Texprint Talks: Andrew Mellows and Richard Winstanley of The Drapers’ Company

19 August 2013 by

Founded over 600 years ago, the Drapers’ Company is one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies in the City of London. From its origins as a trade guild, over the centuries it has moved with the times and evolved into an organisation that addresses contemporary issues through its philanthropic initiatives which range from the support of elderly people to education. 

The Drapers’ Company is a Foundation Sponsor of Texprint, meaning it has pledged significant financial support for three years. The Company also made a sizable grant to Texprint last year enabling six designers to show at Interstoff Asia Essential in Hong Kong.

Richard Winstanley (left) and Andy Mellows with Texprint chairman Barbara Kennington

Head of charities Andrew Mellows and Colonel Richard Winstanley OBE, the Company’s clerk, came to see Texprint’s London presentation, held at Chelsea College of Art in July 2013, to meet this year’s participating 24 designers and talk with Texprint:

Through your active involvement, the Texprint programme is able to continue its annual programme, launching the careers of the best new textile design graduates from British universities and colleges.

Andy: We’re just delighted to be able, in a small way, to make a contribution to getting these young people on the path to a good career.

Richard: We engage with all sorts of areas; at one end of the spectrum we look after the under privileged and give them an opportunity where they don’t have it, and at this end of the spectrum we blow on an ember of excellence and make it glow, it’s wonderful to see.

Can you tell me more about how the Drapers’ Company has moved from trade guild to supporting charities such as Texprint?

Richard: The Company will be celebrating its 650th anniversary next year. And in effect, like all liveries we were monopolies on our particular trades in order to fix price, quantity and quality. During the 16th century we effectively stopped our control of the trade. In the course of that journey we had built up a membership. In those days, there was no NHS or educational body, if you wanted to get a better place in heaven you put money into something to ease your journey. So through a combination of all those things, the Drapers’, as with many of the liveries, became benefactors of peoples’ endowments and they realised they needed to invest that to look after their own and that converted as the wealth grew into charitable giving. It was a relatively contemporary decision to go back to our threads and get involved in the textile industry.

Andy: In the early 1990s we became involved with Texprint. We did quite a lot of work supporting design students at various universities. And Texprint was a logical follow on from that in that it connects academia with the commercial world.

Which other textile-focused organisations are you involved with?

Andy: We support the Engineering Development Trust [EDT] and its work in smart materials and composites. It’s a 21st century application of textiles that’s a big area of interest and we support educational visits by school children to smart materials companies.

Why should other members of the fashion and textile industry get involved in supporting Texprint?

Andy: I think it’s important that we don’t lose the skills and training of these young people. In industry today there is almost a principle of something for nothing. And I think it’s important that these young designers are given the chance to develop further in an area they have already excelled in and as many companies as possible get involved in providing internships, works experience or ultimately employment opportunities for young people.

Richard: The reason is in this room. It’s absolutely fascinating, the sheer breadth of quality and the spectrum of work that the designers have created.

What has caught your eye today?

Andy: Gillian Murphy’s knitwear is very innovative, very stylish and obviously of extremely high quality, I thought her colour selection was very clever.

Richard: I thought Katy Birchall’s work was brilliant, a very clever a combination of old and extremely modern. But that’s not in any way to say the others are not as good, I just haven’t got around to all of them.

Andy Mellows talks with Gillian Louise Murphy

Did you receive any good advice when you were starting your working lives that you would like to share? Or do you have some good advice for those starting their careers?

Richard: I am sure like many I have received lots of advice from many people over the years, most but not all of which was helpful.  I think there are probably two bits of advice I can offer above all else which I have tried to follow both myself over the years:

When taking on a new job keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut. There will come a time when you know as much if not more than those around you but until then be wary of wading in. And never be afraid of seeking advice as people generally enjoy giving it!   

Never be afraid of making mistakes as it is the best way of learning from them. The trick of course is to make sure they are not deliberate and not to repeat them, thus demonstrating one’s own learning.

I have always tried to live by these (not sure I have always succeeded). It is a balance of tempering one’s innate (and to begin with youthful and therefore sometimes inexperienced) enthusiasm with a desire to show willing. 

Andy: I would say that they are going to have knock backs along the way; don’t take it personally and keep believing in yourself.

Thank you for your continuing support.

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