Obituary: fashion design talent scout Julius Schofield

Julius Schofield
Julius Schofield MBE

Julius Schofield MBE, the talent scout who for almost 50 years found top jobs for British fashion and textile designers around the world, has died aged 91.

A consummate networker who never forgot a face or a name and never mislaid a business card, Schofield set up the Indesign agency in Marylebone, London in 1968 with his partner Joanna Neicho.

Originally doing promotion work for fashion clients, it soon developed into the first agency to specialise in fashion design talent.

For decades the pair were ever-present faces at fashion events, catwalks, trade shows, colleges, and anywhere else they might meet new design talent and potential employers for them.

Unusually in the fashion recruitment sector, Indesign was always very strong in finding and placing textile designers. Schofield understood that without fabrics there is no fashion.

From 2004 until 2011 Schofield was chairman of Texprint, the not-for-profit body that highlighted the best new graduate designers from British colleges and universities and took them as a group each September to Première Vision in Paris, the leading fabrics trade show in the world.

He secured eminent luminaries such as Sir Paul Smith, Dame Zandra Rhodes, Diane von Furstenberg and Alber Elbaz as Texprint prize presenters.

In the 2011 Queen’s New Year Honours list the indefatigable champion for new British designers was appointed an MBE for services to the fashion and textiles industries, prompting lavish and heart-felt praise from leading names he counted as friends as well as clients.

Christopher Bailey, then creative director of Burberry, who met Schofield while a BA Fashion student at Harrow School of Art, told The Daily Telegraph: “Julius has devoted his time and efforts tirelessly and with no other motivation than to support those he believes in and through his deep passion for the industry in which he works.”

Diane von Furstenberg added: “Julius has more than anyone else in Britain raised the profile of British textile design throughout the world. He has launched almost 200 outstanding young textile designers, introducing them to international networks and making sure that British talent is working in some of the best fashion houses in the world.”

Alber Elbaz, then creative director of Lanvin, observed: “I esteem Julius Schofield’s work and his superb professional eye in recognising some of Britain’s best fashion talent at an early stage. He not only recognises that talent, he tenaciously mentors those whose talent he has spotted and makes sure that some of the best young British-trained fashion designers are working in the major houses of London, Paris, Milan and New York”.

Born in London on 25 January 1930, Schofield was educated at Ampleforth College, the Roman Catholic boarding school in north Yorkshire. Having begun training as an architect, he moved into the creative side of advertising in the 1950s, working for Royds, a large agency that handled accounts for large textile producers of the era, such as Courtaulds.

In 1966-68, he was headhunted to create Trends Fabrics and Fashion, an early predictions publication for the business magazine division of publisher IPC.

It was here he met Joanna Neicho and together they hatched the plan for Indesign, whose tiny offices at 1 Ashland Place W1 were to launch the careers of so many British designers.

Their approach was to be “the quiet people behind what goes on”.

Always immaculately dressed in black, often in a cashmere rollneck sweater that was almost his uniform, the softly-spoken and reserved Schofield was generous in his advice, help and concern for almost everyone in the industry he loved.

Since 2016 Schofield suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which finally slowed his astonishing energy and zest for life. He died on 1 February, seven days after his 91st birthday, from complications following a bout of pneumonia.

He is survived by Joanna Neicho, who continues to run Indesign, and their son Josh, who is a communications officer and journalist.

A small private funeral will be held under COVID-19 regulations on 23 February. A memorial to celebrate of the life of Julius Schofield will be organised as soon as circumstances permit.