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Cath Kidston's Vintage Design Success

Updated on June 3, 2015
Roses from a Cath Kidston bag
Roses from a Cath Kidston bag | Source

The Cath Kidston Story

To my mind you know you've arrived when you're asked to go on that long running and much beloved BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs and it was here that I first heard the Cath Kidston story.

One theme that runs though Cath Kidston's designs, her business and her own account of her life is cheerfulness and as if to illustrate this the disc she chose to take to her desert island was Always look on the bright side of life.

My good friend and provider of many of the objects featured in my articles, Sue, happened to have these fun mugs and pretty bag. I must be one of the few not to have any Cath Kidston items, but I'm going to remedy that as soon as I can.

Friend's new Cath Kidston bag with spots and flowers

Lovely bag with sopts and flowers
Lovely bag with sopts and flowers | Source
Cath Kidston spotted mug
Cath Kidston spotted mug | Source
Spotted mugs and rose pattern bag
Spotted mugs and rose pattern bag | Source
The Cath Kidston mark
The Cath Kidston mark | Source

Who is Cath Kidston?

Born 6 11 1958 in London and brought up on borders of Wiltshire and Hampshire, she enjoyed a privileged home with a nanny and pony. She didn’t go to school until 8 and was instead educated at home by a governess. As a child she loved to shop, to buy anything, and played shop and played at home-making. As an adult she enjoys hand sewing.

But life was not all sweet. Her father, whose family ran Clyde shipping business, died from a brain tumour when he was aged 50 when Cath was only 19, and her brothers were 11 and 14. Cath’s mother began taking in guests and cooking and selling the food in the local markets.

She met her partner, Hugh Padgham, a British record producer, when she re-designed the interior of his house for him. Later on she had the pleasure of moving into that very house.

Disaster struck again when Cath was in her mid-thirties and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately it was caught early but she was advised not to have children. Although she has a stepdaughter to whom she is very close, she tells Kirsty Young how she has filled the gap by nurturing her business.

Is Cath Kidstone the New Laura Ashley?

When I was leaving home to go to University, Laura Ashley was all around us, and I think it safe to say that most women could be divided into followers of Laura Ashley or Punk. Cath Kidstone could be seen as the New Laura Ashley.

Cath Kidston Ltd was founded in 1993 when Cath opened a tiny shop in London's Holland Park and today, 2011, it’s a business with an annual turnover of 50 million pounds. You can buy English Rose peg bags all over the world and the company employs over 650 members of staff.

She had done her apprenticeship, as it were, in the field of interior design by working for Nicky Haslam (1984-87) doing everything from walking his pekingesedogs to finding fabrics. She met many famous people and even measured up Ava Gardener’s blue and white chintz curtains.

After leaving Nikki she had idea for shop full of vintage (junk); Curtainalia & Interior Design store 1987-92. She found the bits and pieces in car boot sales and then did them up for re-sale. One of her best buys was when she bought a pair of leather armchairs bought for £50 and promptly re-sold them for £1000. Even today she tells us that she can’t resist a car boot sale.

When asked at point she felt that she went from a hand made concern to a global business she replied that it was when she opened her 2nd shop, feeling that she had overstepped the mark. Today she has 40 shops in the UK and another 10 abroad. She was awarded an MBE for services to business in 2010.

What is the appeal of Cath Kidston designs? Is it that she takes us back to a time when things were simpler? Cath tells us that customers say the designs “cheers them up.” Well, if that is the case, I think Cath has a very rosy future!

Cath Kidston Table Cloths In France

Don't these two table cloths liven up this outside dining space? A shady arbour near Videix in S W France complete with grape vines and an old barn door.
Don't these two table cloths liven up this outside dining space? A shady arbour near Videix in S W France complete with grape vines and an old barn door. | Source

Cath Kidston's Desert Island Discs

  • Little Red Rooster by the Rolling Stones
  • Cheek to Cheek by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald
  • Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed
  • In the air tonight by Phil Collins
  • Can’t let go by Lucinda Williams
  • Lets get it on by Marvin Gaye
  • Always look on the bright side of life by Monty Python
  • Be your baby tonight by Bob Dylan

Cath's Luxury is a hot water bottle to keep her warm at night. Her book choice to take, along with the bible is Larousse Dictionary so that she can while away her time learning French. Her desert island disc to keep her company is the cheerful Always look on the bright side of life by Monty Python.

Books and Publications

Vintage Style (1999), Tips for Vintage Style (2004), Cath Kidston In Print (2005)

What do you think about Cath Kidston Designs

Isthe Cath Kidston look for you?

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    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      5 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      That is the beauty of Amazon! I live in the back-of-beyond in rural South West France and so thank goodness for the internet and Amazon.

    • profile image

      Judith Cavanaugh 

      5 years ago

      I WISH CATH KIDSTON HAD STORES IN THE UNITED STATES! (Such as near me in Michigan!)

    • acliff profile image


      7 years ago from New York City

      I love vintage stuff, and had never heard of her before. Great post!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Les Trois Chênes, What a fascinating, informative, useful summary of the life and works of Cath Kidston! In particular, I like the background to her present successes. Additionally, I like the samples of her work and also how this all relates to you.

      Thank you for sharing, especially your lovely photos, etc.,


    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      7 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      I hadn't heard of her until recently either moonlake, but I expect I've been seeing her work all around me for years. It's fun, isn't it?

    • moonlake profile image


      7 years ago from America

      This all sounds great. I didn't know who Cath Kidston was until this hub. My kind of stuff.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      8 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Many thanks for dropping by Milly. Perhaps we should just buy our own junk and paint it up for nothing?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello! I absolutely adore Cath Kidston things! There are so many Cath Kidton items that I want, but they are so expensive...

    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      8 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Lucky you! Any time you need a pair of rosy wellies, they'll be on hand. Not only can you breeze in and say you know who she is, you can also say what her favourite tunes are.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi, Oh my goodness! her shop has just opened in my town! lol well, it has been there for about a year now, and I have often browsed in it! well I never! now I know where she came from and how she started! thanks for the great info, I can wander around in there from now on and tell everybody that I know who she is! cheers nell


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