Sari Winckworth, Founder White & Green, Bespoke Bed Linen
ML: You began your career in Ireland. What attracted you to Monaco’s clientel?
SW: I have been an Interior Designer for many years, starting out in office design and moving onto large vacation developments in Ireland. Luckily we got out of the large developments just before the crash in 1997! I moved onto private consultancy work and found that sourcing high-quality bed linen for my clients was a very frustrating experience. There were many places to buy bed linen but quality varied hugely and did not depend on price. I decided to find out what exactly makes luxury bedding and decided that the easiest way to guarantee quality was to set up my own brand of bespoke bed linen.
My colleague Dominic from Andrew Ryan Kitchens decided to open a showroom in Monaco as he found he was doing so many projects in the area. In my work as an Interior Designer I get involved in designing kitchens quite often so it seemed the natural progression to be available for projects in the Monaco area. There are a lot of Irish people in the area and word of mouth has been a huge factor in spreading the word about both our companies.
ML: Name your favourite place to shop in Monaco?
SW: I love La Condamine with all its boutiques and restaurants, there are lots of great places to eat and shop there.
ML: Although you do not live in Monaco, you share office space with Andrew Ryan Kitchens on rue des Roses. Tell us about the company you founded, White & Green.
SW: The Winckworth Collection is for discerning clients who can afford the finest products. My daughters and I were discussing how great it would be to create another company to produce high quality bed linen at an affordable price so that everyone could afford to sleep on beautiful bed linen.
We also wanted to help the environment and make 100% organic bed linen. Finally we wanted everyone involved in the process to be well paid and better off for working with us. So we are also certified Fairtrade. My expertise in fine linen was crucial when finding a factory that could produce our new linen.
ML: What are the advantages and challenges of a family-run business?
SW: White & Green is run by myself and two of my daughters, Rebecca and Danielle, who work almost full-time with the company. Rebecca studied Development in LSE and brings her expertise in this area to the company – on the other side she is a talented singer and is on her way to China to tour for 4 weeks as the lead singer in Titanic Dance. Rebecca is passionate about our workers and has spent time in the cotton fields getting to know our farmers.
Danielle was plucked from school at the age of 15 to become Ireland’s only model in Ford in New York. She spent several years working all over the world as a highly sought-after model. But she found life as a model very tough and not what she wanted as a career so she brings her knowledge of the fashion world and textiles to the business. Danielle is involved in product design and new markets.
My third daughter Andrea is in event management and runs our events and trade fairs for us. We all do a bit of everything – sometimes it is so busy it is all hands on deck! It is a challenge running a family business as there are no clear boundaries as there would be in a normal office. We have to learn to leave work in the office and not talk about it all the time.
ML: You promote both organic and Fair Trade products. Why are these two values important to you?
SW: Organic and Fair Trade are very important to us. When you learn about the damage that pesticides are doing to the soil, the farmers and the extended families of the farmers, you realise that it is vital that we stop using them. Thousands of farmers commit suicide every year because they can’t see any way out of their terrible dilemma: they are caught in the terrible cycle of crop failure and pesticide purchase that they cannot afford, resulting in debts and terrible skin diseases.
The tragedy is that then their children can’t go to school and their families have to resort to despearte measures just to survive. We all need to educate ourselves about cotton farming and try to support organic cotton in all areas of our lives.
ML: You have clients from Monaco to St-Tropez. How can the consumer know whether a company is really embracing the organic element and not just using is a promotional tool?
SW: Fair trade certification is extremely difficult and expensive to attain. First, the factory has to adhere to strict rules of work hours, health insurance, holidays and rates of pay. The factory has to pay then for an expensive licence to prove that they are 100 percent certified Fair Trade.
On our end, we pay a percentage of our annual turnover to The Fair Trade Association. They in turn monitor and verify that every product we sell is made in a fair trade certified factory. So it’s a complicated process and a costly one but we feel very passionately that everyone involved in making our products should be very well treated.
ML: What are some of your best selling products?
SW: Our best selling products are our sheets, once you have slept on high quality sheets there is no going back!
We offer a personal service to our clients who are looking to upgrade their beds and bedding. On appointment, we will measure up and recommend everything needed to create a 5-star luxury sleep experience.
ML: Where can people buy your products?
SW: White & Green products can be bought online on our website. Online orders will be delivered in a couple of days.
ML: Does quality bedding make a much of a difference to the quality of your sleep?
SW: Quality bedding is absolutely essential for a good night’s sleep. Once you have experienced a five-star hotel bed you will understand that feeling of floating in sheer heaven. It’s important to create this experience at home. After all we spend a minimum of 50 hours a week between the sheets! The problem for most people is that they don’t know exactly what they need to create this luxury bed or where to buy all the items. That’s where we come in – we make life easy for you!
ML: What is a typical day for you? How do you organise your day?
SW: I never have a typical day! My favourite days are visiting clients. There is a lot of travel involved as my clients are between Ireland, London and the Côte d’Azur.
ML: What’s the best piece you give to your daughters?
SW: I have always told the girls that if somebody is rude to you, don’t take it personally. Instead think about what could be going on in their lives that could make them so unhappy. It really does help in difficult situations to think like that.
ML: What’s the key to working together as a family?
SW: It really helps if each person has different strengths and you can create roles within the company that lets each person take responsibility for their areas of expertise. I think it’s also important to bring in somebody from the outside as a mentor, it makes everyone behave!
ML: What are some of your values that you hope your daughters live by?
SW: My daughters grew up in Co Wicklow, the garden of Ireland, just before the explosion of technology so they spent their days riding ponies and climbing trees. They care hugely about the environment and treatment of animals. Thankfully they have learned to work hard and then enjoy lots of exciting travels around the world. Living in Ireland has taught them the value of friendships and good times with plenty of music and fun!
Article first published October 1, 2017.