Leslie Creasey obituary

My father, Leslie Creasey, who has died aged 79, was one of the pioneers of concept marketing and brand extension in the 1980s onwards, working on household names such as Thomas the Tank Engine, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, Kangol, Duffer of St George and Jeff Banks of Clothes Show fame.

It was the popularity of the Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise that he worked on, from toys to home furnishings, that led to the making of the television series in the mid-80s.

A chance meeting in 1979 with the publisher of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady – Edith Holden’s nature notes for 1906 published posthumously in 1977 – on a North sea ferry, returning from a business trip, was a lightbulb moment for Leslie, then running a glass-engraving firm.

He saw that the core elements of the book cover’s nostalgic design could be used on a range of merchandise and, with the blessing and a licence from the Country Diary owners, tested out the idea on a limited collection of glassware and ceramics. Modest success encouraged him to roll out the idea across products such as wallpapers, textiles and home furnishings.

The popularity of Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise that Leslie Creasey worked on led to the making of the television series in the mid-80s.

The popularity of Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise that Leslie Creasey worked on led to the making of the television series in the mid-80s. Photograph: PA

He approached UK retailers, but they turned him down. Undeterred, he headed to New York, where merchants such as Imperial Wallcoverings and Bloomcraft embraced the idea with great commercial success. This caught the attention of the British bedding specialist Dorma, which introduced the concept back into the UK across their products. Other manufacturers and retailers caught on and in 1983 Leslie was branded “Mr Concept” by Drapers Record.

Born in Knebworth, Hertfordshire, to Gaylor Creasey, who owned and ran HG Creasey and Sons, a family coach-building business, and his wife, Janet (nee Wheatley), Leslie was the second of four brothers. He attended Heath Mount school and then Bishop’s Stortford college, leaving in 1956 to do an engineering apprenticeship at Wickhams in Stevenage. He then joined the family business.

His heart was not in the motor world and when, in the mid-1970s, the company was offered a showroom on Knebworth high street, Hertfordshire, Leslie saw an opportunity to try a new venture. Harnessing his engineering knowledge and love for design, he set up Leslie Creasey Glassware, attracting clients such as Hallmark, RNLI and the Queen’s Award Office.

Following the success of the Country Diary range, Leslie founded Charismatic Brands in 1994, which he ran for the next two decades, while also working on his other great passion, his home of 30 years, Charlton House, the birthplace of the inventor Sir Henry Bessemer, near Hitchin in Hertfordshire.

He left the UK in 2014 with his wife Renate (nee Decker), whom he had married in 2012, to see out his final years in Mirepoix, in south-west France.

Leslie’s first wife, Patricia (nee Shakesby), whom he married in 1963, died in 1988. He is survived by Renate and by his four children with Patricia, Samantha, Adam, Matthew and me.


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