Obituary published on the Jewish
Chronicle, 16th January 2004.
Born Baghdad, May 14, 1909. Died London, December
18, 2003 aged 94.
Widely credited with introducing affordable mass-market
clothing to Britain from the factories of the Far East,
David Davies was an established international trader long
before arriving in Britain in 1964.
Born David Abdul Nabi into a respected Baghdad family,
he struck his first deal while still at school. In 1938
he left Baghdad for the East Indies and set up a trading
company in Java, dealing successfully in paper, coffee and
tea, and incidentally learning the art of tea-blending.
When the Japanese overran Java in March 1942, he was interned
with the city's expatriate community and endured the horrific
conditions of Japanese camps. When the Second World War
ended in the Pacific in August 1945, he was one of the only
handful to emerge alive from a camp which once housed 17,000.
Despite suffering nightmares for the next decade, he refused
to harbour any hatred of Japan. The Japanese, he remarked
philosophically, treated their own troops no better then
their civilian captives.
After the war, he decided to resume his trading career
in the US, but a bureaucratic slip of the pen gave him papers
for the UK instead. Typically while waiting for his visa
he set up a trading business.
By seeking out and cultivating sources of supply, first
in Hong Kong, then Taiwan and Korea, he was able to introduce
the British consumer to imported clothing at previously
unheard-of price levels.
Through his companies in the East End of London Davies
and Co. and later D.E. Davies and son (Textiles) Ltd, he
built up an unparalleled network of suppliers around the
world, especially the Far East, on a basis of mutual trust,
through which he supplied goods to major national chains
such as Tesco and C&A.
In the post-war years, Far Eastern manufactures were dismissed
as shoddy goods, but David Davies proved it possible to
source quality clothing at sensible prices, 25 years ahead
of the rest of the trade.
He generously shared the secrets of his trade with successive
waves of new Iraqi immigrants, many of whom used his methods
and generous credit terms to lay the foundation to their
own wealth and success.
Having grown up in old Baghdad with its large, thriving
Jewish population, he was convinced of a possibility of
peaceful co-existence between Jews and Muslims. His own
experience of global trade and travel confirmed his belief
that national boundaries were insignificant in the face
of the universal human qualities of good and evil.
His last years were blighted by the premature death of
his beloved son, Peter, in 1990. He is survived by his wife
Vilma, daughter Linda and two grandchildren, Lara and Daniel.
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