Cabbages & Roses 17th Birthday

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.   

photo by belle daughtry

photo by belle daughtry

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.      

Thank you.
Christina Strutt


Cabbages & Roses said...

Congratulations Christina and to all the Cabbages and Roses, you are an inspiration! Happy 17th Birthday Mx

Foxanddahlia said...

Picking up a piece of fabric, turning the pages of a book, sleeping in gorgeous bedlinen. All of your beautiful creations provide joy, they connect us with a timeless sense of place.Thank you for all the beauty. Happy Birthday x

Linda said...

The most beautiful of faded prints, I love them all. Hope you have many more years to come. Linda

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!! I love your things but most is too white and totally impractical for doggie families. I went to your gorgeous sale near Bath a few years ago and loved it, I hope you'll do more x

Unknown said...

Congratulations to my dear friend Christina and for such happy early days with you and Brigette. You both deserve nothing but the greatest of success. Scoopy xx

Unknown said...

Happy birthday Christina I was so honoured to work with you at jigsaw you totally inspire and have such a kind heart
Wishing you many more years of success
Edinburgh jigsaw manager

Ingegerd said...

A very happy birthday from Copenhagen. I simply adore the designs and have done so for many years.

Elyse said...

warmest congrats!

it was swoon at first sight for me when i first discovered C&R via fifi o'neill.

all best wishes from rhode island, u.s.a.


Rose said...

Happy Birthday! Joyeux anniversaire de France!
I remember Cabbages&Roses at Clapham: in this "boutique" I have discovered your fabrics, your so particulary athmosphere, your marvellous colors...
Every time I go to London to see my daughter who live there,it's a real pleasure to visit your shop!
Thank you very, very much to be vhat you ara!

Roger K said...

Many Congratulations Christina on your 17th Birthday. I well remember stepping into the world of C&R at your Langton Street store and discovering wonderful cotton skirts, waist tied aprons and beautiful wool circle skirts. These were all put together to make great stylish unique looks.
Off course I must not forget the wonderful staff over the years that have made C&R such a lovely place to shop. I have loved being a customer and wearing you beautiful clothes. Here's to the next 17 years! Lovex

Kaz said...

Happy Birthday! Thank you for being there at many life events- happy and tragic and for bringing me pleasure on a daily basis. For keeping me warm and cool, for skimming over the consequences of getting older, having children and all that jazz. The clothes are beautiful, the house stuff elegant, the photographs glorious and your staff are lovely and kind. Long may you thrive xx

Jeanne said...

Happy Birthday! I can't think of a happier, lovelier story right now and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy that two friends could have created fabrics and styles that I could love so deeply. I don't know anybody else who is so true to what they love. Your mentioning Laura Ashley (the company) coming out with a black leather coat says more than it says, for e.g. I am also slightly envious, being a creative person myself who loves to make simple (simply) beautiful and useful everyday things, made to last with exquisite attention to workmanship, but lacks the courage to go far beyond my sewing room and prairie. I wish I could dress every cushion and bed in my house, and me, in your fabrics! XX

Rosie said...

Beautiful memoir Christina. Hoping that as Cabbages and Roses comes of age that she will bloom and blossom into something even more wonderful in our great British prospectus. Much love xx

Anonymous said...

Dear Christina,

I have followed you every day of the last 17 years (is that all?!) since I first stumbled across your gorgeous shop on Langton Street on a rare visit to London. I bought the only thing I could afford at the time (a white A line long sleeved t-shirt that I still wear for painting!) and a few years later went off to Switzerland with a suitcase full of C and R. Your fabrics now adorn a Swiss chalet and an ugly house in Dorset that has been made special by lampshades, curtains and cushions in all manner of Hatleys! I buy less but spend more on one off items and my wardrobe is full of timeless C and R clothes that inspire admiration whenever I wear them. I can't remember the last day that went by without me wearing something made by you and it always feels like the best kept secret. Please don't go mainstream...xx