'I have to look better than Mo Salah': The go-to tailor for football's dapper elite

Michael Frackowiak is aiming to bring his sartorial skills to Saudi Arabia after success in the UK

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When Roberto Firmino first contacted tailor Michael Frackowiak six years ago, his only stipulation was: “I have to look better than Mo Salah!”

They may have been successful Liverpool teammates on the field but off it, the friendly rivalry between the two players extended to who had the best of everything, including cars, clothes and houses.

And Roberto – or Bobby, as he was affectionately known in Merseyside – did not want to be overshadowed by his Egyptian friend.

Mr Frackowiak must have passed his test because he went on to make more than a dozen suits, as well as countless jackets and shirts for Firmino who left Anfield this summer for Al Ahli in the Saudi Pro League.

The most recent was the garment Firmino wore when he made his emotional farewell to the Reds, with whom he won a glut of major honours, including the Champions League and Premier League.

My aim is to make people feel the best version of themselves. Nothing pleases me more
Michael Frackowiak

“It was beautiful. It was double breasted with no lapels and high waisted. He looked terrific,” says Mr Frackowiak who has a roster of footballers and businessmen, and high-net-worth individuals on his books.

“I loved working with him. We had a great time working on things together.”

Dressed to impress

Mr Frackowiak is due to meet up again with Firmino this week in Jeddah as part of the tailor’s new move into the Saudi market.

The 2030 vision of Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman has convinced Mr Frackowiak that opportunities abound in the country as it continues its global push.

He has 20 appointments over two hectic days in Riyadh, with one prospective client even asking to meet at 11pm.

“I would like to make an impression in places where they haven’t had exposure as much to the West with regard for tailor-made clothing or bespoke suits, which help them make better connections,” he says.

“With their future plans, Saudis will need to go out [of the country] as much as attract people to come in.

"I think we will be seeing a lot more Saudi nationals higher up in the chain wearing suits when they go to New York or London or Europe to discuss investments.”

Initially, Mr Frackowiak made connections in Saudi Arabia by using a technique that served him well when he first started out. He compiled a list of businesses and their top employees and cold-called, with messages on social media sent by his virtual assistant.

“I had lots of responses from people who said, ‘Wow,’ no one is doing what you are doing in Riyadh right now. When can we meet?”

Tailor-made for career change

Born in Poland, Mr Frackowiak has always been unconventional in his approach to both business and life.

He qualified originally as an electrical engineer and moved in 2004 to Liverpool when he was 25. Unable to get a job in his profession, he started out at the very bottom.

“I went to wash pots and pans in a castle in north Wales, in Rhyl. We didn’t know anyone, didn’t know the language but we started slowly to learn English.”

Having eventually retrained in England, he resumed engineering but after eight years felt there had to be something more to life.

“I started helping a friend of mine who had a tailor’s shop in Liverpool. I would come in at the weekends, help clients and see and get a feel for what he did,” says Mr Frackowiak.

“I was absolutely taken by this idea of a client coming in and then leaving with two suits, five shirts and looking absolutely amazing.

“I had always admired men in suits. And always longed for a job where I could wear a suit to work and not overalls!

“So, I resolved to become a tailor so I could design my own suits and dress like I wanted to, with a different look very day. What could be a better job than becoming a tailor?”

Mr Frackowiak learnt on the job.

“It wasn’t like I was a young lad; I was in my early 30s. To have a career change like mine is fairly unusual,” he says.

“But I was so determined to get this right and to have that as a business that I wasn’t ever going to be deterred.

“I have no formal qualification. It was just watching and learning from my friends and perseverance. My engineering background helped me with angles, structures and processes, which is very important.”

His first customer was a friend of his. The finished product by his own admission did not stand the test of time. “I have a picture of him and, looking back, it was awful,” Mr Frackowiak recalls.

Sew far, so good

But one thing led to another and chiefly, by word of mouth, slowly he built his business.

“I love to hustle. The most exciting thing for me about the business is when a customer says yes, they want a suit. That gives me joy. As does seeing them in the finished product; that is very rewarding, seeing the fruits of your labour on someone.

“I learnt how to use a sewing machine and cut the cloth. But now I’m far too busy. I hire seamstresses who are far better than me.”

His real skill lies front of house – liaising, persuading and communicating with clients.

“I always felt I had a gift that I was good at talking to people and holding a conversation with people. I felt I could talk people into buying a suit. That came naturally to me.

“I have learnt over the years that the best way and the most successful collaborations are when we talk to the potential client initially and offer them inspirations depending on what they want.

“I give them homework! I tell them to go on Instagram have a look. See how something you might like actually looks. By the time we actually meet, we already have a good idea of what we are trying to do.

“People like to talk to their tailor where they are relaxed and open. When you’ve seen someone in their underwear, you know each other pretty well. It’s like a woman and her hairdresser confidante!”

Search for the stars

His thoughts turned to celebrities and being in Liverpool, where footballers hung out. “The answer was, ‘On social media!’”

He hired an assistant to create a list of all clubs and footballers in the Premier League and Championship in England, and to find their profile on Instagram.

A huge spreadsheet was compiled, and 11,000 individual messages were sent.

“Out of that, we had maybe 1 per cent that actually replied,” Mr Frackowiak explains. “Out of that, maybe 2 per cent showed a genuine interest and ask to see some of my work. Out of that, maybe 10 per cent said come and see me. We also messaged their agents because they control those conversations.

“That’s how we got Firmino when he was playing to Liverpool. I messaged his agent who was in Germany and out of the blue he rang me and said: 'Can you be at Bobby Firmino’s house tomorrow?' Of course, I said yes!”

Footballers were followed by entrepreneurs and business people. The most expensive garment he made cost a client in London £11,000 and had crushed diamond chips woven into the cloth. But he always tries to provide value for money.

“I have got about 30 football clients and at least 50 business clients, most of who have retired early. We make about 300 suits a year and double that in shirts. My aim is to make people feel the best version of themselves. Nothing pleases me more.”

Updated: December 15, 2023, 6:00 PM