Much more than simply a great homeware shop offering quality, traditional products (which it does), Roullier White doubles as a refreshing and strangely reassuring source of top tips for keeping your home in tip-top shape, many of which came from founder Lawrence Roullier White's great-grandmother, Mrs White.
Did you know for example that half a lemon is the best way to remove limescale from around taps? Or that there's an eco-friendly product (beloved of our own Dannii Minogue) that stops the colour fading from new jeans when washed? Or that peanut butter will remove ink from the face of dolls? I could go on...
We spoke to Mrs White's great-grandson Lawrence to find out more:
Can you tell us something about the inspiration behind setting up Roullier White?
The idea came to me when we were entertaining guests for the weekend and I would always be a cotton napkin short, a pillow case would be mangled by the washing machine or I would need extra cutlery. There was nowhere locally to buy simple, elegant household basics.
Finally I think it is important that whatever you are doing you should be able to do it with products that work well and are safe, with this in mind we developed our unique range of Mrs White's natural cleaning products, which last year expanded into beauty products.
What would you say is special about the products offered by Roullier White?
We work hard to ensure our product offering is different and people seem genuinely impressed that they are not seeing things that are readily available on the high street.
Each product is carefully selected, to make sure it is fit for purpose, represents value for money and I love anything with a provenance. We sell the candle that Jackie Kennedy used to scent the White House (Rigaud's Cypres) and the fragrance that Prince Ranier commissioned for Grace Kelly to wear on their wedding day (Creed Fleurissimo).
I have a passion for old-fashioned British manufacturing firms and seeking these out can be fun and rewarding; Drapers handmade sheepskin slippers from Glastonbury, Uncle Joe's Mintballs from Wigan, Pantherella cashmere socks from Sheffield and Mitchells wool fat soap from Bradford. I am always on the look out for more.
Is there any such person as a 'typical' Roullier White customer?
I can honestly say they are very varied, we phoned one customer about her order to be told that she couldn't talk right now as she was out on her horse but she would call us once she got back to the castle!
Oscar-nominated actress Leslie Caron is a regular shopper and she described the shop as having the perfect mix of the practical and the beautiful - praise indeed! Dannii Minogue did all her Christmas shopping with us! But they are not all aristocrats, Hollywood legends or X Factor judges, we have loyal and lovely customers from all walks of life.
With the Mrs White range of products - from cold cream to 'miraculous' glass cleaner the emphasis is very much on all natural, ecologically-friendly ingredients...please tell us about that.
Definitely. I was horrified when I started to study the chemicals that are in the household products we use daily. Formaldehyde is in most cleaning products; that is human embalming fluid! There is beef fat in fabric conditioner. If a product says it contains 'fragrance' that could be any number of around 600 hundred chemicals. These are nasty toxins that we breathe and absorb through our skin. There is always a natural alternative and it is these that I want to make available to people. If you think about it, our forefathers only ever had the natural option.
Which are your best selling items?
Our Mrs White's range is our bestselling line. Top of the charts is our mosquito repelling Eau de Cologne; Unstung Hero. Our Classic Cold Cream - again commercial versions are full of horrible mineral oils, Mrs White's Physick Shaving Serum for gentlemen and we have just introduced Mrs White's Physick Rose Serum with organic rosehip seed oil and organic rose absolute.
Rosehip seed oil has been clinically proven to help stem the signs of ageing - this will be a huge seller. Mrs White's Legs Eleven is a legs and foot lotion blended from eleven natural ingredients, including cooling organic vodka, this will be a summer favourite.
Which are your personal favourites?
I love our brushed cotton nightshirts which are made in Ireland. If I have a free evening, I have a bath (in Mrs White's Old Soak - Rose Arbour fragrance if you are interested!) and then put on my huge nightshirt. It is incredibly warm and soft.
Do you think if she were still around Mrs White would approve - and would she shop at Roullier White?
The whole Mrs White range was inspired by some recipes that my great grandmother left behind. Our first product was a laundry soap that she made as a young woman. I am sure she would be very intrigued, although I am not sure how much of a shopper she would have been; she was, of necessity, a thrifty woman.
However, she adored her family and loved seeing everyone happy, so I think she would be immensely pleased to see her great grandson doing something that he enjoys and I think she would be proud. I think she would find it funny that her name is in hundreds of homes all over the world!
Visit Roullier White at: 125 Lordship Lane, London, SE22 8HU or buy online at www.roullierwhite.com Tel: + 44 208 693 5150
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