Have you always been passionate about Interior Design?
Yes, from a very young age! – My Mother, Sheelagh and her sister, Patsy, were not design professionals, but they really should have been. They both had a natural, innate sense of style and creative, yet practical eye. Their homes were always beautiful and elegant and different to everyone else we knew. People used to love coming to their homes for parties so they could admire their fabulous interiors, well that, and the fact that we are an Irish family, so we really know how to entertain!
They favoured the old school, traditional, country house style with a mix of antiques, gilded mirrors and stunning soft furnishings from the likes of Colefax & Fowler. They were not minimal or contemporary in any way. Nor were they greige! It was colour all the way! Although Patsy often comments that I much braver with colour than they ever were. They also loved Fashion as much as interiors and their amazing creativity was always reflected through their gorgeous clothes and accessories. To be honest they were just fabulous in every way, they are even amazing cooks! I guess you could say that my sister Katie and I were thoroughly indoctrinated in the best way possible and that our passion for Interiors, fashion, the arts and food is a result of so many hours spent with Mama & Aunty Patsy as young girls.
What inspired you to create your own business?
Quite simply, because of demand for my services. People saw my own home (we designed and built it ourselves) and asked would I help them with theirs. I Did a few trial projects free of charge for friends and business acquaintances of my husband which lead to their friends and business associates wanting to hire me. This is when I set up the business and the rest as they say, is history.
Who inspires you?
Many people inspire me. There are far too many to list today. I’m particularly inspired by strong and dignified people such as Her Majesty the Queen. What an amazing woman she is in every sense of the word. I have great respect and admiration for our beautiful Monarch, long may she reign. I’m inspired by Diana Verde Nieto, CEO of Positive Luxury and her determined and unwavering desire to convert the Luxury brands of the world to sustainable business practices. Jesus, who suffered the horrors of crucifixion to save us all and give us salvation.
Aid workers and those whom devote their lives to helping others who are suffering, with little or no reward and at risk to their own personal safety. From a creative perspective, I’m inspired by Incredible designers from all genres, such as Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Carolina Herrera, Hermes and Dior if it’s Haute Couture fashion. If were talking art, I love the pre-Raphaelites and great masters and contemporary work such as Roger Colson. Architecture and antiques, the Rococo and Georgian eras win hands down from me. Interiors style there are far too many people to mention I’m afraid, however I do think that the new Annabel’s in Mayfair, London, designed by the brilliant Martin Brudzinski is a design triumph!
Do you have a signature design style?
Well I was described by one magazine as ‘Baroque & Roll’ which I took as a great compliment and I think pretty much sums me up! I have the ability to successfully use bold, clashing colours and successfully combine and balance the mix of traditional and contemporary design within a scheme or product, which is not something one can learn from a text book. It’s either part of your inner being, or it isn’t.
Talk us through the inspiration behind designing crystalware?
I have no formal training in design for interior schemes or products and I think this has always been a great advantage in my favour, as my creative vision has not been constrained by the rules of how things should be done in a text book kind of way, something which in my case would be very bad for creativity flow. For me there is never a ‘No it can’t be done’ in anything I undertake, only a ‘well there must be a way to do this’. Tradesmen and artisans alike, run for cover when they see me coming, because what I am proposing may not be the normal order of doing things, which is no bad thing, but it requires a little more effort on their part, which never makes you popular. However, I usually manage to get everyone on side with my vision and it always works out just fine.
When it comes to designing crystalware, a lot of my designs are inspired by Antique pieces that I will modernise, or a product could be designed from a handful of elements from several different pieces. Each product is then designed with a contemporary eye, in terms of reworking it’s look, or it’s use for this century and as well as offering the piece in clear crystal also offer it in a rainbow of colours. The pieces are designed to be elegant and timeless, to be sought after treasures for the users of today but also to become the antiques of tomorrow to be handed down to your grandchildren. Again, each piece is designed with longevity in mind to also meet our sustainable code of practice.
Due to my rural upbringing in Cheshire I am passionate about the countryside and the protection of it. Nature is my greatest inspiration and you will find that flowers, birds nature have a great influence on my design style.
You have collaborated with different brands, what has been your favourite project so far and why?
I have enjoyed all our collaborations to date and there have been many of the last few years, but Ciner New York, is top of the list. I was a costume jewellery designer for many years before I fell into interior and product design so this collaboration is taking me back to some old skill sets and I have loved every minute of the design and production process and the time spent in Manhattan with the Ciner team and their wonderful atelier of amazing, skilled artisans. The Business is 127 years old and the possibilities are endless. The other lovely thing about it is that everything is made by hand using traditional techniques, tools and processes. Our debut collections ‘Maltese Cross’ and ‘Corali’ launch this month (July) and I am already beyond excited about what’s going to be coming next!
In your opinion, do design elements such as candles, crystalware and other homeware help complete an interior design scheme, if so how?
Absolutely!! 100% – without them your scheme is quite frankly dead or devoid of any personality. If you imagine dressing yourself to go out. You take to shower, style your hair, put on your makeup and pre-pare your outfit. Every element of the process is an important one because you want to look gorgeous and a perfect as you can when you step out of the front door. You would not go to all that effort and go out without accessorising, would you? You would ensure that your bag and shoes coordinated with or complemented your dress, you would add earrings, a necklace, a bracelet, maybe a jacket or a shawl, possibly a hat or some sunglasses.
In the same way, would you live in a room with painted walls a TV and a sofa? You would have your walls dressed with paintings & prints, you would also hang mirrors as not only do they provide a lovely feature or decoration for your walls they also reflect light around a room and can also make a room feel much bigger than it is. Rugs, throws and cushions to soften the space and table lamps to provide a cosier level of lighting to the main overhead lights as well as becoming a beautiful accessory on your side tables. So, think of this stage as your showering, hair styling and getting dressed stage. The finishing touches, the accessorising, comes with the addition of candles (great for adding subtle fragrance to the room as well as creating a feeling of warmth and ambience), crystalware (again a good light reflector and of great ornamental value as well as being practical if servicing your drinks cabinet or trolley for that early evening G&T), coffee table books, ornaments and flowers, these items are like the accessories you wear that make your outfit. They transform your outfit from something ordinary to something knockout. The same applies to your home.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
Trying to change my mindset from a creative and a designer, to learning how to run on on-line retail business. Understanding how best to do it really, taking lots of advice and being prepared to try absolutely everything and if something doesn’t work being able to think in your feet, fast, to turn a situation around and change direction. It’s been a valuable learning curve and one I hope I am getting better at!
How important is sustainability to you and how do you ensure that your products promote this?
It’s of incredible importance to me personally and as a brand. We reduce our carbon footprint by being a made to order service, so we only produce any of our products on demand whether it’s a pair of earrings, a teapot or a crystal champagne cooler. All of our crystal in Lead free, which is not only a benefit for the environment, but also for you. Drinking from crystal with lead in it is not good for you long-term. We specifically work with small groups of skilled artisanal producers not just for the product quality reasons but so that at the same time, we have more control over the processes from an environmental perspective. All our Rachel Bates packaging is made from recycled paper and cardboard. We do not use plastic. We successfully become a ‘Positive Luxury’ Brand to Trust over 3 years ago, because of the above and more.
If you could collaborate with any brand in the world who would it be and why?
Dolce & Gabbana! I mean, just imagine what the three of us could create together!
What are the plans and goals for the future?
To accelerate and grow the Rachel Bates Brand particularly in the USA (our best on-line customers since launch in November 2015 to date) and greater awareness of our on-line store, rachelbates.com Continue to produce gorgeous luxury items that will make my customers hearts sing, just as they do mine, every time they use them or look at them. To always operate in a sustainable and philanthropic way, helping to protect the planet and ensuring that all our producers treat their employees and artisans well and fairly. Oh, and to try and get that collaboration with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana!
Originally starting as an interior designer, Rachel Bates became renowned in the industry for her bold colours and signature style. After years of creating and curating collections, Rachel decided to open her online store to share these luxuries with everyone.
Today, the Rachel Bates brand has been featured in publications such as Financial Times, Homes & Antiques and The Times for her signature designs and partnerships with the likes of Laurent-Perrier and Ormonde Jayne.
Working with artisans around the world, Rachel is committed to creating products that promote sustainability. To reduce waste all her products are made-to-order and of the highest quality to ensure they remain durable.