Globally recognised designer Cath Kidston has been at the forefront of the resurgence of vintage chic in a hectic modern age. Today, the designer’s eponymous empire is vast, selling homeware, womenswear & childrenswear, but the Cath Kidston label we know & love started from humble beginnings which is most fitting for a brand where simplicity has always been key.
Growing up in the English countryside, Cath was continually inspired by the scenery around her combined with the colours, prints and fabrics of her family home. Looking back at this period of her life with great nostalgia, the designer remembers her bedroom of pale blue with delicate rosebud curtains, colourful Formica countertops, gloss paint surfaces and a chintz covered playroom. Providing her with all the ingredients and ideas she would need for what was to come, these nostalgic childhood memories would influence iconic Cath Kidston designs from the very start.
Moving to London to begin her career, she started her professional life working for an antique fabric dealer which indulged her love of vintage prints before moving on to work for leading interior designer Nicky Halsam & embarking on her training in the industry.
Itching to move out on her own in this area, Cath Kidston opened her very first shop in 1987 with a friend selling curtains just off of the fashionable King’s Road.
The Launch of the Cath Kidston brand
The eureka moment came when flicking through a magazine she spotted a bathroom which was simple in style but with rose wallpaper adorning the side of the bath. Summing up an idea she had played with for a while, this bathroom used English heritage designs and gave them a new lease of life by displaying them with a contemporary twist.
Recognising that society was evolving and a laid back approach to decorating was now being favoured over fussy interiors, she knew that blending old & new would resonate with many, and so the Cath Kidston notion of modern vintage unfolded.
The opening of the first Cath Kidston store nestled in a tiny location between Holland Park & Notting Hill saw her create her debut print Rose Bouquet and use vintage fabric finds to create her own unique products which included cushion covers, cotton bags & ironing board covers. Surprisingly it was the practical yet patterned ironing board covers that were a complete success and launched the brand to cult status.
Beautiful yet useful
Picking up on the reasoning behind the ironing board covers flying off of the shelves, Cath realised that the public were yearning for everyday items with an elegant update.
A case of serendipity forced the designer into new territory when an order of 1500m of fabric arrived already made into duvet covers & pillowcases, from there she set about creating all manner of beautiful objects with a practical purpose - from aprons to coat hangers.
Every item in the extensive Cath Kidston collection has a use whilst remaining cheery and fun, this range of elegant yet practical items continues to grow to this day and has reached into every area of the home. From kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms & gardens, to our pets, every aspect of our lives can receive a modern vintage makeover.
Beginning with the wonderfully English Rose Bouquet over twenty years ago, the Cath Kidston print library is vast and ever expanding. Dedicated to remaining loyal to the modern vintage concept which launched the brand into the limelight, Cath experimented with all kinds of floral combinations, before moving onto different designs including stars, spots and hearts over the years.
Also turning her hand to novelty fabric, key prints such as Cowboy are now synonymous with the brand and this particular collection of patterns has branched out to incorporate more fun designs depicting modes of transport, animals & comic book cartoons.
Cath’s beloved dog Stanley has also been a constant source of inspiration for her throughout the years, and he has now been immortalised in a selection of fun & colourful prints.
Whilst building her own empire, she has also collaborated with leading international brands to put the Cath Kidston stamp on an even more varied product selection. Remaining loyal to the brand’s ethos of creating beautiful yet practical items, all collaborations have maintained this element which has only assisted in cementing Cath Kidston’s universal appeal.
Including vividly patterned Millets tents, eye-catching Gola trainers, vintage chic Roberts radios & unique Nokia phones, the collection of everyday items featuring Cath Kidston’s classic designs is ever reaching.
From 2005 Cath Kidston has grown exponentially and this is when the brand first expanded beyond London. The next store to open its doors was in Bath, swiftly followed by numerous other locations throughout the UK including Bristol, Brighton, York and Edinburgh.
By 2006 the first international Cath Kidston shop was launched in Tokyo, Japan which saw people queue around the block determined to get their hands on the famed prints. Now with well over one hundred stores in the UK & Ireland, Europe and Asia, the popularity of the quintessentially English print brand specialising in modern vintage is ever increasing and is showing no signs of slowing down yet.
Cath's aim has always been to create well-priced, good quality products that are fun, practical and original. The brand is one of the most influential and original companies to emerge from the UK in recent years and has expanded steadily to become the unique international lifestyle brand it is today due to its unflinching dedication of blending old & new.
The Cath Kidston homeware collection has spread to infuse every aspect of the modern home from bed & bath, to kitchen and garden leaving no apparent stone unturned, yet every season new & exciting endeavours are still realised to uproarious success. Even though no longer the owner, the designer remains Creative Director of Cath Kidston UK Limited and at the helm of print design, she was awarded an MBE for services to business in 2010 & will be continuing on her crusade of bringing modern vintage elegance to all.