For an Irish cotton firm, home is where the business is
Four women have developed a thriving Fairtrade business out of their Wicklow house
Rebecca, Danielle and Sari Winckworth at home and work in Rathmichael. Photograph: Eric Luke
A family of women, the Winckworths have spent years earning fame and cutting their teeth in separate industries, only to find themselves all coming together again to create an organic, Fairtrade, Irish cotton company called White & Green.
Mother Sari has built a successful interiors-related consultancy. Eldest daughter Rebecca is a singer and musician who has released Billboard-topping albums and toured the world as a soloist with shows such as Celtic Woman, Ragús, Celtic Nights and Anúna. Danielle, the baby, took to the catwalks at 15 and was signed by agencies Ford and Storm. She has fronted campaigns for brands such as Swarovski, L’Oreal and DKNY. Andrea, meanwhile, has worked in event management and PR in New York.
At a dinner party in their Wicklow home a few years ago, Sari complained about the lack of fine chemical-free bed sheets in the market. The idea of White & Green was born. Combining heir skills and knowledge, the girls set off to India to find Fairtrade farmers to help them realise their vision.
Two years on, White & Green does a brisk online trade in bed linen and scarves. The collections will be launched internationally next year. In the pipeline are organic mattresses and a clothing range.
The women currently all live in Rathmichael, Co Wicklow with their beloved dogs. Home is currently doubling up as headquarters for the business as the Winckworths figure out how revolutionise the international cotton industry.
Do you all share the same interiors style?
Rebecca: “Surprisingly yes. Given we all have a very different taste, we do gravitate toward the same type of interiors, which is pretty much mom’s style – classic and comfortable.”
Sari: “I’m all about soft, muted colours, inviting furniture and a strong sense of the homeowner’s personality. I love lots of antiques in the mix, especially anything oak for its depth and warmth. I hate walking into these beige palaces or gray mausoleums – they may look great in a magazine shoot, but are totally devoid of character.”
What’s your favourite space in the house?
Danielle: “The piano is the epicentre of our home. We’ve all gathered around it since as far back as I can remember.”
Sari: “The girls were always singing and dancing when they were little, performing for guests and each other. We have a harp, guitars and other instruments too that come out on rowdier occasions. My mother, Louise Studley, was one of Ireland’s leading ladies on stage, and my grandma, Eileen Studley, even made it to Hollywood and started in movies.” Among them was Captain Lightfoot, opposite Rock Hudson. “So music and performance is a major part of our family spirit.”
Do you collect anything?
Danielle: “Growing up in Wicklow, we were always horseriding and hanging around stables, so the equine theme is pretty obvious in the house. There are paintings, statues and horse-related bits everywhere, and there’s lots of elephant figurines and art too. Although, obviously, there were none of them out in the back fields.”
Sari: “I’ve recently discovered bridge and have to admit I’m obsessed. So I’ve started collecting sculptures of decks of cards and anything that has a playing card theme. It’s all rather Alice in Wonderland, but I’m rolling with it.”
How do you all find working at home?
Rebecca: “Fortunately, we’re not all here at the same time. One of us could be in the shop, another at a trade show, and Andrea is in college by day, so she works different hours to us. But as it’s our business HQ, we’ve hijacked the room with the biggest windows and best views into the garden and set up shop here. The fire is nearly always on, and the dogs snuggle at our feet while we work away.
“We’ve all done our time in grim offices, so as work spaces go, ours is pretty Zen.”
What would you save in a fire?
Rebecca: “My music sheets and books; I’ve boxes of them. Some are over 100 years old – with songs and melodies that you’d never find anywhere today. Some belonged to Granny and my great-grandmother. Others I’ve picked up while singing with shows around the world. They’re probably not worth much on an open market, but are of huge value to me.”
Any interior turn-offs?
Sari: “Synthetic fabrics, be it cushions, curtains or throws. They may be fine to look at, but the minute you sit or snuggle up in them they just feel so artificial. And don’t get me started on polyester sheets and lumpy mattresses. There is nothing worse than been a guest in an itchy, uncomfortable bed.
“As the phrase goes: you spend two-thirds of your life on your feet and the rest in bed. So invest in good shoes, a decent mattress and nice bed linen, and all will be well.”
If you had €100,000 to spend on the house, what would you do?
Rebecca: “I’d love to build a little showroom and visitor centre in the garden, like the original Avoca destination. I’d love people to come and view the collection, but also enjoy the gorgeous green surroundings, have some organic grub and soak up nature at its finest.”