About 16 years ago, when I was a full-time writer and editor on the FT, a young woman who was then assistant health and beauty editor at Harper’s Bazaar came to see me. She was the daughter of old family friends and thought I might be able to advise her. She’d noticed that if you liked white bed linen (as she did), there wasn’t a lot of choice around. Hemstitching and a bit of lace was about it. She intended to fill that gap in the market, and was going to call her business The White Company. What did I think of the notion? Being as devoted to white sheets as she was, I thought it a cute idea, definitely to be encouraged. I didn’t have the smallest intimation that today she’d have an expected annual turnover of around £100m and that she, Chrissie Rucker, would be among the most successful businesswomen of the day.
The reason for writing about her (and it) now is that she’s just opened a great new “lifestyle” store (pictured) on the site of the old General Trading Company off London’s Sloane Square. Here, for the first time, White Company devotees can see and feel the whole range. Until now there had been 32 standalone stores and nine concessions, but most are quite small, showing only a fraction of the collection.
Head down to the store this autumn and what will you find? Charming, heart-warming and pretty is this company’s signature style. It’s always been a good place to find small props that add personality to a room – candlesticks and hurricane lights, lanterns and pretty cushions, gorgeous throws and endless touches for the mantelpieces and dining table.
The 7,000sq ft store has sections set out like a proper dining room, bedroom and sitting room, “so it’ll be almost like shopping in a private house”. Customers will be able to see exactly how everything could look when they get it back home. This winter the hunch is that people are going to want to hunker down at home. “It’s not a time for extravagance,” says Rucker, “so it’s all back to family values, tea-time, cake-stands and being cosy.” This translates into big, squidgy cushions (from £40), statement candlesticks (from £35), a huge punch bowl and ladle for mulled wine (£65), a vast cheese dome (£55) and all the big serving pieces needed for a Christmas table (from £25).
Many of the ideas are small, such as paper bags with etched hearts for holding battery-driven tea-lights – a lovely way to light a staircase (six paper lanterns, £6; six tealights, £12). “We’re lucky,” says Chrissie, “in still being entirely family-owned, so I can do the low-margin quirky things that make our collection special.” But look out, too, for some wonderful items of clothing – long-line cardigans (from £115), layering pieces and lots of pilates and yoga wear (from £20). This may not sound like stop-the-front-page stuff, but it’s a great source for little things with dollops of charm.