Christina Strutt, founder of country-inspired lifestyle label Cabbages & Roses brings her romantic style to Sydney Street, Chelsea
If ever there was a lifestyle brand that encapsulates English eccentricity in all its glory, it must be Cabbages & Roses. The fashion and homeware company, owned by Creative Director Christina Strutt, has florals and soft colours aplenty, but also bristles with wit and integrity. So it is no surprise that the company has grown spectacularly from kitchen-table creativity to global sales, and this month celebrates the opening of a second Chelsea store. ‘We are very different from everything else on the market,’ says Christina. ‘Our development has been very exciting.’
Tucked into a Grade II listed building on Sydney Street, the new store features interlinked shops: one for fashion, the other for interiors. Traditionally Christina has mixed fashion and home. ‘But separation is good,’ she says. ‘There is always the chance that you might be looking for a frock, then be distracted by a floral cushion.’ Customers will find the store discreetly painted in Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe grey, what Christina describes as ‘a Cabbages & Roses version of industrial.’ She is delighted to have moved to new premises. ‘Joy of joys, we have the shop, two offices above, and a flat on the top,’ she says.
Anyone browsing the Cabbages & Roses website will see a clear brand: young girls dressed in wool sweaters, softly draped skirts and crisp shirts, and interiors with a relaxed country aesthetic. But is the Cabbages & Roses customer really that youthful? Not necessarily, says Christina. When asked, she says she is dressed top to toe in Cabbages & Roses, and cheerfully reveals that she is 59. ‘I use young models unapologetically because they look better in the clothes,’ she says. ‘Customers have the intelligence to decide what works for them.’ The interiors range, with one new fabric collection rolled out per year, suits a wide variety of homes, city or rural. Christina is entirely self-taught and has no rules, so enjoys the cross-over between fashion and home. ‘But interiors is still my passion.’ It is no surprise, then, to hear that she originally started out as an interiors stylist on Vogue.
Christina co-launched the company back in 2000 with her friend, Brigette Buchanan. From their respective country kitchen tables, and at that stage with no website, the nascent mail order company started with ‘a cushion, fabric, skirt and dress’. Over the years the company has grown organically, but its five core values – ‘beauty, simplicity, longevity, integrity and sustainability’ – remain. As for the name, it arose after Christina and Brigette each chose their favourite flower. ‘I was heavily into country life and had an enormous vegetable garden, so cabbages seemed appropriate,’ says Christina. And now their very English designs have brought global success, including a fan-base in the Far East.
Christina is delighted to be settled in Chelsea. ‘I love everything about it – the cinemas, shops, the atmosphere.’ From the vast Georgian windows in their offices, she and her eight-strong creative team overlook St Luke’s church, so even when she is in the city, rather than at home in Bath, she feels inspired. Customers will also get the full lifestyle experience. Press through to the back of the interiors store, and, alongside an old-fashioned conservatory, there is the entrance to The Chelsea Gardener, with all its plants and flowers. Does she have plans to expand the interiors range now she has an entire homewares shop? She won’t be drawn, but hints strongly at new developments for 2014.
The most enduring appeal of the Cabbages & Roses fabrics lies in the authenticity of the designs, with an easy-going yet classic charm. The prints are all based on archive motifs or snatches of pattern found on old scraps of fabric, then re-coloured in the brand’s characteristic muted shades. Raspberries, charcoals, and soft blues there are aplenty, with classic florals, French toiles and stripes in the fabric range, plus plain linens and co-ordinating wallpapers. There are also scatter cushions, bed linens and accessories. Christina is currently working on a new fabric collection due this autumn, which she promises will be hand-painted. Her newest collection, though, comprises stripes. ‘We offer a lot of beautiful florals so stripes are calming,’ she adds.
If life isn’t busy enough, next month Christina will be celebrating the launch of her sixth book, Living Life Beautifully (Cico Books, £25). The theme, she says, is ‘how to weave your business and your home life together in a beautiful way.’ And it is a visual feast, with photographs of Christina’s London apartment, her 600-year-old house in Bath, and the inspirational homes of a clutch of stylish friends, including those of Maureen Doherty of Egg and Brigette Buchanan of Odd Limited, purveyors of garden swing seats. All of those featured, she says in the Introduction, have ‘grown up with our work’.
So with 2014 promising to be busy, will Christina ever get any down time? She finds it difficult to switch off, but at least the new Chelsea base is ‘perfect in every way.’ ‘We are right at the hub, but still remain a well-kept secret,’ she says. Once customers flock to the new store, we suspect, it won’t be a secret for long.