Santa Monica furniture brand Shabby Chic Couture is celebrating 25 years in business by making expansion plans – albeit cautious ones.

Founder Rachel Ashwell has been slowly and steadily rebuilding her international empire since her last expansion attempt nearly ruined her.

Her nine books and her TV show, “Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic,” from 1999 to 2003 on E! and the Style Network, popularized the distressed-furniture look.

“My TV exposure and books had seen the brand embraced around the globe and I decided to expand from six stores to 15 in the space of a year,” said Ashwell, 56. “But that year was 2008 and, as we know, that’s when the world fell upside down.”

Most of the stores closed, and since then, she’s been wising up, working hard and rebuilding.

The original high-end boutique on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica remains, as do stores in New York, San Francisco and Ashwell’s native London. Shabby Chic also sells licensed products through Target Corp. stores and has a growing online business.

Now the brand is expanding to Japan. Shabby Chic last year opened a Tokyo location and Ashwell said it’s been successful enough that she’ll open a Kyoto outpost this summer.

“When the Japanese love a brand, they adore it, and this is an exciting new chapter for Shabby Chic,” Ashwell said.

– Sandro Monetti

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