Hi Catherine, how would you describe your business, in a nutshell?
Hello, I’m Kitty McCall and I’m trapped in a nutshell! Sorry – that was a Wayne’s World joke for my husband. Kitty McCall is a homeware and lifestyle brand with a focus on joy from colour.
How did Kitty McCall come to be?
I decided to start my own company because I wanted more control over how my designs were used. I wanted to create well designed and well made pieces that evoke a feeling of joy and beauty in any home.
What’s behind the brand’s name?
It’s named after my grandma – also a Catherine.
How did your career begin?
I started my career working for a commercial studio in London, designing prints for both fashion and interiors.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
I learnt early on to never stop absorbing ideas and to always take a moment to take in the world around me. It’s amazing what inspiration you can miss when you’re not paying attention to the everyday. Having an interest in all areas of design also helps to keep the mind and ideas fresh.
How did you first discover your love for what you do?
My interest has always been with me from an early age, but it was through my art foundation year and BA in textile design that I was truly able to explore all areas of art and design. I specialised in printed textiles and loved the versatility of it. I haven’t looked back since.
What are the values underpinning your business?
Kitty McCall’s ultimate purpose is to create products that delight our customer and build loyalty. We do this by delivering a more personalised and unique experience that is authentic and inspiring.
What sort of space do you work in?
Our studio is above our retail store in Folkestone, and we are a short walk from the sea so the fresh air can be a great help when inspiration is dwindling.
Tell us about your business’s location and community…
We are really fortunate to be based in The Creative Quarter in Folkestone. Our shop and studio is in the Old High Street which means we get to meet both locals and tourists regularly and also see the area grow and thrive with so many other creative people and businesses close by.
Is there an element of your work that you love the most?
Creating designs, and coming up with new ideas and then seeing them through to reality is very rewarding.
How valuable is the online community to your work?
It has really helped us to grow in the UK and internationally. Recently, we saw our Milton & King wallpaper in the New York Times as it was in the home of a US lifestyle blogger who they featured in an article. It’s mind-blowing but also really humbling that so many people across the world share our love of colour.
What’s been the biggest eye-opener for you in running your business?
It is hard! You learn as you go and you will have failures, which only help your learning. The biggest eye-opener is when major, and I mean major, fashion brands believe it is acceptable to lift your designs and start selling clothes with your print on. This is a real problem in the industry, and I am afraid that the hunger for cheap, throwaway clothes will not see their customers getting out their tiny violins for us. We aren’t the only independent to fall victim to this and we won’t be the last. Online outrage only lasts a few days before the next outrage, so even when named and shamed, the practice will continue.
What are the joys – and the challenges – of working as an independent?
The main challenge is that I am the boss – it starts and ends with me, so I don’t have the 9 – 5 and I don’t have a boss to turn to for advice and support. The challenge is also the joy if you flip it round!
How do you approach your marketing and PR?
We have grown everything organically and that is something we are really proud of, especially when you consider where we have come from and where we are now. I suppose we have a couple of rules – we won’t promote anything that we don’t believe in, and we communicate with our customers always.
What have been your business highlights so far?
My career highlight was seeing Michelle Obama step out in a dress with my design on. It is not often you get to see one of the most famous women on the planet at that time in your print. As a woman of colour, Michelle is a hero and this was awesome!
My business highlight: we have worked with some amazing brands, from Häagen-Dazs to Estee Lauder and L’Occitane, and every time we work with a brand that ‘gets us’ it has always been a pleasure. We are still waiting for Tesla to collaborate on a Kitty McCall wrapped X-Type, so Elon if you are reading, please get in touch!
Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?
Art is number one, whether that be a trip to a gallery or painting some ceramics. After that then I guess music fills a big part of my life, and I do love to cook.
Any good advice for independent creative businesses just starting out?
Find your own style – believe in it, understand why you are passionate about it, and stick to things that are true to it. Everything else comes with time, effort, trial and error, and learning from mistakes.
What does the next year hold for Kitty McCall?
We’ve just launched our Imaginarium collection which is a range of art prints, fabrics and cushions and the reception has been really positive. We do have some new collabs coming up that we can’t talk about just yet, so watch this space…
Books I love... Beata Heuman: Every Room Should Sing
Creative heroes… Matisse, Hockney, Frida
Shops I love… Liberty
Inspirational places… Encinitas in Californa, Lisbon, Folkestone, Holland
45, The Old High Street, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 1RN