Drawing on her experiences, Judy Barrington speaks to The Resident about the launch of Designer Drapes 30 years ago, the evolution of Penge and the art of surviving recessions…

What was your husband Ian’s background before launching Designer Drapes in 1987?
Ian started working with curtains and fabrics in Brixton Market, learning about fabrics and nets. He quickly progressed to installing the curtains and rails for rental accommodation, then moved to Streatham as a curtain sales assistant and worked his way up to managing the store.

An opportunity arose when he heard that Mr Dodd was retiring from his curtain store in Penge. He always wanted to run his own business and this was the opportunity he was looking for. He opened for business on 18 July, 1987.

Did he see a gap in the market?
Ian saw that people wanted more than just ready made items for their homes and were asking for a more personal service. The whole design concept was becoming more accessible to everyone.

Was there a particular time when things really started taking off for you?
Business built up steadily, every year improving on the previous year, even through the recessions. One piece of advice he was given was to not stop advertising in a recession – and that seems to be true.

How has Penge changed?
The business has always been based in Penge and we have seen a lot of change over the 30 years. Most of the other businesses have changed hands, and many have disappeared all together.

Since the overground line was introduced, many new people have moved to Penge as now Canary Wharf and the City are easily accessible. We have a large community of young couples with families moving in as houses are still reasonably priced compared to Clapham and north London.

It’s strange approaching our 30th anniversary as it doesn’t seem possible we have been here so long!

How different is Designer Drapes today compared to 30 years ago?
Things are very different. Customers are more discerning and due to several factors, including the internet and the current recession, are much more price conscious. We still do the same basic things, in that we advise, measure, make and install curtains, blinds, tracks etc, but as times change, we have to change.

Some years ago we started to supply plantation shutters and they are a large part of the business now. But we still offer the same reliable service.

163 High Street SE20 7DS; 020 8778 2114; designerdrapes.co.uk


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