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Wearing It Well

A small textile company makes a big impact

Written by Sally Finder Weepie

Talk about a style icon. Tillett Textiles’ “Daisy” fabric dressed Jackie Kennedy’s White House bedroom. In a fresh colorway, it still turns heads—and so does the small but mighty screen-printing house in the Berkshires, now with a fourth generation at the helm. “It’s a calling,” Patrick McBride says. “I consider myself a steward of something bigger than me.”

Patrick’s great-grandfather pioneered silk-screen printing in England, and his grandparents carried on the business, moving to New York in the 1940s. His mother established Tillett Textiles’ current facility in the Berkshires in 1969. “I feel very blessed to carry on,” Patrick says.

His path to become head of the fabrics house wasn’t a direct one, however. “If I had graduated from high school and went right into the family business, I wouldn’t have been able to contribute in the way that I now can,” Patrick says.

Instead, he first went to college, pursuing a degree in theatrical lighting. “Thinking about ‘how do I want this room to feel?’ translated well to interiors,” says Patrick, who then spent 15 years as a lighting designer for high-end homes, working with designers the caliber of Jamie Drake. “I had a backstage pass to what these designers do, how they work,” Patrick says.

It was a natural step back to the textile business, where he works side by side with designers to develop truly custom rooms decorated with custom fabrics. Creatively, he’s been spearheading Tillett the past 10 years. A little over two years ago he completely took control of the family business that he started absorbing as a child, watching his grandmother paint and create amazing fabrics—gorgeous enough to draw the eye of Jackie Kennedy and other icons.

Jackie loved Tillett’s sophisticated yet colorful fabrics, and her decorator, the also iconic Sister Parish, incorporated them into her redesign of the Kennedy’s private living quarters at the White House and their home in Hyannis Port.

When filmmakers were working on sets for the 2016 movie Jackie, starring Natalie Portman, they turned to Tillett. “They wanted historical accuracy,” Patrick says. “And we could print the fabric they wanted. Nothing gets discontinued at Tillett.”

Beloved patterns live on in Tillett’s library. Patrick can print the same fabrics used decades ago—or refresh them as he recently did with Jackie’s beloved “Daisy” print. “I thought, If I’m going to have a floral, what would I do,” Patrick says. His take is a deep blue-purple that puts an edgy contemporary spin on the 55-year-old pattern.

Patrick also creates entirely new designs for Tillett and his spinoff company, T4.

In the top photo above, he’s sitting on fabric that he created after stumbling across some previously unreleased patterns done in the mid 1970s and early 1980s and left to languish in the Tillett library. “I’m slowly putting them out into the universe,” he says.

He also creates hand-painted pillows, which give him a break from the screen-printing job. “I physically print almost every yard of material we produce,” he says. “I like to explore different techniques, and hand-painting pillows is a good vehicle.”

For more, visit the Tillett Textiles/T4 website, t4tfabrics.com.