Following the Flow of Life with Frank Chellew
Updated: Aug 23
Author: Jamie Teitelman @jamieteitelman
I had the pleasure of speaking with Frank Chellew this past week in Brooklyn. Frank is a wonderful, inspiring, and successful businessman who is now the Chief of Sales at 1People, a Danish sustainable premium brand that designs effortlessly timeless looks for conscious-minded women so that they can stay stylish in an ethical, high-quality fashion. We started chatting outside of Nerd Be Cool Espresso Lab Cafe in Brooklyn. I quickly learned, it was not until recently that Frank got into the sustainability side of fashion but his career path ultimately led him to the place he is now.
Frank started his journey in menswear at [the iconic] Abraham and Strauss Department Store known as A&S in Brooklyn which was part of Federated Department Stores. That later turned into Macy’s where he had a beautiful 30-year-long career at. In 2017, he chose to take an early retirement as the retail business was starting to change and he felt that “everything he had worked for, and with the path he was on, that it was time to take a new direction”. I admire Frank’s ability to want to jump forward and reinvent himself by doing something different, even though he had no idea what the future would be holding. He moved swiftly into working with Steve Madden where he worked on a short contract then moved to a different path at Eleven Canterbury. Eleven Canterbury unlocked a different side of Frank, where he was on the business development side. He helped develop an executive post-corporate career transition program for former chief executives and other senior-level people helping them find and align with their next career path. Frank, explained to me about the program called Executive Transitions, which helps people think and reflect on,
“How do I reinvent myself? How do I take my value equation that got me so successful and reapply it to a very different world today and not say my skills aren't relevant?”
The program would help them reflect, rediscover and restate their value to help them align with their passion. As a young adult, I found that I related to this deeply as I am currently in the process of trusting myself and finding a path that truly suits me.
In this part of Frank’s own journey he stated, the best part was helping people and bringing people into this program and then attending all the sessions and hearing them share their own personal experiences and aha moments. Just like the Elbert Hubbard quote, “The only way to help yourself is to help others.” Frank realized that when he became his 3.0 version of himself, he did that by seeing himself helping others which resulted in him filling up his own cup.
This led us to talk about the word networking, where we both agreed that networking has to come and flow naturally — it needs to be genuine. The words genuine and authentic energy are words that stood out to me during our chat, primarily because that is what you can feel coming from Frank when you are connecting with him.
Frank has pushed himself out of his comfort zone numerous times throughout his career, creating different experiences at each stage which has led him to where he is at right now, fully back working retail wholesale with four different entrepreneurs and three different companies all in sustainability. He calls himself a serial mentor and at the moment he is mentoring and advising Akilah Releford, with her beauty brand Mary Louise Cosmetics. He sees the beauty industry in the same light as menswear, because they are unique in their own way in their own sector.
His introduction to the team at 1People, was seamless from a European wholesale colleague and friend who stated,
“They really need somebody, they need somebody who knows the US market, they need somebody who has a retail network and experience like you.”
Frank, didn’t feel he had the time to add more to his plate but once getting to know the founders and the brand he fell in love with the Danish sensibility, how they treat and deal with the people they are speaking to but as well brands minimalistic identity and simplicity along with elegance and the quality of the product. He was feeling ambivalent about throwing himself again into something he’s never done but I think that comes down to imposter syndrome — you must make yourself just do it even if you feel that you are not qualified.
Frank explained to me that he would not want to be in any other place than being in sustainability right now. It is an extremely important part of his identity now and his wife even has her own online vintage store “Room 6 Vintage”. It is only recently that he has become “knee deep” in the sustainability side of fashion, learning from those around him with experience. We both agreed on how terribly behind the United States is with sustainability compared to the rest of the world. In Europe, you don't have to twist anyone's arm about sustainability, it's just there and everyone knows it's essential. Frank quoted that a senior leader of a certain fashion office in New York [with no time to visit the Coterie booth] said, “that they were TOO big for it…. too big for sustainability. It’s too hard for us to execute this and to tell this story”. In the eyes of Frank, the only way that larger companies would reach the demand of consumers for sustainability would be socially conscious consumers and the younger generations that demand it or laws to be passed that would require it.
He also mentioned that when speaking with a young woman working in an urban garden shop in Brooklyn “GRDN” who explained that she wears sustainable clothing, and loves sustainability but she is not buying boring clothing because they are sustainable, ultimately she did not want to sacrifice the look because she also wants to love it. These words stayed with Frank because it just proved to him that there can be stylish sustainable clothing and that is where 1People comes in. I personally agreed with Frank that the true attraction of 1People, is that it offers a sustainable product where a woman doesn't have to compromise their sense of style. They elevated basics, with pieces that are easy to wear, beautiful, and elegant which grab the eye of someone who is keen on purchasing a capsule wardrobe and does not have to go from brand to brand. I asked Frank about 1People’s, SDGS and their goals, and he brought up the Australian Company's app “Good on You”, which helps consumers find out how ethical and sustainable a brand is, he exclaimed that 1People is rated as Good but he believes they are Great and just not getting the credit for it. Frank explained to me that it is much harder for a smaller company to be rated Great, because it's not about doing anything different, it's about certifying more parts of the business and that's what they are working on now— working on finding more sustainable manufacturers that have small MOQs because they make such small amount of units. Frank has also brought more product strategy to 1People focusing more on the ready-to-wear and jumping into getting more aligned with the US market so their product in flow matches with the calendar. The brand is timeless and timeless is a great thing to have but Frank explained that the company is working collaboratively to get more newness into the product pipeline. Frank’s newest sustainability adventure is with groundbreaking technology. He is joining “Sangrove | Impact Shopping” in a board advisory role. Impact Shopping addresses fashion waste at the source - production. This new way of consumer buying reduces or even eliminates the over production of product consumers won’t want or unnecessary product samples intimately ending up in landfills.
By the end, Frank has given me some fantastic advice that I will keep with me for the rest of my career. I spoke about my own career changes and feeling some sense of fear at times and he gave me advice that he has given his daughters,
“That something he has observed over the years that is a reality check on worries about experience is, how many people are stepping into a role that they’re so in over their head, where they start out in over their head, and they just figure it out. You just need to jump into these roles with presence and confidence and say I’m just gonna figure it out.”
While that is easier said than done it was something I really needed to hear that morning.
Frank‘s journey is still creating itself every day, while he finds value in mentoring people earlier in their careers and also being a part of sustainability, he found that this niche makes him feel good about what he is adding to the world.
I wanted to add to the end of this some quotes from our conversation that I thought was important to add to this post, this first one is about his journey;
“Because I think that the journey is partly choice, and part of it is the circumstances that present themselves to you, and how you address it and what you do about it. And for me, it was an incredible journey. I had a lot of opportunity, a lot of growth, a lot of experiences, worked with incredible people. I was fortunate to have really good mentors who supported me through my learning.”
This second one is about imposter syndrome something we all will face in our life at least once;
“Yeah well from my perspective imposter syndrome can be a lifelong experience. I don't even know if I graduated from a post-synchro. You know it's something that someone needs to work on all the time.”
I hope you all enjoyed getting to know Frank as much as I did and take some valuable advice that will help you prolong your life and career!