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'King of the Mills' Major Dies

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, October 25, 2004

New York Andrew Major, long-time head of Mastercraft Fabrics, died on Oct. 15 at the age of 83.

Major joined the company after serving in World War II. He became president in 1960 and in 1969 he and the late Harry Turpan became the principal owners of the company which had moved from New Jersey to North Carolina.

Called the “king of the mills” by his peers and customers, Major was adamant in his insistence on the role of styling and design as well as the critical importance of state-of-the-art weaving and finishing equipment.

Over the years, he recruited and nurtured design talents that included Carl Miller, Wesley Mancini, Bea Spires, Margaret Coffin, Stanley King and Debbye Lustig.

For former DuPont executive Dick Darlington, Major was “an early adaptor in lots of things from the first shuttleless looms to Dacron warps and their variations, novelty yarns and wide looms.”

Equally important, said Darlington, “Major had strengths in sales, a business and financial sense as well as an eye for the importance of design.”

Said Jim Richman, president of Richloom — a competitor and occasional customer — “He was the shrewdest Hungarian I ever met, and we'll miss him a lot.”

His “king of the mills” reputation spoke for itself, said Elkin McCallum, chairman of Joan Fabrics which bought Mastercraft, Home Fabrics and Doblin from Collins & Aikman, which in 1976 purchased the company from Major. “He knew what he was doing, and how to do it, and he did it better than anyone else,” McCallum added.

In addition to his emphasis on design, “He knew how to grow people,” McCallum explained. “He was a legendary businessman, unique and not replaceable.”

After retiring and then starting the Cone Jacquard division of the then Cone Mills, Major served on the board of directors of Joan Fabrics.

Among those who worked for him, his strengths were his ability to surround himself with strong talent. “He realized that the product sold everything. He hired the best designers and made a commitment to producing leading product,” explained Ray King, a long-time Mastercraft executive, now head of Alpha Sales. “He was committed to fashion, product and style and identified good designers and committed to supporting them with the tools they needed to produce.”

Said John Lenox, now president of Circa 1801/Doblin, “On a personal basis, he is responsible for where I am today. He was wonderful to work for — a mill person originally who moved into sales, marketing and design, who absolutely knew how to run a plant. He surrounded himself with good people in design.”

Stu Cosgrif — now with Valdese, and a long-time sales executive with Mastercraft and son-in-law of Harry Turpan — remarked, “I was one of a group of young people who strived to succeed in order to gain his approval. It didn't come easily, but if obtained, it was all one could hope for. His perspective on the importance of the business came second only to his concern for the person.”

Among the designers he nurtured, Wesley Mancini, Wesley Mancini Ltd., said, “He stood out among all at his level. He believed in design, knew the technical mill details and had business savvy — and he made people feel special.”

Said Debbye Lustig, now co-owner with McCallum of Madison Avenue Designs, formerly Stanley King Studio, “Stanley and I remember Andrew with great fondness as a pioneer in the home furnishings business. His appreciation for the contribution that royalty designers would make was ground-breaking, giving our studio and others unprecedented opportunities.”

A memorial service is planned for Nov. 12 at the Isothermal Community College in Spindale, N.C., at 4 p.m.

A later memorial service is planned in New York in January. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery. Contributions may be made to the Andrew Major Scholarship Fund at Isothermal College, Box 804, 288 ICC Loop Road, Spindale, N.C. 28160.

He is survived by his wife Flora, a son, daughter and one grandchild.

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