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American Decorative Fabrics’ Jack Cobb Remembers ‘King’ Don Eng

“The most respected person that I have ever worked with.”

March 10, 2021

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Jack Cobb
Jack Cobb

GREENSBORO, NC—Much has been written about the recent passing of Don Eng, a beloved mentor to many who got their stripes working for Collins & Aikman about 25 years ago. C&A is of course a defunct American textile relic of the past.

F&FI wanted to share Jack Cobb’s comments about Don. Jack is the President of American Decorative Fabrics:

“Don was a guy that was comfortable in any setting. He came up through the mill and was equally comfortable around a loom fixer or an individual of high professional or social status. He was a genuine guy without any hidden agenda. He was, without a doubt, the person with the highest level of integrity that I have ever met or worked with. His word was his bond.”

Cobb remembers also shares a funny story from either Heimtex or Decosit (He can’t remember which) when Regina Gurman (then export manager of Collins & Aikman who is also deceased) introduced Don to a Saudi Prince. “Of course, she was really playing it up as were the rest of us on the stand. When she introduced the Prince to Don, he replied “Nice to meet you, Prince. In Concord, NC, I’m known as King Eng. “There was a moment of hesitation to see how this went over and then everyone laughed,” Cobb says.

“Don may have been a “good old guy”, but he was a textile genius.”

Cobb also tells this story:” One of our customers told Don that some of the Wesley Mancini Home Fabrics designs (Mancini consults for Valdese Weavers today) were being washed by a trendy retailer called Shabby Chic and wondered if we could put this process in mass production. Don was the first guy to wash fabrics in a legitimate finishing operation. The fabric industry considered it a novelty at best, but Don knew better. Consequently, we had this category to ourselves for over a year before anyone else decided that it was a trend that was going to stick around.”

“Don was a marketing genius as well. He only allowed this new process to be sold to eight-way hand-tied (furniture) manufacturers. He understood that trends trickled down and he would not degrade the brand by chasing the bottom. I had just joined him as a sales manager, and I remember that we were called to see a very large customer during the October furniture market after washed fabrics were first introduced. This customer was huge but was not using eight-way hand-tied springs in his furniture. We were given a real “dressing down” and to be honest, I was shaken. Don on the other hand was super cool. When we finished, he told me a valuable lesson. He said, ‘when they are yelling at you for not being allowed to buy your product; you have something good.’”

Don was a mill man as well and abhorred complexity in manufacturing. It is a challenge to be simple and stylish and sometimes we were frustrated on the design and selling side. He held his ground, and, in the end, he was always right.

He also preferred to number our designs instead of giving them names. This was also frustrating, but the numbers told you the warp group and the sequence of when it was introduced. To this day, I still remember what these numbers mean long after I’ve forgotten the names of popular competitive fabrics of the day. When asked by our company president why he wouldn’t name the fabrics, Don replied that Mercedes Benz used numbers and Chevrolet used names. He preferred to be like Mercedes.”

“The stories go on and on, but the bottom line is that Don Eng. was the most respected person that I have ever worked with. Even people that disagreed with some of his decisions could never challenge his integrity.”

 


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