Bill Beaumont & Ash Nanalal, of the Linen Chest, Ruislip

Fabric & Colour, Design & Weave

7th June 2013

Optima Magazine meets Bill Beaumont, former England and Lions rugby captain and BBC Question of Sport team captain, and talks… textiles…

When we arrive at The Linen Chest in the High Street, Ruislip, Bill Beaumont is already in full flow, regaling a group of local sports-loving schoolboys with tales from his days at the top of English rugby. He responds to their tentative questions with interest: a great ambassador both for the game and for a traditional life view that stems from the fact that when he began his career on the pitch, players were amateurs. “You had to have a job,” he says, and he stresses the importance of hard graft – a work ethic that has stood him in good stead both on the pitch and off it.

When Beaumont left school, therefore, he went into the family textiles business, established by his great-great-grandfather in Lancashire, in 1888. The weaving shed set up by Joseph Hargreaves is now a leading brand in the home furnishings industry, chaired by Bill, with his eldest son, Daniel, as Managing Director.

At 61 Beaumont remains a sports fan, with cricket and golf topping the list, but he’s a businessman through and through; which, I ask him, is his favourite of the Bill Beaumont Textiles designs (answer: Pietra) and how would he describe it… “Very good value for money,” he says, without pausing for breath, although he does add that it “drapes well”. It’s from the company’s website that I learn that Pietra is “a small embroidered trailing leaf design on a slub satin base”, available in six pretty shades: pearl, stone, autumn, blossom, violet, duck egg. Bill himself doesn’t wax lyrical about these, though. Partly, I suspect, this is because his heart is in the practicalities and the balance sheet (“…turnover for vanity, profit for sanity,” he told the Financial Times in 2009) but also because – surprisingly for a man in charge of a firm reliant on the subtleties of shading – he’s colour blind, and thus has difficulty in appreciating the gradations of, in his case, purples and blues, reds and browns. “I don’t do much on the design side,” he admits cheerfully, acknowledging the contribution that his wife, Hilary, makes to this area of the business. “She has a good eye.”

The most recent introductions to the range (spring 2013) bear this out. All bases are covered: ‘an eclectic and creative mix of vintage and retro prints and jacquards and a playful and quirky mix of designs.’ There’s certainly plenty of variety – the Chirpy collection, for example, is based on a simple repeating bird design, allied to stripes, zigzags and a retro flower print called, oddly, Bobby. If the whole range appeals, and you can’t decide which one to choose, you can even have them all in Patchwork which brings together all the designs. I hear the imagination of Hilary at work again in the descriptions of the colours: aqua, cherry, raspberry and sand. If a more soothing palette is to your taste then the Timeless collection offers more classic designs such as Tranquil, a jacquard with a subtle leaf pattern (in mouthwatering shades of mushroom, silver sky, duck egg, grape and citrus); for sophistication go Wild: dual purpose chenille jacquards in soft and neutral shades, with designs named Zebra, Snake and Cheetah. These look exceptionally good on the tub chairs that the company recently introduced, almost by accident, having covered one in a Beaumont Textiles fabric for a trade show. The response was so positive that they saw an unmissable market opportunity… picked it up, ran with it and, of course, scored a memorable try.

Bill is very keen to introduce Optima readers to his fabrics, so he and Ash Nanalal of the Linen Chest, Ruislip, are offering 20% off the range of Beaumont Textiles stocked at the Linen Chest until 30 July. Simply mention Optima Magazine when ordering to obtain this exclusive discount.

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