EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Sofa firm promising ‘life-lasting’ furniture launched by Felix Conran – whose grandfather Sir Terence revolutionised Britain’s shops, homes and restaurants with his Habitat empire – sells for £1
His grandfather, the late Sir Terence Conran, revolutionised the nation’s shops and restaurants — and designed iconic furniture.
So when Felix Conran launched a company to make what was billed as ‘perfect, life-lasting’ sofas and chairs, it was greeted with excitement and acclaim.
But I fear that, five years on, the only thing that endures is a blizzard of complaints online, posted by customers saying that months, even years, after they handed over thousands of pounds they’ve yet to receive so much as a cushion.
One livid client is now demanding the company, Maker&Son, be the subject of an investigation, alleging Conran and his father, Alex Willcock, treated customers’ deposits without due caution.
Justin Downes, a co-founder of City PR firm Financial Dynamics, is not convinced — judging by the delivery difficulties that appear to have bedevilled the company — that Alex and Felix have used the firm’s capital as judiciously as they should have.
Felix Conran (second-left) is the founder of Maker&Son, a company to make what was billed as ‘perfect, life-lasting’ sofas and chairs
Felix’s grandfather, the late Sir Terence Conran (pictured), revolutionised the nation’s shops and restaurants — and designed iconic furniture
He says: ‘Last May, my family ordered furniture to the value of £14,000, paying a 50 per cent deposit on the promise of delivery in July.’ They’ve been waiting ever since.
Downes claims Felix, 28, and his father, were more interested in promoting the company than in production. Felix, who took his mother Sophie Conran’s surname, declines to comment. But Alex Willcock insists customers’ deposits were ‘ring-fenced’ — and that every £1,000 spent on advertising generated over £8,000 in revenue, sometimes more than £10,000.
The firm, he assures me, made and delivered more than 5,000 sofas. ‘In January last year we had more than £3 million in sales and posted a profit for the month,’ he says. That would have been heartening for Magenta Partners which, two years ago, invested between £5 million and £20 million in the company.
But then, says Willcock, came the Ukraine war and a global economic crisis. Funding needed to sustain the company dried up.
‘It was sold for £1. Shareholders lost all their investment — over £12 million. The board agreed to that deal so as to ensure that all customers would receive the goods they had ordered, that all suppliers would [be paid] and that staff would be able to continue to work. We are utterly devastated to see what has happened.’
Not a perfect way to find love for Jemima Goldsmith
Jemima Goldsmith wasn’t short of support at the London premiere of her film What’s Love Got To Do With It?
She was joined by her sister-in-law Jemima Jones, 37, the wife of her financier brother Ben.
The two Jemimas posed together at the Odeon Luxe in Leicester Square.
Goldsmith, 49 (near right), wrote and produced the romantic comedy, which stars Lily James and Dame Emma Thompson, and it is thought to be inspired by her nine-year marriage to Pakistan’s former cricketer and Prime Minister Imran Khan, whom she wed when she was just 21 and he was 42.
‘I think there are problems with all different approaches to love — there’s either too much choice or too little,’ the mother-of-two, whose past relationships include Hugh Grant, comedian Russell Brand and The Crown writer Peter Morgan, tells me on the red carpet.
‘There’s no perfect way to find love, is there?’
Frank Skinner (pictured) has accidentally let slip why Postman Pat star Stephen Mangan replaced him as co-host on Sky’s Artist Of The Year programmes
Frank Skinner has accidentally let slip why Postman Pat star Stephen Mangan replaced him as co-host on Sky’s Artist Of The Year programmes.
The two appeared on Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 show and Frank, tasked with drawing Mangan, says: ‘Stephen was once described as looking like the donkey from Shrek, and he really does.
‘Zoe said: ‘You used to do Stephen’s show.’ I said: ‘Yeah, they told me I was hated on set by the crew and stuff, so I left’.
‘Then after, I thought: ‘I don’t know if I’d have come out with that if I hadn’t been trying to get Stephen’s nose right.’
‘That was one of the least professional things I’ve ever done.’ Oops.
David Baddiel is starting to feel his age. ‘In a hotel in Birmingham watching a channel called That’s 60s,’ says the 58-year-old.
‘The music’s very upbeat but sadly every single advert is for life insurance or Co-op funerals.’
Horse trainer Ralph Beckett, 51
And they’re orf! Four of the King’s racehorses have been sent to the Kimpton Down Stables of Lord Grimthorpe’s cousin, Ralph Beckett — rather than to Sir Michael Stoute or any other trainers favoured by Queen Elizabeth.
Perhaps Beckett, 51, will lead the monarch’s horses to new arenas.
‘He’s had winners on the lake at St Moritz,’ says my man in the Alps.
Indeed, Beckett’s said to have had winners on every surface — apart from the Moon.
EastEnders star Preeya Kalidas, 42
Actress Preeya Kalidas, who wrote the featured song for the film What’s Love Got To Do With It?, called Mahi Sona (The Wedding Song), which features Lily James as a vocalist, has voiced her disgust about one unnamed guest’s behaviour at the premiere.
‘They say never meet your idols. I met one of mine. They were rude. Ego and power are a dangerous combination,’ she rants in a now deleted tweet.
The former EastEnders star, 42, adds: ‘No one should treat anyone lesser than themselves.’
Just who could she be talking about, I wonder?
Islington North MP and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Islington North MP and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was spotted having dinner in Kensington, West London, last week.
‘He was at the Maramia Cafe, a Palestinian place,’ a local tells me. Corbyn was with Seumas Milne, Labour’s erstwhile director of strategy, and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis — ‘the Three Marxeteers’ — plus Corbyn’s wife, Laura Alvarez.
Another diner greeted Corbyn. ‘He said he’d grown up in the same part of Shropshire.’
Corbyn fondly recalled his first job there — on a farm near Newport. The diner knew it well.
He said: ‘Yes, that farm was owned by my grandfather — the Earl of Bradford.’
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