With our very special event An Evening With Cath Kidston MBE soon approaching, we list 9 things that you never knew about this pioneering business woman.
Her concept for Cath Kidston LTD came from a picture in a magazine:
“Flicking through a magazine one day, I saw a photo of a bathroom that was so simple and uncluttered. I loved the old rose wallpaper on the side of the bath, the glossy paint on the big armoire. It summed up all the ideas I’d had about using English heritage designs and giving them a twist. It was my eureka moment!”
Her father died when she was nineteen:
“It was utterly unexpected and a shock for the whole family. Dad was just fifty and he had been the centrifugal force in our family. It was like having the rug pulled out from under us. It’s said that it takes about seven years to truly come to terms with the loss of a parent or spouse, to restabilise. I think this certainly applied to me after my father died. At the funeral I remember thinking that I’d have to show him what I could do to make him proud. As for anyone who loses a parent at an early age, the experience changed me.”
Cath Kidston had 15 jobs before Cath Kidston LTD:
Cleaner at the Hare & Hounds, domestic cleaner, Laura Ashley model, Bendicks chocolate packer, dog walker, temp at the Science Museum, gift shop attendant, gallery assistant, picture framer, freelance window dresser, clothes shop assistant, assistant to antique textiles dealer, apprenticeship at Nicky Haslam, interior designer and curtain shop owner.
In the early days of her business, she bought a large order of rose gingham fabric from Czechoslovakia which arrived made up as a single duvet cover and pillow case sets:
“Overnight I became a bed linen heiress! I’d tied up a lot of money in that fabric and the order was non-returnable, so it could have been a disaster. I had to think quickly and decided to cut up the bed linen and make it into smaller items. …I created a range of printed products: cushions and aprons, wash bags, coat hangers, bath hats and frilly fifties-style swimsuits, all designed in in the rose gingham fabric. And so my first proper product collection was born… completely by accident!”
Her shop had some high-profile customers from the fashion and design worlds in her early days:
“Miuccia Prada came into the shop several times and always bought lots of things. And I remember Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, visited us, as well as other magazine editors and lots of celebrities.” (The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton is an owner of a Cath Kidston holdall bag and Cath Kidston had to restock a tank top Prince George wore in his official Christmas photographs – check it out in the picture below!)
She met her husband, record producer Hugh Padgham while decorating his house for him:
“We’d known each other for a number of years, as I’d decorated his house in 1990. At that time, Hugh was a single man in the music industry so I designed his place accordingly. When I moved in, four years later, naturally I had to redesign it to my taste!”
She closed her interior design business to focus on developing the Cath Kidston brand style when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at thirty-seven:
“When you get a diagnosis like that, you think that life will change in an instant, that your days will suddenly become centred around yoga and green tea. But it took me two years of internal wrestling before I felt able to really focus on what I wanted. Going through treatment I knew I couldn’t keep running two businesses and spending my weekends sourcing and renovating furniture.”
She is influenced by prints she remembers from her rural England childhood:
“I was always influenced by the prints and fresh colours of my childhood – my bedroom with its pale blue walls and striped rosebud curtains, the magnolia chintz in our playroom, my favourite Ribena coloured dress. Smell may bring back memories for some, but for me it’s more likely to be a colour or a pattern.”
As the founder of Cath Kidston LTD she learned 10 lessons:
“Stay true to your idea. Learn to say no. Don’t confuse a distraction for an opportunity. Trust your gut. Don’t worry about speaking up. Know what you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Good people are not always the right people. You’re more of a fighter than you think. Stay focused.”
Quotes from Cath Kidston’s book Coming Up Roses: The Story Of Growing A Business
Join editor-in-chief, Melanie Morris on January 19, 2016 and get inspired by Cath Kidston – the woman behind this iconic brand. For tickets, please click here, call 01 271 9615 or email [email protected].