NEW YORK — Robert L. Wells, former president and owner of textile sales agency European Textile Trading Corp., died Jan. 18 in Palm Beach, Fla., according to his son, George. He was 90.
George Wells said his father helped Ralph Lauren source hand-printed wool challis fabrics from Switzerland in the early years before the Polo Ralph Lauren brand began. He also was instrumental in supplying Halston with matte jersey for some of the designer’s iconic styles.
In addition, Wells, who went by Bob, was among the first to bring Loden cloth from Austria into the U.S. market. Loden would go on to be featured by many classic men’s wear labels.
Wells recalled how his father’s easygoing manner and positive attitude within a hectic industry made him stand out among his peers.
“He was a trailblazer in the textile field and evolved the business with extensive travels to various mills in the years well in advance of Interstoff Germany and Première Vision in Paris,” said Wells, who succeeded his father as owner of the company in the mid-Eighties.
The company has been in operation for more than 50 years and was founded by Robert Wells’ uncle, Alfred, in 1936.
Born in 1936 in Waterbury, Conn., Wells enlisted in the Army Air Force during World War II at the age of 17. He later earned a master’s degree in business education from New York University’s School of Commerce.
After a short stint in advertising, Wells joined his uncle’s textile business in New York. Originally importing shawls and accessories, the firm transitioned to high-quality European fabrics for ready-to-wear.
George Wells recalled that his father’s conversations about the industry and textiles made him interested in going into the field and joining the company.
“When I first started working with him, people would ask me how my father got into the industry because he was too nice a guy,” Wells said. “He always believed in people.”
In addition to George, Wells, a former resident of Scarsdale, N.Y., is survived by his wife of 54 years, Evelyn; two other sons, David and Richard, and seven grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America.