East Croydon Cool talks…Pampas Grass

East Croydon Cool talks…is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts. This month we caught up with Faye and Keelz from home décor company, Calabasas, to find out more about the ongoing trend for Pampas grass. Calabasas offers a culture clash of on-trend products, focusing on pampas grass from South America and calabash vases from Kenya.

Tell us more about Calabasas, how did it come about?
We’ve been saying for timeeee that we wanted to start a business together, we’re always coming up with creative ideas, usually with one of us reigning the other one back in!  Then, lockdown forced us to be in each other’s pockets 24/7, and Calabasas was born. Keelz is a lawyer, and Faye works in Film Production, so as well as bringing different perspectives and vibes from our backgrounds, we have different skills & talents.  The whole process has been fun, challenging sometimes, but it’s been great to be able to bounce ideas off each other & be honest with each other about what sucks & what is fire!! Creating content for socials has especially been jokes! 

The name Calabasas came from a play on ‘calabash’.  As well as selling pampas grass, we also sell vases, plant pots & hanging planters which are made from calabash… They’re hand-carved, dyed and painted by Artisans in Kenya, some with a little embellish from us too. You can check them out here.

The name is also no relation to the homes of the rich and famous in LA!

When did you first notice the trend for Pampas grass?
So we first noticed pampas grass a couple of years ago when we were on holiday in Spain, and marvelled at how beautiful it looked! Like feathers growing out the ground & blowing in the wind.  When we then found out it could be used as home décor, we were sold!

It just kept appearing everywhere we went – we felt like it was following us! We looked online to buy some and buying from China seemed to be the only option at the time. It was expensive & not the best quality – so it got us thinking… let’s source the veryyy best we can find, and offer it at an affordable price, and so off we went on our long sourcing journey!

In 2020 the trend for pampas seemed to explode, we thought we were pretty early adopters, but clearly lots of others also fell in love with it.  We were so keen to launch in 2020 & get our brand out there, but we didn’t feel like we’d truly found the right supplier, so it was a bit of a frustrating waiting game… But in the end it was all worth it when our dream suppliers came through!

Check any celeb on insta and they will most likely have it in their background, from Chrissy Teigen to Naomi Campbell to every influencer ever! It’s really popular in wedding décor too, it just looks so stunning and is really versatile (if you saw Married at First Sight Australia – our guilty pleasure during lockdown – the wedding planners used it SO beautifully at many of the wedding ceremonies).  This is an area we’d also like to move in to as well, as well as DIY kits for creating your own home décor – watch this space!

What actually is it?!
Pampas Grass is made up of grass-like stems topped with creamy feathery plumes. It’s native to South America, and there’s a whole region named after it – The Pampas Region! Today it’s also grown elsewhere – just check the parks around Croydon and you’ll see it (it’ll start following you like it did us!). It can reach 4 metres in height, and boasts beautiful ethereal feather-like plumes. It’s cut, dried and then sometimes dyed with natural products to achieve ‘the look’.  Many of our pampas grasses are completely au natural, but the black, orange, lilac for example are dyed with natural dyes.

It adds texture, warmth, luxe to the home, it can transform a drab looking corner into an insta ready shot instantly!

How do you go about sourcing Pampas grass?
Councils all around the UK have been having problems with people stealing it from parks & beaches! We don’t do that … (and tbh it’s not the best quality either!)

The sourcing process was really important to us, and it’s also what took the most time as we only wanted to offer the best. We went on a worldwide hunt to source the fluffiest we could find. We learnt that each stem is unique in colour, texture & fluffiness. It’s not like buying something from ASOS or Amazon where everything is a carbon copy, it’s all unique, which made us love it even more – so even though it’s on trend, you’ll never see the same in someone else’s home, it will always be unique to you.

We have a couple of suppliers to ensure our stocks never get low. Direct from the ground, from the original source of the pampas grass farmers in South America, as well as from suppliers in The Netherlands – who also get it direct from South America.

Are there different types or are they just coloured differently?
There are so many different types, sizes, textures, colours, check out our pampas page … and if there is something specific that people are after that we don’t stock, we can find it, after our yearlong sourcing extravaganza – we now have all the hook ups!!

The dyed pampas tends to be a little less fluffy, but brings a totally different look with colours to brighten up corners and spaces in the home. We also offer bunny tails in many different colours and reed grasses too, which make small vases or natural pampas grass displays POP!

What are your top tips for looking after Pampas?
Pampas grass is so easy to look after, low maintenance and requires no watering. As they’re a natural product they do tend to shed slightly, but by giving them a little TLC at the beginning they will last for years to come.  All you need is a hairdryer, some hairspray & voila! Check our aftercare page which gives some more in depth info…

What made you set up (or rather, move!) to Croydon. What do you like about the area?
WE LOVE CROYDON! And truly believe it’s London’s best kept secret. Faye was pregnant when we were house hunting, so it had us thinking differently about our future.  We wanted to be somewhere that was multi-cultural, it had to have green spaces, restaurants & easy access to London. A good friend of ours with a young family had lived in Croydon all her life & told us which areas to check out, and we’re so glad we did. We found more than we could ever have wished for, a community, a bustling market, small businesses doing their thing, the countryside on our doorstep, Zara, places to buy allll the Jamaican products we were missing, The Store and VIBES, VIBES and more VIBES!!

Where do you get design/style inspiration from?
Everywhere! Travel is a big one, we’re looking forward to getting back to that one day in the near future. When we were last in Jamaica visiting our fam we noticed hanging planters in family homes, in cool bars, everywhere! And that gave us the idea for our calabash hanging planters.

Insta – obvs, Pampas Grass is huge in the US, and wedding designers especially are doing some stunningggg displays.  Music – we’re currently into making reels! Fashion, design blogs, we’re both still a little stuck in the 90’s in lots of ways, we actually first bonded over our love of 90’s neo-soul!

We didn’t know this before starting out, but the ‘pampas grass industry’ is very beige, with monotonous pics of long flowing blonde hair in wheat fields, we wanted to shake that up, by clashing with the calabash, and offering a different vibe.

We’ve heard the swinging rumours…any truth in them?! 😉
Hahahah!!  So pampas grass was massive in the 70’s, then this rumour started that if you planted pampas grass in your front garden – it was an indication that you were a swinger so guests wouldn’t have to guess – they just knew it was on! BUT it’s a myth, which has since been dispelled – mostly! If people are still worried, they can rest assured that pampas inside the home is all good – this is just seen as regular home décor.

This is a no-judgement zone though… and if East Croydon Cool readers would like some seeds to throw in their front yard, just hit us up & we’ll send you some! Just for the record, we don’t have any pampas grass in our front garden.

What are your future plans – what’s the dream for Calabasas?
The dream is to keep growing. To be able to level up our collaboration with the incredible farmers & artisans in Kenya and the farmers in South America that we’re working with. Ideally, we’d love to take over a warehouse space in Croydon as our base, and start employing people in the area too.

And for our little one – Nyah – to grow up being proud that her mum & dad are smashing it!

For more information about Calabasas, head to www.calabasas.co.uk or follow them on Instagram HERE.

East Croydon Cool followers can get 10% off by using the code EASTCROYDONCOOL10 (valid till May 10th)

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