Rachel Ashwell grew up in London, the child of an antique book dealer and a doll maker. She fell in love with fleamarkets at an early age and from her parents, learned the art of buying and selling.
Still a teenager, she moved to Hollywood as a stylist for television where she met her husband. When the couple parted ways, she found herself a single mom with two children who she preferred to keep with her on the job.
When her simple slipcovers (which were custom made for simplicity sake) were coveted by her friends, she realized there was a void in the market. Shabby chic was born, and she filled her first Santa Monica shop with fleamarket furniture with slipcovers in August of 1989.
More stores followed, and her business boomed. For a season. Bankruptcy and store closings were a sad chapter in her career, but Rachel was able to pivot and keeps the brand alive and evolving in her own signature, simple, beautiful way.
Autographed copies of Rachel’s new book MY FLORAL AFFAIR are now available!
Don’t miss these either! Shabby Chic, Rachel Ashwell The World of Shabby Chic, Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic Treasure Hunting and Decorating Guide, and The Shabby Chic Home.
Tracing my fondness and deep admiration for Rachel’s empire requires time travel to the early 90’s when life centered around babies, nesting, and a relentless love of vintage.
Yaaaaa, I know what you’re thinking…get to it, mama! What is she like anyway? A wee crumb pour vous: for starters, she is intelligent, deeply sensitive, eloquent, unhurried, and introspective.
Wanna peel back the onion a bit with glimpses of Rachel Ashwell’s philosophies, inspirations, and humility? Even more glimpses from a previous interview with her here.
We first discussed her endorsement of “looking in the other direction” whether it be
shopping at the fleamarket, stretching as an artist, or on a journey of
I find it fascinating Rachel is such a keen editor of lovely yet continues to stumble upon unlikely, yet consistent additions by gazing in the other direction.
If you are a part of the Shabby Chic® brethren, you know Rachel’s mantra:
beauty comfort and function.
Other meaningful terms for her? Heirloom quality (“Keep away from mediocrity,” she reminds), faith, art, freedom, whimsy, substance, mindfulness, purpose.
I asked about the brand’s timelessness and whether she finds relief in not having to re-invent each season. She reminded me that in 2014, the brand celebrates its 25th birthday!
Wow. How can that be? She spoke with passion about “continuation, rather than reinvention”
and how she joyfully anticipates a whole new generation of Shabby Chic® admirers who will embrace and interpret for themselves the non-fussy style of Shabby Chic®
In terms of the hallmarks of the brand, she says “25 years ago or tomorrow, they all fit seamlessly…in my heart, I walk my talk.”
Rachel’s Shabby Chic Couture® stores have the same playlist of music pumping,
and I was curious why country music appeals.
She explained she loves the poetry and storytelling of the genre, just as she appreciates opera.
She favors nostalgic country artists such as Johnny Cash, George Straight, and Patsy Kline,
and recently in NY was fortunate enough to attend a private concert by Willy Nelson.
Rachel Ashwell Couture Prairie: And Flea Market Treasures is Rachel’s property book about her small hotel in Round Top, Texas, and TEXAS is very dear to her heart.
She is inspired by “The tapestry of Texas living.”and contrasts it with other places she calls home…for example, the “wide open, easy living” of California living where “the climate plays a key role” or “the academic culture in the UK which was a bit tragic; a bit dark.”
Texas has stolen her heart with its colorful community, spirit of gratitude, and its southern hospitality.
You can’t miss the spirit of humility in her creative endeavors and personal life, and I wanted to know more about its roots. As I suspected, Rachel’s love of the ocean
and nature is in part linked to her faith.
She spoke about “the methodical rhythm of the ocean” and her belief “I am not alone.”
In Cali, she can be found trekking 6 miles a day along the beach, offering prayers of gratitude
“for music, for the land,…”.
Since I love Shabby Chic Couture’s line of aprons, I asked what they mean to her. “I have this thing about washing dishes.” Ha! Me too. Again, a humble chore. We chatted about how aprons are a nod to the past and speak of an unhurried life, a love of home, and unplugging.
Highlights of creating Rachel Ashwell Couture Prairie: And Flea Market Treasures? “The prairie came at a time when I lost my mother and was experiencing hard times. Where was I going to end up? I felt this need to put a stake in the ground.”
In essence, it was the prairie, a series of 7 or 8 structures at first presenting as “kind of dark” which would save her. At her new very un-Hollywood property,“Emotionally, physically, and philosophically, the light was on me again…it was a soulful feeling.”
Clearly, The Prairie has nurtured Rachel well, and the book in turn, pays it forward.
I doooooo have a deeper understanding for endurance with the year I have experienced.
Ready to get your copy of Rachel Ashwell Couture Prairie: And Flea Market Treasures?
Thank you so much, Rachel, for sharing thoughtfulness with Hello Lovely once more…if we spoke Texan, we’d call you a Darlin-Lovey-Lambchop, and I bet you’d like it. Probably.
*photos: Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture®
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Peace to you right where you are.
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