With your youth still ahead of you, best friend at your side, and access to many of the fashion industry’s elite, many would see it as a fine time to turn up. However, Phillip Terrill would say that it was time to turn in and get ready for the next day.
Terrill, co-founder and managing partner of men’s neckwear line Burks & Bailey, is literally the man behind the brand.
Well-spoken, well-dressed, and above all humble, Phillip is not too proud to step out of the spotlight. Instead, Phillip prefers being the man that does the work behind the scenes, which works well for he and his best friend/business partner John Bailey.
Realizing that partnerships, like friendships, take knowing each other’s strengths and talents has allowed Phillip to run Burks & Bailey as smoothly as possible. Terrill says:
“I’m involved in both the fashion side and the business side, but I would break it down into a 70 to 30 relationship. I would say I would be the 30 to the creative side because a true partner lets the strengths of the other partner come out. John’s strengths are the fashion, and the creativity, and the design aspect.” Terrill believes that business is in his blood. He adds, “To run a business and to make sure that the nuts and bolts are there, that’s my job. And that’s what I enjoy doing.”
In naming the brand, the two didn’t squabble over whose name would come first. In fact, Terrill opted out of including his name at all because he wanted to go with something more marketable and tied to another company he ran, The Burks, which had strong brand recognition. Terrill has ensured that the company and its products represent John and him, capturing their midwestern roots and southern influences. At a time when attitudes about race, class, gender and sexuality are in flux, one thing remains the same for Terrill – how you look, dress, and speak still plays a large role in how you are received.
“As far as being socially accepted, our brands whole basis was to live bolder, look a little bit different, and to really say why ‘knot,” says Terrill who is often the only African American in a room or event. “I’ve never felt like I’m not socially accepted. If I’m not, hey, that’s fine. I don’t mind going against the grain. At the end of the day business is business and the only color that I see is green,” the Tuskegee graduate states.
Although Terrill is motivated by the color green in terms of business, he believes that we are all fundamentally the same. As a role model for young children of all races, Terrill wants to model his social beliefs as well as his business practices. He says, “We are not here to break any racial stereotypes. Our perspective is that everybody is the same. Everybody has goals and aspirations and we walk amongst each other every day. So, that boy or that girl should have the same mentality.”
Even though Terrill wants children to understand each other’s full humanity, he values social and cultural experiences that enhance one’s personal and professional life. His time at Tuskegee University was essential to his growth and development personally and professionally.
Terrill offers, “Attending a black college allows you to be with people that are like you, but it has also equipped me to work in nontraditional jobs, to go and work for Miller, to go out and speak to people who weren’t like me.”
With all that he has accomplished thus far and will accomplish in the future, Terrill wants his legacy to be like that of his parents legacy for him – to build something generational and sustainable.
“I don’t work all day and all night putting into Burks & Bailey just for me and John. I do it for the people that don’t exist — our children, their children. I hope that people will say I left a good mark, was nice to people and a humanitarian that built a brand with a best friend.”