NEW YORK — Sometimes dubbed a British Martha Stewart, Chrissie Rucker — with her own home goods empire and cultish following — has brought her monochrome aesthetic to Fifth Avenue.
She is opening The White Company stores in the United States (another store is slated to open in November in Short Hills, New Jersey) after the success of a U.S.-focused online store. She offers clothes, home decor and other items mostly in shades of white.
"What started out as a mail order enterprise in my boyfriend's bedroom over 20 years ago now encompasses over 50 U.K. stores and a flagship store on U.S. soil," Rucker says. She credits simple, high-quality products "and staying true to this timeless and versatile color."
Does Rucker, one of Britain's wealthiest self-made businesswomen, ever tire of shades of white, beige and ivory?
Excerpts from her interview with The Associated Press, lightly edited for length and clarity:
AP: How and when did you happen upon white for home decor, clothing and other goods, and why has that one color translated into so much?
Rucker: Back in 1993, in an attempt to impress my boyfriend (now husband) of my potential marital qualities, I set about the task of transforming his new home. My choice in color initially stemmed from a lack of confidence — I knew I wanted to emulate simplicity and quality, and decided white had to be the best way to achieve this.
AP: What's special about home goods and clothes in white?
Rucker: No matter who you are, where you live or whatever your style, there is a place in everyone's life for white. The beauty of this simple color is that it works with anything you already own.
AP: How did you get the idea for The White Company?
Rucker: It turned out that sourcing white towels, white bed linen, white china and white napkins was harder than I had anticipated. At one end, the homewares seemed cheaply manufactured and of poor quality, whilst at the higher end, offerings were completely unaffordable and the shopping experience simply unenjoyable. ... My mission with The White Company was to offer first-class designer quality, but at affordable, high-street prices.
AP: Please describe the aesthetic in your stores?
Rucker: Simplicity and elegance amidst a cloud of calming aromas.
AP: Why the U.S.? What makes The White Company different from other American retailers?
Rucker: The great thing about having already set up a U.S. website is that we have all our customer data, and therefore we already know where our customers are. There are lots of similarities in buying patterns between Londoners and New Yorkers, so we were pretty sure it was the right time to launch our first store in the United States. It also helps that I can leverage (the experience of) my husband, Nick Wheeler, who also took his British company, Charles Tyrwhitt, to the U.S. I have some inside tips!
AP: Will product lines sold in the United States differ from those in Britain?
Rucker: Our 155 candles are exclusive to the U.S. market. The store also has U.S.-specific sizes of bed linen.
AP: Some have compared you to Martha Stewart. What do you think?
Rucker: We have both nurtured businesses out of a passion for the home and living environment. ... For me, The White Company's evolution has mirrored my own life events — pretty yet comfortable nightdresses while I was pregnant translated into a sleepwear line, the birth of my first child translated into the launch of The Little White Company. ... Precious moments of uncomplicated happiness are our constant inspiration, and we really aim to sell a lifestyle, not simply a product.
AP: Aren't you ever tempted to stray from whites, ivories and beiges?
Rucker: No, never. Contrary to our name though, we do also sell shades of navy, gray, ivory and the occasional black — especially across our clothing range. We are not exclusively white, but it's the spirit and core of the company. There was an ill-judged experiment with color a few years ago — an aubergine velvet bedcover comes painfully to mind — but we quickly brought the company back to neutral. We now have very strict color rules and have regular meetings to ensure none of our items' colors are off-brand.