Cabbages & Roses 17th Birthday
It is August in the year 2000. Two friends met in an Oxfordshire garden with two pink books and two pink pens. Plans were afoot to create a company that would change our lives and to a very small extent, change the world of interiors and fashion.
When I say change, really I mean revert. Back to wholesome, back to homespun, back to basics, as our then recently departed Prime Minister John Major encouraged us to do.
As we exchanged ideas in the dwindling sunshine, Brigette Buchanan – one half of the design duo – noticed a faint buzzing which grew louder and louder until an enormous swarm of bees’ appeared from nowhere.
Efficiently, she immediately had to hand the telephone number of the local bee keeper. Swiftly he arrived, wearing the pinkest bee suit that can ever have been made. He told us that this was the ‘biggest swarm of bees’ he had ever encountered in his long life of bee keeping.
This, dear reader, is why our very first fabric is called Bees.
We had a million ideas of what to make out of our Bees fabric but not a single one of how to sell our creations.
In November, just 3 months later, we launched at the Mary Howard Christmas Fair. We arrived with car loads of cushions, skirts, bunting, baskets, buckets (tin), books, antiques, paintings - anything that we loved.
With no grown ups to restrict our wild vintage shopping sprees, or websites or product descriptions or care labels - we created a veritable wonderland of deliciousness.
It was a time when the world, seemed chaotic and harsh and even our beloved Laura Ashley (the company not the person) thought it appropriate to branch out into black leather coats – we stepped into their homely shoes and gave our ever growing customer list what they wanted – faded floral fabric prints, easy to wear skirts and charming handmade knitwear. Fabric for tables and sofas and windows, clothes for their children and clothes for them.
Those were blissful times and we were encouraged by friends that knew, but did nothing to dispel or crush our enthusiasm and innocence of the retail world. To them we say thank you.
Especially to my devoted and darling friend Maureen Docherty who created EGG in, I expect, the same brave and hopeful manner. It was she who gave us the chance of experiencing our first proper shop on Kinnerton Street in Belgravia.
We were astounded by the reception of our strange wares, and overwhelmed by our success.
At the end of our first day, with piles of cash and credit card receipts we found ourselves with nowhere to keep the takings safe. The tin teapot seemed like a good idea at the time. Until the next morning we found sodden notes and card receipts with wet and illegible print – our takings had stewed all night in the residues of the teapot.
This was the first of our many calamities but with washing line and pegs (both of which we sold to the good ladies of Belgravia) the notes and receipts soon dried and added, I may say, to the decoration of the shop.
As I write, approaching our proper 17th birthday, I can happily reflect on the extraordinary things that Cabbages & roses has brought to our lives, the people, the enormous successes, the enormous frights, the shops and world wide concessions, our lovely partners, Innocent and Uniqlo in Japan, our lengthy stint with the Jigsaw empire, the wonderful Cabbages and Roses that have worked for us, the grown ups and the children.
The amazing photographers and models, the publishers, the press and artists, the families that have put up with missing wives and mothers and girlfriends working into the night and up before dawn. There is so much to be grateful for in these happy 17 years, but most of all, we are grateful to our customers, without whom we would not exist.