OKA founder Annabel Astor discusses the new Knutsford branch of the luxury furniture company
PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 April 2016 | UPDATED: 12:37 30 April 2016
OKA describes itself as offering ‘quintessentially British luxury furniture and accessories’. Its newest store opens in Knutsford on Saturday April 30th. We asked co-founder Annabel Astor, the mother of Samantha Cameron, about her business and inspiration
How have you chosen the locations for your stores, and specifically, what made you decide Knutsford would be a good location?
We’re in the process of expanding our network of shops and we’re concentrating on opening stores in areas where we know we have existing customers. Knutsford was an obvious choice and we hope it will become a destination for shoppers in Stoke-on-Trent, Chester and North Wales too. It’s only our second store in the North of England but we have plans for more.
Who would you describe as the typical OKA customer?
Our furniture and accessories are designed for everyone and we are proud of the fact that we have a wide range of customers. Some people just pop in for a cushion cover while others make use of our in-house interior design service to furnish their entire house. We also have a wedding list service, which is fantastic for couples setting up home together for the first time.
What is the ethos behind your selection of furniture and accessories at OKA?
Our goal is to offer great design at accessible prices, with a focus on craftsmanship and natural materials. We’re proud of the breadth of our range, which includes everything from tableware to outdoor furniture. Each and every piece is personally designed or chosen by myself and my two partners, Sue Jones and Lucinda Waterhouse.
You established your first business, Annabel Jones jewellery, at the age of 19. What was it that drove you at such a young age?
I became interested in gemstones at a young age and began making jewellery. From there it was a natural progression to open my shop. It was the late 1960’s when I started and the timing was perfect as women were earning their own money and starting to buy their own jewellery, not great big gems, but accessories for everyday.
What triggered your desire to launch OKA? A new business in an industry where you had no experience?
I’ve always had a passion for interiors and for design and I was looking for a new challenge after 33 years in the jewellery business. Sue, Lucinda and I spotted a gap in the market for high quality, affordable furniture and accessories and so OKA was born. I had spent years decorating my own homes and had plenty of design and retail experience in my previous jewellery business (Annabel Jones) so it was actually quite a natural step.
You sold your jewellery business in 1999 and the same year established OKA. Did you not think ‘Perhaps I’ll just rest on my laurels for a moment?’
I have worked all my life and come from a line of creative and inspirational women from whom I’ve inherited a strong work ethic. I have never been one to stand still and I love the challenge and excitement of building a business.
OKA, Manchester Road, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 0LT