Five minutes with . . . Bruce Crabtree, of Stephen Walters silk weavers

PUBLISHED: 12:10 20 January 2015 | UPDATED: 12:10 20 January 2015

Bruce Crabtree, sales director, Stephen Walters silks

Bruce Crabtree, sales director, Stephen Walters silks


Gina Long finds out what makes the firm’s sales director tick

Bruce Crabtree, sales director, Stephen Walters silksBruce Crabtree, sales director, Stephen Walters silks

Is your work varied?

No day is ever the same. We weave fabrics for all aspects of the fashion industry, from ties to ballgowns, upholstery fabrics to scarves. My work takes me to the fashion capitals of Europe such as Milan and Paris, to New York, Tokyo and Shanghai. But the home market with its eclectic and flourishing fashion industry is just as exciting.

I’ve heard celebrities wear the beautiful silks created in Suffolk.

Garments made from our fabrics often adorn the rich and famous. But you don’t need to be either to wear our silks. However Michelle Obama was recently photographed wearing a Thom Browne dress made from Stephen Walters fabrics. A dinner jacket made by Ralph Lauren using our silks was sported by Kevin Spacey at this year’s Emmys.

Over the years we’ve had many international fashion designers working at the mill with our design and sales teams. We have also had visits from royalty, notably Princess Anne who visited the mill to inspect the fabric being woven for her wedding dress.

How fashion conscious are you?

Well that depends on who you’re asking! I dress for the occasion, whether that is working in my garden at home in Bury St Edmunds, or visiting a customer in New York. You can’t help but be influenced by your travels, the people you work with and trends in fashion. I love colour, but as all Englishmen, am sometimes reticent to wear it - with the exception of a bold tie.

How many ties do you own?

My wife, Sarah, would say too many - but I would say never enough! I probably have 100 or so in my wardrobe with another couple of hundred in a suitcase in the attic (but don’t tell Sarah).

The best advice you’ve been given is . . .

Do something you enjoy and make time for your family. I love my job, the product I work with, but family times and holidays are what you work for.

Do you have a role model?

My father and my uncle. My father, who I am told I look more and more like, was always there for shrewd advice. He was a businessman who had success and failures, but always had time for people. He was a Samaritan and in later life a painter. My Uncle Norman, who introduced me to the silk industry, was a larger than life character who my customers still talk about today.

What brings you the greatest joy?

My family, the sea, friends.

Do you have a hobby?

I long to paint again, but my garden, old cars, making bread and cycling all mean that I don’t have time at the moment. Reading – I always have a book on the go.

What is your greatest indulgence?

Probably my old VW camper van! It is a bottomless money pit, but oh, so cool and very green!

The top five things on your bucket list

are . . .

I have always wanted to sail round the world, or at least take part in a single leg of the round the world race. Set up an artisanal bakery or micro brewery. Travel round South America. Hang glide.

A perfect day in Suffolk would be?

Cycling to Walberswick, being met there by my family in the van for a pub lunch, then a walk and watching the sun set round a camp fire on the beach. Perfect.

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