Archive (226 items), newspapers/photographs/labels/magazines, Frank Mitchell, Australia, 1949-1978
Frank Mitchell was born in Hamilton, Newcastle, in 1920. He left home at the age of seventeen and moved to Sydney, where he lived in Kings Cross while attending the Julian Ashton Art School. During the Second World War Mitchell served as an air gunner; after demobilisation he toured rural New South Wales with a vaudeville company called the St Louis Vanities. His participation in the company included not only singing, but painting background scenery and assisting the costume designer. He then lived in Brisbane where he had various jobs, before returning to Sydney in the late 1940s.
On his return to Sydney, Mitchell worked for fashion designer Hanne Wilson with his friend Mabel White (who would later work for Mitchell), despite the fact that he had had no formal training in fashion design or clothes making. He held his first fashion show with his friend Robert Henry in 1949 at 151 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo where he had his studio and was living at the time. Photographs from this first fashion show were published in The Sun Herald.
Throughout the 1950s many of Mitchell's designs were paraded at charity events. June Dally-Watkins (who modelled in some of Mitchell's fashion shows) even took a collection of his clothing with her on a 1952 trip to the United States of America to promote Australian fashion. Mitchell also designed the costumes for a number of productions by the Phillip Street Theatre, including 'The Willow Pattern Plate' (1957). In the early 1950s he supplied 'one-off' models of evening wear to Myer while Sheila Scotter was working there as a fashion buyer.
By the end of the 1970s, Mitchell had owned a number of boutiques: his first was at 155 New South Head Road, Edgecliff (1952-62), followed by 'My Husband and I' at Queen St, Woollahra (1963-74) and his final boutique at 390 Glenmore Road, Paddington (1975-80).
After his retirement from fashion in 1982 (he retained a handful of clients for some time after this date), Mitchell (a self-taught musician) sang and played piano in a number of bars in Sydney, including the Hyatt Hotel and Mimi's in Kings Cross. He also returned to painting in his seventies, presenting his own exhibition at the Barry Stern Gallery in 1995.
Mitchell died in Sydney in 1999.