The White Company: It’s not just bedlinen and candles
Fashion: The brand’s winter collection focuses on supersoft cashmeres,sheepskins, woollen and jersey clothing
Silk shirts €111, wide leg pleat front trousers €128, longline double breasted coat €350, suede slip on trainers €103
When The White Company opened its flagship store in Dublin’s Grafton Street a few months ago, many who associated the UK brand with bedlinen and candles were surprised to find that it also encompasses furniture, clothing and accessories for women and children. Founded as a mail order catalogue business by journalist Chrissie Rucker in 1994 selling quality bed linen to discerning and houseproud young urbanites, it has become a UK success story growing online with 75 stores including two in the US.
The Dublin building dating back to 1910 was designed by a brother of the painter William Orpen and is a considered an architectural gem. The new interior with its white goods highlights its plasterwork and beautiful vaulted ceiling.
Though Rucker still signs off on everything, it is Barbara Horspool, clothing director since 2014, who takes responsibility for keeping the clothing stylish, affordable and in keeping with the company’s “pure and peaceful” aesthetic. The winter collection, arriving in early September, focuses on supersoft cashmeres and sheepskins, woollen and jersey clothing. “We are using the finest cashmere anywhere so soft that you won’t want to take it off. We are a very tactile brand and we have gone for textures that are very light, very soft in oversize knits,” says Horspool who came to the company with over 30 years’ industry experience working for M&S, Esprit and Jigsaw amongst others.
The colour palette of the White Company is defined by neutrals, black, white and grey extending to clothing, homewares and the interior decor. So how do you dress only in neutrals? “We do introduce some colour,” admits Horspool, “but if you use neutrals like black, white or grey as starting points, you can put your personality onto whatever else you add - jewellery or colour accents.”
New shades introduced that are “quiet and restrained” like pale blue or pink, taupe, navy and khaki “are loved by customers,” she says. “And they work as long as there is no visual disturbance when you put something on because the essence of the brand is calm. Neutrals are best selling colours”. She does admit, however, that “every woman should wear a bright red dress once in their life or something that makes you smile”.
Winter sheepskin and leather offerings include black leather jackets – “a very big fashion trend for winter” and boxy fake fur jackets “to give you a warm, soft look and an easy way to do the same as the more expensive sheepskin coats – in soft grey, pink or winter white – which you can wear all winter to get your money’s worth,” she says. It may just be a coincidence that Horspool’s first and very successful effort after graduation at her own clothing line of simple white shirts was called “Blanche” and now she is working for a White Company, but as she explains, the name was taken from “a fallen woman – Blanche DuBois” in Tennessee Williams’ famous play A Streetcar Named Desire.