Coming up Roses: The Story of Growing a Business
By Cath Kidston with Sue Chidler · Reviewed by Katy McRae
Cath Kidston is famously quoted as saying her shops provoke a ‘Marmite reaction’ – “People either love it and want a little bit of it very much, or want to stab us.” Regardless of whether or not her aesthetic makes you homicidal, you have to admire the woman for pretty much single-handedly leading the whole modern vintage trend. Describe something as ‘very Cath Kidston’ and chances are everyone around you will understand what you’re talking about – her particular style of rose-and-polka-dot hell has grown into a global brand with a cult-like following.
Coming up Roses: The Story of Growing a Business is the official business biography of Cath Kidston. As the company celebrates its 20th anniversary, Cath shares the story of how her idea for modern vintage came about, how the business was born and how things have grown from her first shop in Clarendon Cross to the multi-million dollar global business that it is today. It is an interesting insight into the woman, her motivations and inspirations.
Given her penchant for roses, it is something of a relief to discover that Cath doesn’t take a rose-tinted view of her company’s history. She narrates her story in a way that is genuinely engaging, and refreshingly honest. It hasn’t all been plain sailing and she has made mistakes. The early years were hard slog and, even once she was established, she still had ‘growing pains’ (which is the name of a whole chapter and the reason why you don’t see Cath Kidston in the US).
Fascinating fact (or at least I find it fascinating) – the Cath Kidston company has never advertised. They do catalogues, but not ads, which makes their brand awareness all the more impressive.
Another fascinating fact – Cath’s first prints were based on old, out-of-copyright designs that she tweaked. That seems a bit uninspired . . . until you remember that Cath did it first. Before vintage was cool. She recognised the appeal of the old designs and had the vision to give them a fresh, contemporary twist. She also had the balls to do patterns when patterns weren’t fashionable and she just bided her time until consumers caught up.
Coming up Roses is a really easy and engaging read, helped by the fact that the text is quite big and there are plenty of full-page pictures. The narrative can be slightly choppy – you have to make a conscious effort to keep track of the speech marks, else you can end up a little confused about why Cath is suddenly referring to herself in the third person. However, if you are at all interested in how this powerhouse of all things rose-printed and spotty came to be, then this is the book for you.
Katy McRae likes formica tables, sharp scissors, fabric (especially felt), strong-smelling solvents and words. She also likes to make stuff. She’s not a fan of the colours peppermint and royal blue.