farrell.
“We got a picture of the Germans and the English on Christmas day playing at the amnesty football game. From that picture this line has come.”
“We” is now Robbie and his head of design, Ben Dickens, who was formerly Burberry’s design director.