lifestyle store | britain's largest collection of rare fragrances | mrs white's home & body care
Today marks the second anniversary of the untimely death of the the founder of this store, and my partner, Lawrence Roullier White, so I thought that it would be appropriate to celebrate the creativity, vision and humour that still defines the business today. Lawrence was incredibly talented and guided the retail offers of some of the UK's more venerable institutions including The Royal Academy and The Natural History Museum.
Roullier White embodies everything that he learned over his career including his passion for discovering and supporting new talent, and is also the expression of his own considerable creative juices. He was passionate about independent retail and customer service, ensuring that every product on our shelves was the best of its kind in some shape or form and that, whenever he could, they would also make the world a better place. His humour too was legendary and so I would like to open with his collection of greeting cards, entitled 'Roaring Twenties', that never fail to make me chuckle. My favourites are 'Violet' with its witty yet astute social observation (I have a sneaking admiration for precocious children) and the wonderfully camp 'Clara' who is just about to disgrace herself! The entire range was conceived and written by Lawrence - his intelligence and wit at their finest - and is exclusive to RW. Guaranteed to make you giggle, do check them out if you would like to begin your day with a smile!
The Mrs White's collection started life in an old recipe book that Lawrence inherited from his eponymous great-grandmother. In the 1920's many people made their own cleaning products from natural ingredients found in their gardens or the pantry and fortunately great-grannie had kept records of all of her formula. We have always used natural products as the list of dangerous carcinogens in generic brands is truly terrifying (we even found formaldehyde in some!) and so discovering the recipe book seemed like kismet!
We tested them and they worked wonderfully well and so found a lovely company in the English countryside to make them by hand for us. Lawrence was immensely proud of the collection and we get letters from people all over the world praising their efficacy. The names, once again, reflect the irreverent humour for which Mr W was renowned - I think 'Marbellous', the 'At Your Convenience' loo cleaner and 'Storm In A Teacup' washing up liquid are my personal favourites!
We shared a passion for perfume and Lawrence unearthed some wonderful, historic treasures. 'Farina 1709' is the original Eau De Cologne created in the eighteenth century and still produced by the same family. There is a Museum dedicated to it in its home city and the cologne remains one of the finest examples of its kind. This is exclusive to Roullier White in the UK and a slice of olfactory history.
The monks of Caldey Island, off the coast of Wales, make an outstanding Lavender fragrance that will hold its own against the finest France has to offer. I have no idea just how Lawrence discovered this masterpiece but it exemplifies his ability to find previously unlauded gems and shine a spotlight on them. 'Caldey Island Lavender' proves that great quality fragrance can still be made at a reasonable price.
Rigaud, the grand dame of scented candles, was his personal favourite and he burned the opulent 'Chypre' scent at home. The secret, soft-wax formula means that the entire surface turns to liquid immediately the candle is lit and therefore burns perfectly evening ensuring no waste and that the candle remains beautiful at all times. This fragrance was created by Madame Rigaud in the 1950's to fragrance the air of her luxury boutique on the Champs Elysees and later used by Jackie Kennedy to scent the White House in 1960 - frankly it has never been bettered.
Often it was the simplest of concepts that made him ecstatically happy - I remember when he discovered 'True Blues' - the incredible household gloves from the US. Pre-moulded so that they can slipped on with one hand (unlike traditional rubber gloves that demand a surgeon's dexterity to get them on!) and lined in cotton so one's hand's don't perspire or smell gross after you have used them. The are also thick enough to protect from very hot water and can be thrown into the dishwasher. "Why has nobody thought of this before - these are genius"! Only Lawrence could get that excited by a cleaning accessory.
"Did you know that sheep shearer's have the softest hands in the world?" is not a sentence that I ever expected to be asked one Sunday afternoon and I feared the punchline! However Lawrence was alluding to the fact that the lanolin in a sheep's fleece makes the hands of those clipping the wool and those sorting it as smooth as the proverbial baby's bottom. Mitchell's Wool Fat Soap uses the lanolin washed from the wool before it is spun and is still made in Yorkshire to the original recipe from the 1930's.
A simple, natural product and I have found it to be particularly good for those with sensitive skins. This is one of those wonderful, old, British brands that Lawrence loved - steeped in history, they make one exceptional product and remain devoted to it, confident that excellence will attract customers generation after generation.
We all miss the enthusiasm, talent, keen eye, kindness and laughter that brought the business to life, however, while the world may be a darker place without him, Lawrence set the bar very high and each day we strive to live up to his legacy and do justice to the store that bears his name.