The town of Krefeld in North Western Germany is known as the Silk City of Germany. For people trying to find it on the map, it’s left of Düsseldorf, North of Cologne. Silk was introduced to Krefeld by French Huguenots who looked for protection from persecutions during the 30 Year War (1618-1648), which devastated Europe. Krefeld was always a very liberal town and a good place to grow up. My family history, I have birth certificates, baptismal records, marriage licenses, etc, show us being in the weaving business for generations, always in or around Krefeld. As far back as 1724 for sure. Silk seems to be a driving force in our and my life.
I always knew about warp and weft, I always knew about how to dye yarns, how to weave, etc. Our local dialect has many words that are weaving terms, which we use daily without even thinking about that the origin or the word is a very technical Textile term. In addition, our dialect is full of French words, too.
So, Silk, French, Textile is part of me.
I even came to the U.S. in 1968 because I had this connection with Silk. I had learned to program weaving machines (yes, a French system called Verdol) and the U.S. imported me as a ‘technical expert‘. So from 1968 until 1970 I taught the little bit I knew to some folks in Paterson, NJ.
I combined my teaching with learning the English language which enabled me to meet my wife which changed everything.
Women can do that to you, you know!
After we married in 1971, had 3 children, each 16 month apart, and no money to speak off I had to make some changes in my teaching schedule.
For the next 10 years I helped a U.S. Silk Weaving mill to get off the ground using my programming skills and thru French connections I learned how to ‘design’ fabrics. This job provided a fair income and was close to home. I had time for the kids, could talk and listen to my wife. I was not the most important person in this mill but it made a living and I honed the designing skills I needed.
In 1982 all that changed. Or let’s say it bloomed. Somehow, by pure accident, I took a job in Manhattan, and within 7 years I took over this business. Yes, I was in the Silk Business. Silk for neckties! Silk from China, everything I did for years was based on Silk.
My life seems to revolve around Silk.
While designing for people like Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole, Armani, Tommy Hilfinger, Donna Karen, Bill Blass etc, I was busy and had no time to ride a motorcycle.
In Germany, as an apprentice I rode a moped to and from work. As a very little kid I rode on the back of my uncle’s bike and I always loved the fresh air, the freedom of being on a metal horse.
Now, in 2005, comes along the possibility to ride a motorcycle on the Silk Road.
How could I refuse? How can I not take this trip?
Sure I like Helge, sure I like riding my motorcycle, sure I have been to China many times but I have never ridden the road to China to buy silk. This is a must trip for me given all the history of my life.
I just wish I can get the visa for Turkmenistan.