Rachel Ashwell's new book.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so the old saying goes. But while there may be many who strive to achieve the same look, no one does it better than the original Shabby Chic designer herself, Rachel Ashwell.
I read several months ago that her business had fallen on hard times: A badly-timed expansion that came just as the bottom was falling out of the economy forced her to declare bankruptcy and close her retail stores. Her Simply Shabby Chic line at Target, however, was unaffected, so many may not have known of the trouble, since that seems to be her widest outlet. When I read on her blog - which is lovely, by the way - that she was writing a new book (her first in several years), I wasn't sure what to expect. There have been so many people who have played on the Shabby Chic name and brand, I wondered if there was anything really left to say. Or show.
Curiosity got the better of me, though, and I ordered her book - "Shabby Chic Interiors" - from Amazon. It arrived about a week ago and as soon as I got it out of the box, I knew I was in for a treat. It was bigger than I was expecting, and of course I was instantly in love with the pink couch on the front (shocking, huh?). Reading through the book, I was reminded why often the original is indeed better than the imitators. Rachel Ashwell has an ability to see beauty other people miss - and the ability to convey that beauty in her decorating. It's an innate sense, honed I'm sure by years of flexing that muscle. Her new book is wonderful - the look is still hers, but it has evolved. Beauty spills from every page.
Maybe proving the point that an original is often a hard act to beat, even when down, I came across this recent article in the New York Times about the quick rebirth of Ashwell's company. Oddly enough, the same recession that helped end her business as it was may provide her salvation. In tough times, people tend to turn back to simpler ways, back to making due with less, back to seeking out beauty as a way to soothe their soul. And so, her company has been reborn, with a new partner and some modifications. It seems Ashwell's slightly rumpled, light and comfortable form of beauty is back in vogue. If you get a chance, check out her new book and see for yourself.