Ahead of His Time in Design

There are people who are born with an artistic eye, an intuition for balance and proportion, and instincts for good color and texture combinations, the right and wrong of design. Dan Stark had that eye, that talent, and he made outstanding contributions in the field of textile design and to his adopted hometown of LaGrange. Daniel C. Stark was a Navy veteran, received his MBA from Columbia University and his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas. Stark was born in Kansas in 1927 and died in LaGrange in 2011 after making it his home for over 47 years.

“Maharanee” was part of the Callaway Mills Mediterranean collection, displayed here, which was very popular in the 1960s. Stark came to LaGrange to work for Callaway Mills, Inc. as Vice President of Design prior to 1963 and then continued working for Milliken & Company after they purchased the mills in 1968. During those years, many of his designs were “first” innovations. In 1968, he introduced an exotic, intricately woven pattern featuring a bold color combination of bittersweet orange, brown and gold metallic thread! Called “Maharanee,” and produced for the Callaway Label of Luxury line, it featured the first use of metallic thread in cotton toweling. In its time, Maharanee was wildly successful; its originality filled that niche for the unusual in bathroom décor.

Another technique Stark employed to great effect was tufted pile of different heights. By varying the pile height he was able to create an endless array of design options. Callaway Mills had patented several advances in this manufacturing technique which allowed designers such as Stark to use them to full advantage across a range of textile products. The result was beautifully sculpted designs in terry towels, rugs and upholstery fabric. There is a testament to the durability of variable height needle-tufted carpet in the library of the Callaway home. That carpet has had nearly fifty years of use, including the last fifteen with heavy foot traffic since we opened the house for public tours in 2004. Many local residents will remember Dan, wife Jo and daughter Candy (who still resides in LaGrange) from two well-known, well-loved local landmarks: In Clover restaurant and Hill Street House gift shop. Dan Stark is missed not only for his popular local businesses, but also because of his many talents and his delightful, not timid, sense of humor. Also, there should be something good said about a man who worked alongside his wife, daughter AND mother for many years in his varied business ventures. He made many successful designs for Callaway Mills and Milliken, and he made many happy foodies for In Clover. For those of us less talented but willing to learn, he was a patient teacher in wrapping a proper package and tying the perfect bow for a Hill Street House, all-thumbs employee,   such as me. -SD

The high-low design towels and “Maharanee” towels were packaged and sold as Christmas gift sets. The towels were folded to show both sides, which reversed in color, in a box bottom and sealed with cellophane paper, along with a gold name tag. Handy washing instructions were also included.

“Maharanee” was part of the Callaway Mills Mediterranean collection, displayed here, which was very popular in the 1960s.

Dan Stark (far left) proudly showing the Maharanee towels to a group of executives.

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