Whatever happened to all the heroes

….all the Shakespearos of the rag trade? It wasn’t that long ago that I used to get a phone call every week from Harry Harris of Borovick Street, and they’d go something like this,
‘Paul is that you Boy, Harry Harris here and have I got some fabric for you!’
‘Is that right Harry?’
‘Right? You can’t go wrong; I’m not even going to tell anyone else about this one, because Paul, your ship has come in my son’
‘Last time I looked it was sinking Harry but go on’………silence……’Are you still there Harry?’
‘It’s alright the coast’s’ clear, I’ve only got, get this, 10,000 meters of crepe de chine, and it’s got your name all over it!’
‘Plain fabric right?’
‘Better than that, it’s got a lovely floral design’
‘Harry I’m a fabric printer what do I want with printed fabric?’
‘You’re a printer; you can print it plain and then put your own pattern over the top, where do you want it delivering?’

And so it used to go. I never bought a single metre of fabric from Harry and sadly we never met, but he called me every week just the same. I was of course tempted when he offered to cut me in on the 20,000 bread boards he had for sale. He said I’d easily shift them because they were made by the bloke who was the surfer at the beginning of the Old Spice advert on telly.
And then one week I just didn’t hear from him. I like to think he made a pile of cash and retired with his wife Irene to Bournemouth, nice little house with a sea view……. I bloody miss those calls.

So I’m wondering who we’ve got in the industry to replace them, the men and women of character. Where are we going to find another Mr Posner? He was a tailor, old school, and we’d monogram the odd handkerchief for him. I noticed one summer in the cutting room as he was chalking straight onto the fabric without a pattern, that he had a number of truncated wasps around his feet. I enquired with his assistant the young Mr Mendelssohn (who must have been 60) what it was all about. He didn’t’ have to answer, for at that moment Mr Posner whipped a pair of scissors from his high waisted trousers and snipped a wasp in half in mid flight. Now you can’t do that kind of stuff any more, you’d be in trouble with the RSPCW, but it was damn impressive.

So fast was he with the scissors, that when customers were considering altering the suit they were wearing from a double to a single breaster, he’d cut the lapels off as they stood in the shop, in case they decided they couldn’t afford the fee – now that’s how to close a deal.

There are a few more current versions. I still buy fabric and the odd garment from Vinnie, and every time I offer him a cheque he looks as insulted as he did when we first met……’Cash or jewellery Paul, you know the rules’……and deal done he shouts over to his wife, ‘Mo, call the electricity board, we’re back on!

I don’t know what he was thinking 20 years ago when he filled my Fiat Uno, (that looked like one of Clarkson’s gravel pit experiments) with so much fabric that it could hardly move, when he refused to take payment and told me to ‘Be lucky’, but I do know it’ll never happen again.

I’d love to tell you about the time there was a mix up with a white chested greyhound that belonged to Sunglasses Henry. Vinnie lost it at South Mimms services and had to disguise a similar black dog with some white gloss paint – but that would be going off the subject of garment decoration, which would never do.

There’s some hope though, what about John Potter, he’s younger than me? How many people do you know, who having lost their licence would apply at Geoffrey Macpherson’s for a job as area sales rep? And what a way to apply – John sent him an A4 picture of Red Rum bearing the slogan ‘Pick a winner, pick John Potter!’ Somehow he got the job, and Geoffrey took him outside to the car park, ‘Surprise said Geoffrey, it’s the new Astra’……’Surprise’ said John holding up his court papers, ‘Three year driving ban’…..’Why didn’t you tell me at the interview?’ said Mac…..’You never asked’ said Mr Potter, and so a great friendship began.

But it can’t all be over, so here’s the thing – we want to hear your stories about characters in the game, because the colour’s not in the pot of ink, it’s in the people. So if you know any garment decorators who drive around town with a blow up doll in the car, we want to hear from you.

Paul Stephenson
t-shirt printing, screen printing and embroidery


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