In Conversation: Julia McCarthy

Julia McCarthy: Friends with Frank

To celebrate the launch of Friends with Frank at Denton House, we spoke with founder and creative director, Julia McCarthy, on her personal style evolution, creating hardworking capsule classics, and the importance of fostering a connection with your customer.


To take it back to the beginning, was there a specific person or experience that sparked your interest in design or fashion?

I wouldn’t say a specific person or experience, but I’ve always been someone who loves clothing and the art of putting an outfit together. I love the transformative power of fashion and the impact it can have over our mood and how we feel about ourselves. I’m constantly putting together looks in my head or styling people I see on the street! Welcome to my brain.


If you could sum up Friends with Frank as a brand in one sentence, what would that look like?

Elevated, wearable, high quality pieces you’ll wear on repeat for years to come.


What inspired you to start Friends with Frank?

I thought there was a real gap in the market for well-made and considered wardrobe classics at an accessible price. FWF began by designing pieces that I love to wear and felt were missing from my wardrobe, and this is something I continue to build on every season.


We’re so excited to introduce Friends with Frank to our tight edit of like-minded brands. Can you share with our Denton House community a little bit about the inspiration behind the Autumn Winter ‘23 collection, and what makes it so special?

We’re delighted to be a part of the edit of Australian and NZ brands at Denton House. The pieces you’ve selected are true wardrobe heroes and that’s what makes them so special. A classic trench, black tailored wool coat, a great pair of denim, and elevated cotton rib knit basics; these are the kind of pieces that you’ll find yourself reaching for over and over.


You began Friends with Frank as a side hustle whilst working as a full-time buyer, before taking the plunge of leaving that role to pursue FWF full-time. How did you manage that transition, and what piece of advice would you give to others looking to make a similar change?

The hustle was very real working a full-time job with FWF on the side! I’d spend lunch breaks doing order runs to the post office and weekends working at our pop up store. Although it was full on and unsustainable in the long run, it gave me the confidence to take that leap and feel like I was ready to work on the business full time. My best advice would be to find your community and support network. Once I went full-time with FWF, I moved into a co-working space where there were other small business founders I could turn to for advice and support.


Let’s talk about the design process, can you walk us through what your design process looks like? And how you approach creating new collections?

My design approach for FWF is really just designing everything that I want/need myself. I’ll often sit and really think about my wardrobe, identify gaps, but also the pieces that I’m getting a lot of wear out of. I find this approach always helps me keep our customer at the forefront of my design process, ensuring we’re designing pieces that our customers actually want to wear. Our design process is quite fluid; fabric and colour palette are two other important considerations for us. Sometimes a piece might start with finding a really beautiful fabric. We’ll then work backwards to create a silhouette and style that best showcases that material. Or, we know exactly the kind of style we want to create, and we’ll then work to source the perfect fabric to bring that to life.


What is your approach to connecting with customers and people in the industry? Do you believe your connection to the FWF community helps shape the direction FWF moves in?

We’re very lucky to have such a loyal and supportive community. To this day I’m still on texting basis with some of our VIPs, many of whom have been customers since very early on and who I now consider close friends. With a background in retail, I’ve always understood the importance of being on the shop floor and connecting with our customers. I love to get chatting about how they found us, their feedback on fit, what they’re looking for at the moment - all of this helps me shape our direction. 


What is the best style tip you have been given, and ignored?

That black and brown can’t be worn together! It’s one of my favourite colour combinations for winter.


How would you describe your personal style, and has this changed since starting your brand?

When I founded the brand 10 years ago, I was still figuring out who I was and that was reflected in my style. I was definitely more susceptible to a fleeting trend than I am now! I now know what my style is and I feel a sense of confidence in that. I would describe my approach to dressing as classic, chic and relaxed. 


At Denton House, our focus is on providing the building blocks to a wardrobe filled with hardworking, timeless, and versatile pieces. Can you share with our community how Friends with Frank fits in with this philosophy?

That just about sums us up! We aim to simplify the process of getting dressed each morning, solving the daily what-to-wear dilemma by arming women with an offering of elevated pieces that all work back with one another. No-brainer items that make you feel polished - but not overdone.


What are five wardrobe essentials you couldn’t live without?

A tailored coat (I live in our Thomas Coat and have sized up for a boxier fit), a well-cut blazer, a silk bias cut dress like our Willa Dress, and a great pair of jeans - I reach for my white Felicity Denim Trousers weekly. I actually don’t have a huge wardrobe and am a proud outfit repeater!


What’s next for Friends with Frank?

So much to look forward to next year. Without giving too much away, 2024 for us has a real focus on retail. We have an upcoming month-long residency in LA at the start of next year, as well as a more local development that is in it’s very early days…


And lastly, what would be your top recommendation for a Londoner travelling to Melbourne?

We just had our Friends with Frank Christmas party at Cam’s in Abbotsford. It’s a new favourite! Go for the pasta and stay for a wander in the Abbotsford Convent gardens afterwards. To shop, Gertrude St in Fitzroy. To relax, Sense of Self. To visit, the National Gallery of Victoria. And a for a late night vino, Waxflower.

Shop our curated edit of Friends with Frank on Denton House.


Julia McCarthy: Friends with Frank
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