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Behind the designs: Peter Rabbit x Cath Kidston

Behind the designs: Peter Rabbit x Cath Kidston

The series of limited-edition prints are a partnership of artistry featuring Cath Kidston’s heritage, archive florals and Beatrix Potter’s most cherished characters.

Beatrix Potter, author and illustrator of the most cherished of British stories, The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, was also a natural scientist. With an avid interest in landscape, flora and fauna, she carefully studied and painted nature alongside her infamous furry friends. It’s no surprise, then, that her most loved illustrated characters partner so well with Cath Kidston’s traditional archive florals.  

The brand’s print team were inspired by Potter’s original line sketches and drawings. Pulling the blue of Peter’s jacket to sit as the main ground colour for the collection, they gently married her artistry with the soft blooms of Cath Kidston’s classic prints for a beautiful collaboration with a soft, nostalgic feel. 

To take a look behind the scenes of that process, we caught up with Christine, Cath Kidston Design Director, for a look at what it took to partner two infamous heritages. 

When it comes to collaborations between two iconic brands, where do you start? And how do you get the balance right? 

We always start by looking for collaborations with brands that make products which enhance our seasonal storytelling, and offer products with end-uses we don’t sell in our own range. Brands whose ethos we share, whose prints, illustrations & product evokes happy memories, or that offers a new, surprising take on our prints.  

When we collaborate by using another brand’s illustrations, it’s key the final designs feature a good balance of recognisable Cath motifs. As a print house, it’s important we keep an essence of our heritage, and make it fun and unexpected with how we choose the mix and layer prints and brand icons. This offers something unique to the consumer, a little treasure that captures a moment in time. We know from previous collaborations that our customers love it when the final result has a strong blend of the two brands, offering them something they can’t get anywhere else.  

Sometimes we choose complementary drawing styles and other times we explore the tension between a sketchy style and a cleaner style of drawing for example, but the key element is that the final result has to story-tell the idea of the collaboration on its own when the print is on the product.

Beatrix Potter’s work is a staple in British heritage, how did the characters, story and illustrations inspire the prints?

We started by talking about our childhood memories of Peter Rabbit. Everyone in the team had such fond memories and recollections of items they had grown up with. So that became the starting point for the designs. We looked at our own vintage books, family heirlooms such as old needlepoint artworks and china. The gentle colours, soft and happy, the playful placing of the characters in the Cath florals are all derived from these memories. As a child, I used a Beatrix Potter porcelain cereal bowl that’s now been used by my own children, and has been through the dishwasher for as many years. Those washed soft colours in it were great for the palette as a starting point.

The print features florals from way back in our archive, what made you go for those? 

We wanted something very recognisably Cath, as well as a smaller scale floral that had a soft, nostalgic feel that sat nicely with the Beatrix Potter illustrations. Our florals were originally hand painted in gouache, which gave them a slightly softer feel, and we think this technique perfectly complements the gentle quality of the original Peter Rabbit artworks.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit features beautiful soft colours (who could forget Peter’s iconic blue jacket), how did this influence the palette for our prints?

We loved the original shades of colour in the Beatrix Potter illustrations, so wanted to use those and mix in some shades lifted from our aged and faded heirloom Peter Rabbit items. The gentle, soft colours are perfect as they are, and the deeper blue of Peters jacket is so iconic, along with the shades of greens from the garden plants and veg, and the deeper red of the girls’ coats. The palette was subliminally very “Peter Rabbit” before we even worked up the motifs.  

What techniques were used to design the print? 

We use all sorts. First, we paint, sketch, draw, then we cut out motifs and layer them over each other and play around with colours and compositions in a collage format, mixing scales of characters with the florals, in order to see what looks great together. 

What is your favourite part about creating prints to collaborate Cath Kidston with such an iconic series of characters?

Everything! This collaboration really was a dream come true. Personally, I loved the bit where we were flicking through all the Beatrix Potter artwork and started pulling out motifs from her works that mixed well with our prints. Starting the build of the designs and seeing what works is exciting because you don’t always know where you will end up. It’s a little journey of discovery through the design process, and you have to let the characters lead the way. It is wonderful to work with such iconic brands and weave a bit of their heritage in with ours, especially something so essentially British as Peter Rabbit and his friends who are real treasures.  

Once the prints were created, how did you decide what products to feature them on? Tell us a little more about this process.

We print out all the prints and lay them out on a big table or on the floor, then we sit as a team for hours and hours and work through what print, colour, placement and scales is best suited to every product style by trial and error, pinning prints on shapes and imagining what a finished product might look like. It’s super important that the range is well balanced and we get the perfect combinations of colours and motifs for each style so we spend a lot of time on this part of the development to ensure we capture the essence of the collaboration when we see the final range line up.  

What product is at the top of your wishlist once the collection has launched? 

I love so many pieces of the range, and will buy them for friends and children’s birthday presents. As mentioned, I grew up with Peter Rabbit China which my children now eat from, so will invest in the lunch boxes and coffee cup for sure. The sidekick tote with Peter Rabbit on is a great gift for my friend who is expecting a baby in the summer. I will get my mum a mug as it will remind her of when me and my brother were little. 

The Peter Rabbit x Cath Kidston is available in-stores and online now.