Our friend, David Harvey, briefly encapsulated as a "textiles journalist" in the Draper's Record trade magazine, died on September 2 at his home, the Mill, in Cuxham, Oxfordshire. He was 84 years old.
Why would we choose to share his life with readers of Lustralboy? The reason is simple. A boy born in Croydon in 1930 went on to travel the world, charming his way through the hallowed halls of the fashion industry, the corridors of power in Washington, the inspiring open spaces of Australia and the green lanes of his beloved Oxfordshire countryside.
And he was gay.
An Ice Cream with friends, Isle Sainte Marguerite, Summer 1997
In our currently relatively enlightened times, is his gayness worth a mention? Yes it is, because it was pivotal to his personality.
It fired his relentless search for knowledge, for adventure, for the company of other inspiring people. It took him to many milieus, at all of which he would hold centre stage with a cornucopia of opinions, insights and anecdotes that might startle or amuse. It created the bonds with designers, writers, filmakers, politicians and artists that kept him active and stimulated through his long life.
But he was no child of privilege. His father died when he was fifteen. David left school and embarked on a life of self-education.
His intellectual curiosity took him to journalism, first as a cub reporter on his local newspaper, the Croydon Times. David's fascination with fashion then shaped his subsequent career in menswear and textiles, initially as press officer for the celebrated tailor and dressmaker, Hardy Amies, then for the International Wool Secretariat, before his return to journalism as a writer for, amongst others, The Observer, Men's Wear and Drapers Record.
Visiting with friends at the home of an Aussie landscape artist, 1996.
This was no simple linear progression. At 23 he had taken the sea route to Australia. He fell in love with the huge skies and the warmth of his companions. He returned many times, most recently in 1996 for a month of visits to friends, now older but no less fond of this articulate, immaculate Englishman.
In his middle years, he could be found in Washington in the company of his partner, William Clarke, World Bank vice-president, mixing with the American political elite, in New York helping launch the Hardy Amies brand, in Paris reviewing the catwalks, on the French Riviera enjoying the sunshine, in Cuxham surrounded by the young and handsome as well as the tall and influential.
Catching up with "Uncle Ted," Adelaide, 1996.
And let's not forget Florence and Milan. From the early 90s until 2012 David plied his trade as UK press representative for Pitti Immagine, the organiser of Italian trade shows Pitti Uomo, Pitti Bimbo and Pitti Filati. Perfect casting for the role, his impressive stature, impeccable manners, unending interest in new people and genuine fondness for the world of fashion saw him involved, remarkably, into his eighties.
Returning yet again to the Hotel Tornabuoni Beacci in Florence, he would be greeted by a succession of smiling faces, "Ciao Signor Harvey" echoing down the ornate corridors.
Does all this explain why the sun shone so brightly on a late English September day in Cuxham?
David was fond of saying "There IS a God" at moments of unexpected serendipity, whether glimpsing Gary Lineker's thighs in a televised football match or reflecting on the deserved political embarrassments of the Francois Hollandes of this world. That day, the day of his funeral, saying it under a cloudless sky, he might even have believed it.
Some hundred or so friends and family assembled in the garden of the village hall next to the church. The coffin rested on two biers under a lean-to roof. Birdsong filled the air and red kites wheeled constantly overhead. David had already selected the music, five pieces culminating, most movingly, in Jeff Buckley's version of Hallelujah as the coffin was carried away.
Tributes and memories from eight friends and neighbours had accompanied the music. All shared a portrait of an inspirational man of generous spirit and huge appetites, for knowledge, for good food, for good wine and for good company. Anyone who had experienced a David feast on the lawn at the Mill under a blue summer sky would recognise the portrait immediately.
Was there ever a more lustral boy?
Sunrise over The Mill, Cuxham, January 5, 2014.
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