This weekend, we attended the David Whitehead relaunch and bicentenary.
It was held at Broad Leys, home to Windermere Motor Boat Racing Club – a beautiful Charles Voysey-designed Arts & Crafts building.
There were wonderful architectural features wherever you looked – even down to tiniest details such as this fireplace vent grille… and of course, stunning views out over the lake.
It takes a lot to compete with that. Fortunately, we were there to celebrate the relaunch of six of their classic fabric designs. Compete – they certainly did!
We first met Jill & Bernard Laverty, the current owners of David Whitehead & Sons Ltd, a few years ago. They contacted us after we blogged about an amazing discovery of unused vintage fabrics that had laid untouched for 50 years in a store room – many of them were rolls manufactured by David Whitehead. We shared a cuppa initially and later on visited them for lunch. We talked all things David Whitehead – the history of production, their archive and future potential.
At that point in time, David Whitehead had stopped making fabrics and were concentrating on other products. Jill in particular was bitten by the bug and keen to explore the possibilities of a textile range. She bought vintage fabric samples and visited museum archives.
The company then set about looking into the production of some of their classic designs, copyright ownership, a future re-launch, press & marketing, new website etc! And here we were celebrating the culmination of all their efforts – an amazing achievement from those initial early chats – what a journey they’ve been on!
We had a wonderful lunch surrounded by the relaunched fabrics. There were products such as cushions and recovered chairs to show potential uses, stands & displays portraying the company history and some of their great designers – Marion Mahler, Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi, Jacqueline Groag, Henry Moore, John Piper, Terence Conran… what names!
There was a film history showing and fabric bunting dotted about the venue – even the waiting staff were wearing David Whitehead fabric aprons.
And onto one of those great design names – Sir Terence Conran, as he is now, attended the relaunch and made a short speech about the significance of David Whitehead in his own life and the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit of the company in the post-war years around the time of the Festival of Britain. What a pleasure it was to share a table with him!
He expressed his opinion that the current owners share the same entrepreneurial spirit and that he was delighted to see the textiles coming into production again – and that he would happily help with their publicity in any way he could.
The fabrics are being produced by Standfast & Barracks, so it’s production in Lancashire once again which is great – heritage combined with modern production techniques to produce a top quality product.
And so to the future – well, the sky’s the limit. Will Jill and Bernard sell the fabrics wholesale? Will they make homeware products using their classic designs? There were no shortage of ideas flying around from tea towels to dog coats!
Whatever they choose to do, we’re sure it will be a great success. They’ve obviously got great vision and drive to reach this point, they’re passionate and determined. These wonderful vintage designs (and perhaps new ones) will arrive on the market place with a huge impact.
And on a personal note – you couldn’t wish to meet a lovelier couple which just adds to the goodwill we feel for them as things move forward. So many thanks to Jill & Bernard for inviting us – we’re looking forward to seeing what happens next!