Cabbages & Roses Q&A

by Rachel Ashwell

I had the pleasure of asking Christina a couple of questions, the founder of Cabbages and Roses from our recent Collaboration. The Collection is currently available in our Shabby Chic store and at shabbychic.com.

Q:  Was I who you expected when we met?

A:  Absolutely not.  This is the picture I had in mind:

 I expected a beautiful (not that you aren't) cool (not that you aren't). California girl (not that you aren't) but to be more intimidating, less cosy, less funny. I certainly didn't expect to like you. I mean, look at you, you look terrifyingly cool!

Q:   SC & C&R have similar qualities, romantic, floral and vintage inspired did you see SC as competitive or complimentary over the years?

A:   I have followed your story over the years and every time I visited New York, Shabby Chic was always my first stop. Although there is a similarity in our brands, when you actually look closer we are quite, quite different. You have a calmer, less greedy, more confident approach. I, however, want to do it all, and from our first and second fabric, Bees and Hatley, they were already louder and more prominent designs, whereas yours were just beautifully......quiet. So I think that we are more complimentary rather than competitive.

For example this (Rosabelle Linen by Shabby Chic):
As opposed to this (Hatley Linen by Cabbages & Roses): 

 Q:  I know we have discussed our trials and tribulations of being creative while owning our own companies. Do you find it difficult to keep your creative passion alive when the biz piece screams for attention?

 A:  Oh yes indeed I do.  I once worked out that I spend approximately 4 weeks a year creating and the rest is business.  When one is buried in spread sheets, and budgets and running to stand still, it has to be a conscious effort to stop all that noise and concentrate on creating.  More often than not, deadlines creep up on me and suddenly I have to lock myself away and do nothing but draw, sadly it is usually under pressure.  Though now it is lovely to disappear into the treehouse and work alongside my daughter (who is also my MD and financial controller, website manager and production manager amongst a million other things) and work out what to do for the next season. 

Cabbages & Roses tree house where we 'create':

Q:  I know you work closely with your daughter Kate. Do you have mama and daughter moments and if so how do you work through them?

 A:  I don't think we have actually ever had a 'moment' as far as Cabbages & Roses was concerned. Though, there could have been a moment when Kate was between school and university, and trying to earn money for her big trip abroad.  She worked in our Ledbury Road store on Saturdays, but also worked at a publisher during the week, and in a bar at night.  She recently admitted to me that she used to take naps on the floor behind the till because she was always so exhausted.  If I had known, that could have constituted a 'moment'.  Now, however, she is so kind, gentle, clever and hard working I have nothing but admiration for her and look up to her as my 'boss'.  The best in the world. 

Q:  While other trends come and go. Do you agree it is important to stay true to our original vision or are you tempted to stray to attract other demographics?

 A:  I have been, but experience now tells me that is a mistake.  We have spent the last 18 years wooing the demographic that is ours, and I see no benefit trying to attract others.  We have found our place and are so happy in it.  We have been big, and have had to accommodate an enormously wide range of customer, it is difficult designing for such a lot of people with differing tastes without being commercial.    We are not commercial, and we are not good at it.  So, happily we are where we are and couldn't be more delighted. 

Q:  You have been a major inspiration for me to settle part time in Somerset . I can see you live the C&R life. Are you ever inspired to travel afar to bring in other creative elements?

A:  No, not really.  I have traveled extensively in my long life, and although I love other cultures, other countries other lives, I am at my happiest at home in Somerset, living a small and, I have to say, beautiful, simple life.  There is as much inspiration here as I need. And there is always Google!! 

Q:  How has social media impacted your business. I find the term “influencers “ challenging.  What are your thoughts?

A:  I absolutely agree, I am also challenged by this new phenomenon.  Luckily it is not in my remit to deal with social media, indeed I have been forbidden to contribute to Cabbages & Roses Instagram account, because I have caused mini riots when posting my views.  Although I am not a social media type person, I understand that it has a place in business, but thank goodness we have the lovely Moli Coffee to deal with it and deal with it she does, very well indeed.

Cabbages & Roses Instagram Account. 28.4 Followers is quite a lot of people:

Q:  I know you have recently closed your London store. Do you still feel retail is relative.

A:   I do, but in a very different way to how it used to be.  Apart from the internet making shopping so much easier to do from the comfort of your own bed/sofa, I think that to survive in retail, continuing to rent spaces at extortionate prices, along with all the other add ons, is just not sustainable.  For such a long time the only companies who can afford to have a retail space have been huge chain stores.    Thus, in every city, on every high street, in many many countries, you find exactly the same shops that you have just left behind in England.  I think that retail needs to be worthy of a trip, something to look forward to, something to be surprised by.  It needs to sell you things you really really want, things that will last a life time, that you will love forever.

Q:  Will you ever come to LOS Angeles to visit my SC world? 

Rachel Ashwell waiting for Christina to visit:

 A:  Yes please, if you will have me. xxx


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