Interview with Sam Robinson – Owner of The Cross lifestyle boutique
Sam Robinson owns The Cross lifestyle boutique in London’s Holland Park, a destination shop selling fashion, homewares, gifts and childrenswear. Sam lives in Kensington with her husband John and their two sons, ten year old Jack and eight year old Otto.
What inspired you to set up The Cross?
I started The Cross when I was 30 having worked hard for other people in jobs I did not really like since leaving college in the late 80s. I was tired and disillusioned… I happened to have a great many talented and creative friends (such as jeweller Pippa Small) and could not understand why it was so hard for them to find retail outlets to sell their stunning work. It was the late 90’s and we were coming out of a recession and no one wanted to take any risks.
When Jack was born in 2001 he was so good it was easy to take him everywhere with me, he used to sit on my desk and laugh or sleep in his chair… Once Otto was born things were much harder. He suffered from colic and screamed a lot so I had to get some help. I found it quite a relief to escape the screaming and go to work, it was easier and less stressful than staying at home. I lived in North Kensington then and was lucky as there was a local state-assisted nursery school called Maxilla just off Bramley Road…It was a lifesaver! Jack and Otto’s dad was self-employed and worked from home. He was and still is a very hands-on dad.
The plus side of running your own business and not working for an employer is that you can dictate your own hours to a certain extent. I can come home if one of the boys is sick and if I have to attend football matches, concerts, plays, Assembly’s and I can always make up the time in evening by doing my emails in bed.
Where are your favourite places to shop for little ones?
I travel to Paris for work and LOVE the children’s shops there. A favourite haunt is BON TON in rue de Grenelle . I find the children’s shops there really inspiring…The kids always look as chic as their parents with up to the minute hair-cuts and almost matching wardrobes to their parents. It does cost a lot to keep that up though so I shop a lot at GAP as my boys grow so fast and tend to lose their clothes all the time!
I stock the label DANDY STAR in my shop which is a label I adore…70s inspired T-shirts with fantastic designs. My boys have all their Ts and sweats and my niece has all their T-shirt dresses…Fab!
Where do you and the children like to hang out?
We live right next to Hyde Park so that is our park of choice. Picnics by the bandstand, feeding the ducks, cycling, skating, rib sticking, football, dog walking…What’s not to love?! The Serpentine Gallery is also a great stop off for a culture hit as it’s not too large and overwhelming. They have a great collection of art postcards that we love to collect and their special temporary summer buildings are always a hit as was the amazing exhibition in the park by Anish Kapoor. If it’s raining and I’m feeling flush the bowling All Star Lanes in Whiteleys is hilarious. The Tate Modern is always a winner as it is such a great space to run around – they do great art activity packs for the kids and the staff are always helpful….
We like to experiment by eating new foods from different countries. Wholefoods in High Street Kensington has a great Shabu bar and the kids love sitting at the bar and cooking their own plates of raw food in bowls of boiling broth (Japanese version of the fondue).
Outside London we love to head to North Norfolk where my mother lives. The boys are perfect age for a trad British bucket and spade beach holiday in the rain – fish and chips, sailing, kite flying etc. My sister lives in Brighton and that is always a great day trip by train from London with the Pavilion, the pier and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant which is very kiddie friendly. There is also the most AMAZING sweetie shop there called CYBER CANDY…if you collect Pez it’s a must!
Tell us about your best holiday with the children…
I took the kids to New York for a couple of days last year and I know it sounds really spoilt but it’s the best time any of us have ever had! I loved being a kid in New York…We whirled around the Guggenheim and munched on the pretzels outside, the Empire State Building with its own King Kong, the rickshaw ride and guided tour through Central park, the Natural history museum and the Planetarium, the Met with its insane collection of Chinese ancient armour and swords, Coney Island… And that’s before you get to Toys ‘R Us or Build-A-Bear!
What are your favourite newborn gifts?
We have some fantastic baby gifts at The Cross which we are soon launching online…English weather patchwork cashmere baby blanket, handknit cashmere teddies/rabbits/elephants/hippos…. Shirley MacLauchlan will embroider the baby’s name and date of birth on blankets, cushions or pictures for that special touch. When my kids were born their godparents got their star sign charts done which I think is great gift…
Tell us your top tips for new mums…
Sleep and lots of water! Night nurses are a real treat – you can book them for the night and catch up on a whole night’s sleep. Sadly I only found out about this service when it was too late and boys too old! Remember also to try and have proper “dates” with your partner before you forget….
What is your style advice for mum-to-be?
Splash out and pamper yourself. You don’t always have to buy maternity clothes – we sell beautiful clothes that you can wear pregnant or not, labels like Dosa and Matta. When pregnant I have always invested in beautiful earrings and sumptuous scarves which I still have and wear. It’s important to feel great and have lots of treats… Get down to Cowshed for pedicures, bikini waxes and pregnancy massages – it makes a difference to how you feel about yourself. Reflexology is another feel good treat….
What is your sanity saver?
That’s a tricky one…When I was sleep deprived and my son had colic I got my sanity from a cranial osteopath, while he would treat my son I found it helpful to chat to him…It was a calming experience!
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