Threads with heart and soul: Kenny Franks

September 26, 2019

"Once you’ve lost your sense of humour, you may as well be dead."


These were the wise words of the great man who inspired Sydney's latest ethical clothing label, Kenny Franks.


Born in 1920s Manchester, Kenneth Frank lived a life of beautiful simplicity. While he had a no frills approach to most things, he held a special appreciation for good liquor, great engines and, of course, his family.



It's this beautiful simplicity that his grandson Liam Gardner, founder of Kenny Franks, is trying to capture in his new fashion label - an homage to his grandfather and a nod to the future of sustainable fashion.


We had a chat with Liam, who told us more about his legend of a grandfather and others who've inspired him along the way. He also offers some great advice for other young creatives thinking of jumping into their own passion project.


Describe the Kenny Franks brand in three words.


Less but better


What made you want to start your own clothing brand?


I'm a designer by trade and I was itching to get in to the world of business. Kenny Franks was the perfect blend of the two. And I wanted to make sure I was doing it the right way by utilising ethical factories and sustainable manufacturing processes.



Tell us a little about your grandfather.


He was a legend. Loved his cars, loved his whisky. He was a no frills kind of guy, but he also wouldn’t compromise on quality. My dad had a little house built on the side of ours for him to live in, and I only truly realised how lucky I was to have that in later years. It also meant we didn’t have far to go when my brothers and I were being little shits and ‘running away from home’.


What’s the best lesson that your grandfather passed down to you? 


He used to say, "Once you’ve lost your sense of humour, you may as well be dead". Not quite an Oscar Wilde classic, but it certainly stuck with me and reminds me to try and see the funny side in every situation, and to not get too stressed out over things that ultimately don’t matter.


Sustainability and fairness are at the core of your brand. Tell us about that.


I think anybody entering a consumer goods business these days has a responsibility to acknowledge their human and environmental footprint. There is already too much ‘stuff’ in the world and businesses are in the best position to educate consumers and make them more aware of their purchasing choices.


Our suppliers are audited annually. They use 100% organic cotton and are Fair Trade certified – meaning their employees are paid and treated fairly. 


"I think anybody entering a consumer goods business these days has a responsibility to acknowledge their human and environmental footprint."


What advice would you offer to other young creatives who are thinking about setting up their own business but aren’t quite sure where to start?


Just dive in. As quickly or as slowly as you are comfortable with. Be in it for the long game and don’t get frustrated when you don’t see immediate results... you have to provide value and build trust with your audience before you can expect them to part with their cash.


What’s your best piece of advice for balancing full-time work with a side business?


Be disciplined. Be consistent. And be patient!


Who or what inspires you most?


There are a whole heap of people that give me daily inspiration and motivation, here are just a few....


@stefansagmeister / Graphic designer

@dieter_rams_design (fan account) / Industrial Designer

@pietrosedda / Tattoo Artist

@garyvee / Entrepreneur


How do you get yourself out of a creative slump?


If I the luxury of time I get as far away from the problem as possible and inspiration will often strike when I least expect... and I’m always ready to document it. If I’m up against it, two beers usually sparks an idea or two... or at least gives me the confidence to push out something without overthinking it, haha!



What makes up your ideal weekend?


Taking a motorbike out to the national park on a sunny Sunday or heading on a weekend adventure with a small crew of mates and just a backpack of supplies. 


What’s next for the Kenny Franks brand?


Within 5 months we’re already stocked with two retailers. We’d love to get onboard with at least one more before the end of the year. Beyond that we’ll expand the range into hoodies, jumpers, long sleeves, caps and beanies. Hopefully we'll keep serving up cool and interesting content that people want to engage with! Oh and we'll be doing a super small run of genuine vintage leather carry cases. 


Make sure you follow to stay up-to-date on what's coming and head to to peruse their gear.


Images: supplied.



Kate Neilson is the founding editor of Twenty Something Humans. She's a collector of plants and embarrassing stories. Every Sunday she has pancakes for breakfast. She feels awkward writing about herself in the third person. You can lurk her @katiepotatierose.

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