Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture

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Rachel's Blog

Monthly Archives: April 2009


    tern sketch final jpg copy

    I just returned home from London and I was greeted by a beautiful
    package from one of my employees from my Newport store in California,
    Lisa Dirkes. Inside the package there was a lovely book that inspired me
    through my jet lagged sleep, and 2 gorgeous watercolor sketches.
    The talent enclosed was amazing.

    the little tern cover jpg

    There is so much I have to discover about the lives of people who
    have crossed my path through the journey of Shabby Chic.
    Creativity, deep thinkers and seekers seem to be a common thread
    between us all. Pink, lace and frill may be sweet and pretty,
    but we are a group of substance.

    amy and emma final copy

    Portobello Road was on my doorstep for the past few weeks during my
    stay in London. Portobello Road is a lovely little quiet street,
    with pastel painted houses and old store fronts.

    Portabello rd copy

    But on Saturdays, the street is transformed. It becomes an antique heaven.
    Street stalls mainly selling jewelry, paintings, clothes, glassware, books and accessories line the street. Thousands of people from all over the world crowd together and enjoy the treasures.

    Lily portabello rd final copy

    Record players play crackled old time music.
    Yummy smelling crepes which I call "confused pancakes"
    have Nutella and strawberries. My daughter loves them.
    Cameras click away. A few times I was asked, "Where is the book
    store from Nottinghillgate movie". I learnt where it was.
    I listened to many stories vendors insisted upon sharing.
    I was fascinated by an old jam jar and asked some questions of the vendor
    who looked a little like Santa Clause. I asked him if he was going to be
    at the same spot the following week in case I came back.
    He proceeded to give me his life story, and how he had only not been at
    his spot twice in 40 years. He then showed me a torn piece of
    newspaper from his back pocket, with a photo of a " James Bond girl".
    He told me had dated her for 6 days 30 years ago . Many stories to tell.
    I have learnt to build in story listening time into my treasure search.

    Brooches single copy copy

    I started buying some treasures, lovely broaches, fabric and linens with
    no real purpose. I am starting to feel my creative juices flowing,
    actually exploding. My creativity cannot be kept inside and it is starting
    to express itself.

    brooches groups copy

    Unlike many, I love the weather in London. The rhythm of the seasons suits my personality best. I appreciate every "weather" for I know it will change.

    Along with the structure of working and completing my book,
    I had daily walks/runs through Kensington Gardens.
    Its rather lovely returning to my roots as a tourist. I explored
    London like I never did when I lived there. Kensington Garndens is heavenly.

    the queens swans copy

    It joins Hyde Park to Kensington to Nottinghill, connected by pathways.
    I spent hours sitting by the pond where the "Queen's Swans" live.
    They are magnificent . I had my ipod with me and listened to classical
    music as I watched them float around, so proudly.
    Some days I cried, some I laughed.
    The park is very historical and dates back hundreds of years many kings
    and queens lived there, including queen Victoria.

    queen victoria final copy

    I watched many group sports, cricket and football and many picnics. The minute even a little bit of sun comes out, the British strip down, men take off their tops and take in the rays, quickly, before the rain.

    I found myself interested in everything and everyone. I chatted to the English cabbies, ("Hackney Carriage" drivers).
    I learnt all about "The Knowledge". This is a four year study program that all English cab drivers need to undertake before they can drive a cab. There are
    25,000 streets and places of interest that they need to learn, by driving around
    on a motorbike with a clip board for 4 years. I asked if GPS systems have
    made that not a necessity anymore and was told that nothing can out beat human "knowledge". English cabs and their drivers are wonderful.

    karma kars copy

    A big treat for me is the Electric Cinema. This is a theatre from the Soho House team of hotels that are mainly throughout England and NY too. The Cinema is lovely and old with plaster swags of wreaths and roses. Sitting in big mushy leather chairs with footstools, and you can order "bangers and mash" and a drink. Bangers and mash are mash potatoes and sausages. Yummy.

    shabby fiesta final copy

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    SM storefront page final copy


    The name Shabby Chic was a perfect match for me from the very beginning.
    I love and appreciate everything shabby as I do everything chic.

    I have questioned over the years if it was due to my…….
    not wanting to commit,
    not wanting to stand behind what I believe in
    not truly having an opinion.
    Wanting to cover my bases.

    But actually I have learnt I have a very strong opinion of appreciating
    things for what they are, and for what they are not.

    Once again your comments on my blog have been my source of inspiration.
    Someone wrote a deeper explanation of Garth Brook's song,
    “Sometimes gods greatest wishes are our unanswered prayers”.
    She wrote, “Just because our prayers weren’t answered in the way we wanted,
    it doesn't mean they weren’t answered”.

    During these past few months I have tried to save Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic
    stores in the way I thought was best for the company.

    Santa Monica sign copy

    But it wasn't meant to be.
    And still the future is uncertain.
    But what is certain is that the sadness, loss and pain of this experience
    to all has created the most extraordinary bond between me and all of you.
    Faith has created the fuel to drive the train, and at some point the train
    will be on the track.

    I am not a practacing religious person. But I do have great faith.
    And that is so comforting and freeing of fear.
    Especially for a character like myself. So often I think I know
    the answers and I put up a good fight.
    But I have learnt the art of letting go and I am safe.
    I just have to be quiet to hear the direction.

    I am attracted to the opposites in life.
    When I purchased this in Brimfield, Massachusetts a few eyeballs rolled.
    But to me it was one more example of the rawness of a skull, with the
    femininity of a parasol. All sharing the support of a chair.

    scull and parasol final final final copy

    While 99.9 percent of my employees, my vendors, my customers have been unwaveringly supportive, there have of course been a few that are enjoying my setback.

    Bellflower final final page copy

    This past week my manufacturing plant has been selling off fabrics,
    much of it of course is plain white.
    Some are Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic floral prints.
    Most of the buyers coming through have been sympathetic and nostalgic.
    However some attempted to steal Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic tags and
    labels so they can sell them an authentic Shabby Chic product.
    This was disappointing to me.
    This feels dirty.

    Soap page copy

    But in the end again it reminded me, how honest and genuine
    and pure thinking most people have been through this process.
    People of no moral character are great reminders of the beauty of goodness.

    Tags labels and buttons final copy

    While the fabric is of course Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic,
    the products that they will be made into are not.
    So for any of you who care whether you are buying authentic
    Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic products, there will be some impostors for a while.

    I have always wondered what if feels like being in the head of person
    that copies. To me that is life as a destination without a journey.
    Why would anyone want to create something that wasn’t their own heart
    and soul?
    Just for money I suppose.
    That’s something I don’t understand.

    While I love going into my stores and seeing the end results of the efforts of design, it is the process of design, reworking, rethinking that is the fuel.

    From board to bed

    I have always said mediocrity has no place in my world.
    Unique and authentic are what I am attracted to.
    That doesn’t mean a beautiful velvet floppy flower is less beautiful
    than a beautiful rose…

    Rose fence page copy

    But they are both the best they can be. No short cuts to create.

    Unfortunate circumstances happened in the past two years that caused me to fall.
    But for 18 years we were strong, surviving earthquakes, divorces, economic downturns. I do hope for anyone affected negatively will remember the years of strength and support Shabby Chic offered and supplied.

    The biggest lessons of my life have been learnt this past year.
    As I have said tears have been plenty, hearts hurt.
    But my spirit is flying pretty high, trusting this is happening
    the way it must.

    London pic page final final

    I am in London at the moment. Writing and designing my book.
    I take the bus to and from the publishers office.
    I have always dreamed of the life of Jo from Little Women.

    little women page final copy

    And even though I am not writing a novel,
    the process feels very true to me.
    The publisher's offices are modest but have the warmest of energy.
    Funny how often people think of the English as snobby. That can be true.
    But they are also humble, real and so very authentic.
    And the best part is the kettle goes on for tea at 4p.m. sharp.
    (Haven't had that since my lovely Carla left my Shabby Chic.)
    That is what I am experiencing, every day.
    I have a rented flat with no shower and only a washing machine for clothes.
    That does seem to be British to have to dry clothes either on a washing line
    or on a rack.

    lilys drying rack final final

    I have not felt so attached and involved in my day to day living for
    such a long time.
    And that is a gift for sure.
    Life seems to be in Technicolor for me, with surround sound.
    I am living in my life.

    And without the risk of sounding schmaltzy, it is all because of you.
    I am humbled that you thank me and love me for the beauty
    that I have bought into your lives.
    But your gift to me is far superior.

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