Newport Then and Now: Full Swing Textiles
A look back at Newport's Full Swing Textiles.
In Full Swing Again
Full Swing Textiles started out in the mid 1980s as a vintage furnishings and accessories shop down on Lower Thames Street. The owner of that little shop, RISD graduate Michele Mancini, was a collector of vintage textiles.
Over the course of 25 years, she had amassed a vintage barkcloth collection from the 1940s and 1950s.
In the mid 1980s the popularity of vintage textiles experienced a huge resurgence. People traveled from all over the country to Newport to see Michele’s collection and quickly purchased her 25 years of collecting.
Committed to the art of barkcloth and staking her claim to carrying on the history of this textile, Michele purchased 16,000 yards of virginal vintage fabric that was found in the storage rooms of a store that had closed in 1955.
At the time, 16,000 yards was thought of as a lifetime supply, but became hot property once word spread when Full Swing was featured in House Beautiful and Metropolitan Home. It wasn’t long before everyone knew about the mother-lode of brand new, old stock, vintage fabric up for sale. The phone began ringing off the hook. Hollywood homemakers, museums, movie production companies, and restaurants all wanted some of the limited supply. It was astounding how many people from all over shared the affection for these quirky, boldly graphic barkcloth creations from the past. In less than 2 years, that lifetime supply was all but gone!
This put Full Swing at a crossroads. The demand for vintage textiles was growing while the end of the supply was clearly in sight. With no place else to acquire thousands of yards of new old stock, Full Swing began looking for ways to reproduce the vintage fabrics.
The most obvious problem was that these antique fabrics were printed on barkcloth, which hadn’t been produced in the US since 1952. "Barkcloth" is a generic term used in the textile industry to describe the nubby, bark-like texture of a 100% cotton open crepe weave that became very popular during the 1940’s and 50’s. After much research, a textile mill was found in the U.S. that could still weave the heavy textured soft cotton fabric.
Full Swing’s original creative vision was that these glorious and distinctively American styles needed to be lifted out of their pigeonholed "retro" status and be recognized as true American classics. That vision was achieved through the instant popularity of Full Swing’s first patterns based on American textile heritage that debuted in 1988. Those patterns are around today, proving the staying power of superior classic design.
Where They Are Today
Michele Mancini, a classic “snowbird”, lives between Sarasota FL and Newport. All but retired, Michele spends her time between design projects and the beach. In somewhat of a “full swing again”, she is now offering only the best she has saved from private vintage textile collection. Some of these pieces are never before been seen, with the exception of a few private showings at museums and universities.
If you are interested in the availability of this vintage collection or textiles featured in Fabulous Fabrics of the 50’s, you can contact Michele at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Full Swing company, Full Swing Textiles, now operates a virtual showroom at www.fullswingtextiles.com. They are the wife and husband team of Suzanne and Fred Boucher. Suzanne was the assistant to the founder of Full Swing when the fabric line was created 1988. Suzanne and her husband acquired control of the company in 2005.
In 2010, Full Swing worked on Shutter Island, starring Leonard DiCaprio. The film featured several of their vintage barkcloth fabrics. For a list of films featureing Full Swing textiles, view the gallery to the right.
While being a part of the thrill of the movie business, Suzanne and Fred both believe these fabrics are for everyone and anywhere in your home that calls for fun and luxury.
For most of its existence, Full Swing was a trade business. Suzanne and Fred’s vision to bring the classic designs of the Full Swing line to more than just the movie screen, resort hotels and restaurants led them to launch their Internet-based business and become available to anyone.
You can view their full line of vintage and vintage inspired barkcloth, and home accessories at their website showroom.