Telling the truth about SME life today

“My business came about by happy accident,” says Cath Kidston

After running a vintage curtain business with a friend on the King’s Road for five years, in 1992 Cath Kidston sold up to lauch her very own venture. “I wanted to do more than just windows,” she says. “I invested the £15,000 from the sale into starting a tiny shop on Holland Park."

And why call it Cath Kidston” Was it an "ego" thing” "No!" she laughs. "I kept my name for the business so that my old clients could find me in the phone book."

But Kidston’s early product range came about by complete accident. "I was planning to make wallpaper and furnishing fabrics with a sideline vintage shop," she says. "So I ordered lot of fabric from eastern Europe. It was meant to come by the yard, but as they also had a bedlinen factory, I asked the company if they would make some of the fabric into kids duvets.

"There was a misunderstanding and when the fabric arrived, it was all childrens duvets and pillow cases. To salvage stock I started making stock aprons and tea towels."

By a twist of fate, the Cath Kidston homewares business that has now acheived such cult status was actually born through necessity. "I literally fell into it," says Kidston.

But to begin with, these eye-catching designs just wouldn’t sell: “Our prints were neither old English floral, nor completely modern. It took some time for vintage patterns to become fashionable.”

Fifteen years on, Cath Kidston prints have been featured on tents, mobile phones, even carrier bags and that tiny shop has grown into global lifestyle brand with revenues of £20m worldwide. 

"We sell very well in Japan," she says. "We’ve even got a store in Kuwait. But the UK is still our biggest market. These are the people that fell in love with the brand first."

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