Aug 01

Traveling with John Robshaw

  • Arts
  • 3 Comment(s)

 John Robshaw photographed near his country house in Kent, Connecticut.

"The only way out is through." I have heard the truism said and, at one point in my life, actually made it my own personal mantra. I have since learned another lesson. That is, the only way to build something of value is to truly appreciate what you do and give your heart and soul to it. Your craft may break your heart, but you will have your life's passion displayed in patterns all around you. John Robshaw knows both of these truisms because he has lived them. I recently caught up with John via cell phone from his car. His moving-target mentality made me wary for a moment as I placed my office phone on "speaker" mode and then turned on my iPhone's recording application. We began to talk, and the day's issues were set aside for a brief moment.


 John Robshaw showroom in New York City.


For an ever-increasing audience, John Robshaw has developed a lifestyle that has been spun into a global fashion statement. His lean beginnings as a student at Pratt in New York propelled his ambition in a very discernible way. "One of my teachers had a sequin company, so they paid the students to fly to India, work on runway dresses, then bring back the goods." I laughed at the mental picture of college-aged adults, and especially Mr. Robshaw, smuggling sequined dresses out of Bombay!


After his formal schooling ended, John continued his education as a painting assistant to Julian Schnabel. An iconic American artist and filmmaker, Schnabel is best known for his groundbreaking work in the Neo-expressionism movement. After he had finished with school and his tenure with Schnabel, he struck off to India to learn textile block printing from the masters.


Vintage Stripe/kashmir; Alahambre/coral.

The only way to learn this kind of block printing is to go to the source; so Mr. Robshaw began traveling to Sanganer, India, and worked with a gentleman named Vikram. Between time in Vikram's printing "shacks" and the wild rides through the city in search of the perfect handmade textile block, John learned the craft from the bottom up. His love of the art kept him going, and the experiences he had there have been translated perfectly into the patterned fabrics that now populate his high-end collections.


John Robshaw with his co-star for a company photo shoot in India.


Back in New York from his travels, Mr. Robshaw opened a studio on Broom Street and began selling designers custom artwork for their installations. The word spread, and he finally had the audience for his first love, textile design and development. His patterns were quickly noticed, and he was soon selling not only his fabric but the patterns themselves for mass production to Ralph Lauren and other retail clothing manufacturers.


 Ginger/coral; Vintage Stripe/coral.

His clients began asking for pillows and bedspreads, so began the progression into his own retail offerings. That soon developed into a very diverse line of pillows, duvets, shams, tabletop linens, upholstery and also a unique home fragrance. "That's when I got into the whole thing very deep!"


With so many avenues and sources around the globe to keep up with, one would think that John may be unreachable. The opposite is true. He takes time with each project to understand the elements; he may then dive in and give 100% to his client and their needs.


 John Robshaw textiles and bedding shown in Peter Dunham's shop,

Hollywood at Home.


John admits that it can be hit and miss during the design process. "For better or for worse, I deal with the winners and the mistakes, but I always learn something during the process." Looking at these images, one might question his definition of mistake! One can only wish for these kinds of missteps!


Lucky to have an eye for advertising, John makes a definite imprint with his own personal brand of marketing. The tent below was created for print ads and features textiles available exclusively to the design trade.

A tent decorated with prints from the John Robshaw 2010 Fabric Collection.


I think it was my sister who taught me to always choose classic clothes and fabrics over items that are flashy or too trendy. The classic style, color or cut will alway ring true, no matter the current trends. I always remember and cannot help thinking about that advice when I view lines like John Robshaw’s. Although classic and authentic to the core, his designs seem alive with conversations past and emotional meaning. They move us beyond the right now, into the possible, and then into the actuality of future prospects!


 Petra/cobalt; Shali/lapis.


"In reality, we are all just travelers," or so said Thomas Monson. Just as some trips are documented in color photos on film, John's voyages are preserved in panoramic Technicolor on cloth. An excellent example of this is the lifestyle ad shot below. It displays the connection between the color of everyday dress and also a discernable repetition and emotion that plays out in his light-hearted patterns. The designer will see the streets of Bombay in John's work, and the casual viewer may see 100 different things; but the transcendent ingredients of pattern and color always remain the same.



 A promotional image for the fabric line featuring upholstered luggage

taken at train station in India.


"So when I lived in Sanganer, India (he spells Sanganer for me, again), I worked in a shop making custom block-printed textiles. That was really where I started my career..." John's voice trails off. He is going through a valley on his way to a project he is working on. The connection crackles, and he is gone. We reconnect later in the day when he is further down the road then wrap up our conversation.


In retrospect of our talk, I form an opinion about our vocations. Is not the intent of an authentic purpose to help each of us discover our own true self? I think a particular type of alchemy matures from an individual's experiences, and that experience becomes his identity. So it seems to be true...


The only way out is through.


Image of John Robshaw in Kent, Connecticut, by Domino Magazine.

Other images courtesy of John Robshaw, used by express permission.

For more information on John Robshaw, please visit:



article by: Cearan Henley


Allan Knight and Associates / Allan Knight Luxury Blog ~ live beautifully

"live beautifully" is a registered trade tag line of Allan Knight and Associates. All rights reserved.

3 Comment(s)
  • Charlotte Urban said:

    Beautiful life philosophy and incredible products-

  • Nancy Gilleland said:


  • Keith May said:

    Wonderful! One of your best.