During the recent Showtime Fabric Market in High Point – one of the largest displays of fabric, leather and trimmings in the world – the textile industry honored Wesley Mancini of Charlotte for his 30 years of contributions. Interior design stars Thom Felicia of “Queer Eye” fame and HGTV’s Candice Olsen were among the guests.
Mancini runs his company, Wesley Mancini Ltd., out of a South End design studio with a staff of seven. Along with creating 150 new fabric designs per season, he also has a rug line, a decorative trim line and one for drapery hardware. His biggest client is Ethan Allen, but he also sells to Mitchell Gold, Drexel, Henredon and Baker, plus catalogs including Horchow and celebrity lines such as Oscar de la Renta.
He talked with us recently about what the hot trends, where he finds his inspiration and his advice for young designers. Olivia Fortson
Why are you considered a leader in the design industry?
My style isn’t faddish; its design that will be around. It’s up to par with the trends, but it’s classic. And we strive for perceived value – our fabrics look more expensive than they cost because we put a lot of detail into them. I think what has made me stand out from the beginning is that I have the aesthetics along with the technical training and I was able to merge the two together.
What are the trends now that you think have staying power?
Going back to “Made in America.” Companies are tired of imports not being what they ordered and how long they have to wait to get it. In design, multicolored, nontraditional fabrics are hot now. For example, a design might resemble a damask motif, but somehow an element is taken out and blown up so it’s fresh even though its inspiration may have come from history. And lustre is coming back. Everything went dry with linen and cotton. Now satiny and silky looks are starting to come back.
Where do you find inspiration?
From anywhere. I’m a visual sponge. I just came back from Morocco – I went to Marrakesh for my 60th birthday. My new line that’s due right now has several fabrics with the feel of Morocco.
What was your path to becoming a textile designer?
I was creative in high school and realized art was my calling. I went to Philadelphia College of Art (now The University of the Arts) and finished my courses in three years, so that fourth year I went to the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. I got my Master of Fine Arts in fabric design at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Eight months later, after graduating, I received the first – and I think only – National Endowment for the Arts grant in fabric design. I ended up in North Carolina because this is where there mills were. I work with Valdese Weavers in Valdese, which has stayed very strong and has very smart management.
Any words of advice you would like to share?
Design is about the person. Whatever your favorite color is, that’s the color that’s always ‘in.’ And buy quality because quality will last. To student designers, I say no matter how long it takes keep knocking on doors to get a job. I see so many designers and artists settle. Persevere and take whatever job you can to get your foot in the door.